Sarmad Masud on feminism, My Pure Land, and Pakistan | News

When Sarmad Masud was filming “My Pure Land” in rural Pakistan, a film exploring three women’s battle over a home in Sindh, life imitated art.

Disputes over land in Pakistan are common and often become dangerous, even deadly. When an elder, home or land-owning family member dies, a conflict over property rights ensues.

Nearby the set, a familial argument over who should inherit a home exploded. A brother killed his sibling. As the funeral procession for the slain brother got under way, Masud, a British-Pakistani, continued filming the story he had chosen to highlight.

READ MORE: Is Pakistani film experiencing a revival?

Hailed as a groundbreaking Pakistani feminist western, My Pure Land tells the tale of Nazo Dhajero, the most powerful force of a female trio fighting to protect the family home as her father and brother languish in jail.

Alongside her younger sister Saeda and mother Waderi Jamzadi, she picks up a gun and attempts to fight off 200 bandits led by a bitter uncle who wants to claim the house.

In September, My Pure Land was nominated to represent Britain in the foreign-language Oscar race.

Al Jazeera speaks to Masud about his debut feature film, his relationship with Pakistan and why he chose Nazo’s story.

Al Jazeera: Five minutes into the film, Haji Khuda Buksh wisely tells his two daughters: “No matter what happens, you need to protect this land. This isn’t just land. This is your honour. How many times do I have to tell you? In this world, nothing is more important than your honour. Not even your life.” 

His mother later repeats the line during a moment of battle. Many people hear “Pakistan” and “honour” in the same sentence and immediately think of so-called honour killings. Were you making a comment on the concept of honour?

Masud: I wasn’t making a comment on it, but I think the term has been hijacked. I feel like the word honour is no longer honourable. The association with honour killing is not religious, that’s a strange thing that’s…

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