One of the most shocking pieces of news to make headlines in 2016 was Qandeel Baloch’s brutal murder at the hands of her own brother.
Some considered it to be a case of honor killing. Some found other motives her brother may have had. Regardless, Qandeel Baloch breathed her last breath on the 15th of July. She was 26-years-old.
With her demise, Pakistan lost one of the boldest faces that had emerged within the entertainment industry – one with whom the country shared a rather tumultuous relationship.
A short film was released recently by The Guardian. The film is a narration of a young girl’s journey from Fauzia to Qandeel Baloch.
It narrates all that she had to endure and lose to become the Qandeel Baloch we saw on social media platforms. However, it also highlights how marginalized groups are under constant threat when they take to social media to express themselves.
The nearly 25-minute video documents various aspects of Qandeel’s life that were previously unknown to the audience. We asked Saad Khan and Tazeen Bari, the Directors and Producers of the short film, about why they chose to base the film on Qandeel:
“After Qandeel’s death, there was a lot of focus around her horrific murder in the West and in Pakistani media. She was being victim blamed at home and her narrative was being co-opted at many fronts abroad. Her own agency, own decisions, and past life were being erased in reports and documents. We wanted to put something out which was true to who she was and which didn’t play into moralistic or imperialist agendas. It was also important to us to be telling her story in her own words, videos, and her own narrative and through people who really knew her: her sister and mother.”
Throughout the film, those close to her are heard discussing everything a young girl named Fauzia aimed to be.
She was different from the beginning – bold, outspoken and uncontainable. Her journey towards becoming Qandeel comes after the exit from an extremely abusive marriage and losing custody of her son.
The documentary then follows Qandeel’s life as a whole – the trials and tribulations, the mockery and the hardships.
The most haunting bit about it all is the foreshadowing by Qandeel’s own voice from various videos. Moreover, what stings at many different points is how she saw through us – all of us – and didn’t waver regardless.
Qandeel, through her strong presence and steadfastness, rightfully became an icon – one you could not look away from, regardless of the sentiments you harbored for her. Saad goes on to talk about how Qandeel cemented this importance:
“One takeaway is to be aware of class and how it defines the trajectory of life, opportunities or a lack thereof for many working class people in Pakistan. Qandeel defied all that by fighting the system she was born into since she was young. We need to remember that.”
Qandeel made her place in the industry in a way no one else has been able to.
She didn’t conform to societal expectations. Moreover, she saw through all of that and did what she wanted to. She marched through each controversy as someone who firmly believed they had nothing to lose.
But she did.
The most despicably ironic bit is that the suffocation of captivity that Fauzia tried to escape from became the noose that strangled Qandeel.
When the news of her murder broke, many thought it was a sick practical joke.
The unabashedly bold and courageous Qandeel Baloch couldn’t just die, could she? She couldn’t be silenced that easily, could she? So we waited with bated breath, trying to figure out if it was true. And it was. Qandeel was no more.
In that time period, one of Qandeel’s videos crossed the minds of many. She talked about how people told her that they wished she was dead.
And then she claimed that once she dies, there will never be another Qandeel Baloch.
She was right. The void Qandeel left behind, the conversations she started, the debates she sparked – it was all one of a kind. There truly never will be another Qandeel Baloch.
Saad explains how the loss has been unbearable for the family:
“The parents have had, and continue to have an extremely hard time. Losing their beloved daughter – whose shows they would wait for days so they don’t miss the broadcast, the person who provided for them, the person who loved them the most – it is a kind of pain you probably never get over. It’s a kind of pain very few can even process. But they have been dealing with it.”
He also voices what the team hopes the audience will take away from the short film:
“Qandeel’s story has been watered down and co-opted. Her success as a working-class woman, from a girl working in the wheat fields, to being a social media icon is to be analyzed with nuance. Her tiny successes at colliding head-on with the status-quo throughout her short existence in this wretched world are to be acknowledged and celebrated. We, as a nation do not know how to remember her. We, as a nation should learn by now to not strangle another Qandeel to death.”
Though her journey was cut short in this world, everyone got to experience Qandeel Baloch fulfilling Fauzia’s dreams.
She became someone everyone knew. She left an impact on every viewer – regardless of whether it was positive or negative. Qandeel rose like a phoenix from the ashes of trauma and a past most would succumb to. She remained steadfast in the face of abuses hurled at her. Qandeel was unwavering and strong.
She was ninety-nine percent sure everyone hated her. And she was a hundred percent sure that she didn’t give a damn.
You can watch the incredibly moving documentary here, following the journey of this incredible woman’s life:
Qandeel was killed in 2016 after becoming a social media celebrity. This film tells Qandeel’s story through her own videos and media appearances, and how she exposed Pakistan's male religious right and challenged middle-class morality.
Posted by The Guardian on Freitag, 22. September 2017
What did you think of the video? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Cover image via News Pakistan