Saturday, November 11, 2017

DOC NYC Spotlight: Armed with Faith

I’m excited to have been able to screen a few selections from DOC NYC, America’s largest documentary festival, which presents its eighth year in New York City from November 9th-16th.

Armed with Faith
Directed by Geeta Gandbhir and Asad Faruqi
Festival Screenings

With rising political tension in the United States, the subject of people in enemy countries – and even which countries are considered enemies – is a hot-button topic that has been all over the news since the presidential election. Travel bans and other policies seek to categorize people by their country of origin as a whole, something that punishes those who do not practice terror and may even support the United States. Last year’s Oscar-winning documentary short “The White Helmets” showcased the incredible work being done by rescue workers in Syria, and now this film shows a similar organization at work in another country: Pakistan.

This documentary begins by clarifying that Pakistan is an American ally, a relationship that has only been strengthened since the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The friendship with American forces has made Pakistan a target, since its police and other entities are seen as cooperating with an enemy and therefore worthy of just as much punishment as infidels overseas. The country’s proximity to Afghanistan also makes its tribal areas on the border a particularly popular place for terror cells to be located. The Pakistani Bomb Disposal Unit combats the many threats it receives, able to defuse some objects of destruction ahead of time and left to use the aftermath of others to learn more for next time.

There’s always something powerful about seeing a film like this that was clearly filmed in a war zone. The members of the Bomb Disposal Unit freely share on their way to a call that they don’t know what awaits them. One interviewee points a spot along his daily drive where he defused a terrorist’s suicide vest when it failed to detonate. These things have become normal, and the resilience – and bravery – of those who run towards danger is commendable. Understandably, family members of those in the unit are less than enthusiastic about their participation given its high risks.

This film is screening as part of the International Perspectives section of DOC NYC, and it’s certainly one that should prove eye-opening for American audiences. The subjects interviewed do their best to convey what living in Pakistan is like and how their work is just something that comes naturally, with the express aim of saving lives, including those of people indoctrinated into extremism who don’t actually know what they’ve signed up for. It’s an effective look that stands in great company with other films about goodness in a landscape of frequent terrorism.


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