My Pure Land

First time director Sarmad Masud delivers an action-packed shoot-‘em-up that's also a deeply effecting drama

Film Review by Michelle Devereaux | 26 Jun 2017
Film title: My Pure Land
Director: Sarmad Masud
Starring: Suhaee Abro, Eman Malik, Syed Tanveer Hussain, Razia Malik, Atif Akhtar Bhatti, Tayyab Azfal, Ahsen Murad, Sahib Ahmad

Based on a true story, My Pure Land is a moving family drama that manages to fold issues of gender politics and land rights in rural Pakistan into an engrossing, action-packed shoot-‘em-up without losing its fundamental humanity or teetering into exploitation.

As the film opens, Nazo (Suhaee Abro), her younger sister, and her mother are fending off their conniving uncle’s illegal land grab on their home with only a few machine guns and a limited supply of bullets. As the trio becomes increasingly surrounded by heavily-armed mercenaries, the film intersperses flashbacks revealing the events that led to the brutal siege and the women’s determination to repel it: Nazo’s stern yet loving father, caught in an inheritance dispute with his brother and worrying that in his eventual absence his family would be vulnerable to such an attack, trained his girls to be warriors, even referring to them as his “sons” and dressing them in men’s clothing.

My Pure Land’s quilt-like flashback structure makes for a confusing first act (some choppy editing doesn’t help), but eventually the film coalesces into a finely tuned study of familial love and duty, full of warmth, grit, and even some gentle humour. First-time feature director Sarmad Masud chooses to forgo over-arching political statements about gender, power and violence in favour of story and character specificity, which is an effective way to make a point without seeming too didactic.

Perhaps it could have been more ambitious in this regard, but My Pure Land’s sympathetic characters and nuanced portrayals of familial connection are enough to make it more than purely a feel-good exercise in overcoming the odds.

My Pure Land screens at EIFF 2017: 24 & 25 Jun