The Red Sea Film Festival 2023 is in full swing, drawing global film industry luminaries to Jeddah. Debuting on the grand screen, Pakistani feature film Wakhri — One of a Kind had its world premiere with the film’s cast and creators taking centre stage. The film draws inspiration from the life of Qandeel Baloch, a social media star who tragically fell victim to honor killing a few years ago.
Speaking with Deadline, director of Wakhri Iram Parveen Bilal lauded actor Faryal Mehmood, who essays the leading role of an influencer, for delivering a poignant performance. Delving into the casting process that led her to the star of her film, Iram expressed, “So I truly believe that in sort of modern Pakistan right now and the industry, no one could have played this better than Faryal Mehmood.”
Iram underscored Faryal’s suitability for her character, pointing out the latter’s battles with vitriol in online spaces. “She was somebody you know…who had faced a lot of social media trolling in the industry [and] outside,” the filmmaker added. “[She had] an incredible weight loss journey [and] kind of really dished it back to the trolls.”
“I still remember this,” Iram recounted how a social media platform’s algorithm recommended Faryal to her. “I was in LA scrolling through Instagram and the casting director was putting out a list for outreach and somehow Instagram pushed her (Faryal) profile to me.” Fate might have dealt a winning hand as per the director’s account.
She furthered on, “And then I went into a rabbit hole and then I said to her (casting director) ‘What do you think of Faryal Mehmood?’ She called me on WhatsApp immediately and said I have goosebumps…the first name I wrote on my list just now, ten minutes ago, was Faryal Mehmood.”
Earlier, the Red Sea Film Fest Head of International Programming, Kaleem Aftab, shared how the film was selected for the festival. “Well, I don’t want to go out on a limb too much before they are shown, but I think people will be very struck by the new film by [Pakistani-US director] Iram Bilal, Wakhri: One of a Kind [which will have its world premiere at the fest and follows a widowed school teacher in Pakistan who becomes a viral sensation overnight when she accidentally unleashes her unabashed opinions on social media].”
Aftab added, “I feel like that is a film that talks about an incident that happened in Pakistan and is changing the narrative on that. I’m also happy to have Zarrar Kahn’s [non-conventional horror film] In Flames, also from Pakistan [it is Pakistan’s international Oscar contender], which changed the genre.
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