Filmmaker Mahera Omar's documentary makes waves at Nepal film festival

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Mahera Omar’s documentary film ‘Sometimes even the shore drowns’ screens at the 5th Nepal cultural international film festival in Kathmandu on March 30, 2024. — Supplied
Mahera Omar’s documentary film ‘Sometimes even the shore drowns’ screens at the 5th Nepal cultural international film festival in Kathmandu on March 30, 2024. — Supplied

Filmmaker Mahera Omar’s short documentary "Sometimes Even The Shore Drowns — inspired by Rachel Carson’s 1955 book "The Edge of the Sea" — garnered critical acclaim at a screening in Nepal on Saturday.

The short film was screened at the 5th Nepal Cultural International Film Festival in Kathmandu on Saturday (today), while it debuted in Pakistan at Koel Gallery in Karachi as part of their Saahil Ki Kahaniyan art exhibition.

According to Omar, the marine-coastal documentary, titled in Urdu as “Kabhi aisai bhi hota hai ke kinare doob jate hain” is a cinematic ode to the myriad of marine life on the intertidal mudflats of Karachi. 

Set against the backdrop of human activity in and around mangrove forest creeks, amidst steaming vessels and a new skyline, the film takes you on a silent journey through a delicate wetland ecosystem on the shores of an industrial city,” said the director’s statement.

The theatrical poster of Mahera Omars documentary. — @MaheraOmar
The theatrical poster of Mahera Omar's documentary. — @MaheraOmar

The film navigates a series of interconnected saltwater creeks lined with an extensive mangrove forest ecosystem off the coast of Karachi city.

“These delicate wetlands are home to marine biodiversity as diverse as the lugworm on the intertidal mudflats to flocks of pelicans and pink flamingoes in the winter,” according to the director’s statement.

It craftily zooms in on each of these species, which are intricately connected in the web of life, as are the fisherfolk community that depended on the forest for their livelihood.

Karachi is home to three species of mangroves, with Avicennia Marina being the most abundant.

— Filmfreeway
— Filmfreeway

Its air-breathing roots jut out from the mudflats, keeping them stable in the strongest of stormy weather.

The forest canopy, if allowed to reach its natural potential, can reach dizzying heights of up to 10 metres and is a carbon store and source of oxygen for the megacity.

Omar has truly captured what’s going on between the ebb and flow of tides around the coast of the metropolis. She has, like a true environment warrior, explored the city's exposed shoreline, which is home to a fish that walks on land, the mud crab that clings tenaciously to mangrove tree trunks, the mighty periwinkle, the bubbler crab that spits out sandballs, the long-legged egret that fishes, the curlew that stalks fiddler crabs, and the carnivorous marine gastropod molluscs, aka the nudibranchs.

— Filmfreeway
— Filmfreeway

The documentary cuts deep into the issues of the man-caused degradation of coastal ecosystems.

It lays bare how much of the precious natural heritage with which Karachi is blessed is neither protected nor declared a national park.

In addition to touching a number of other sore points, it also talks about how resources are plundered with impunity thanks to commercial logging, land reclamation, and illegal wildlife trade that is depleting biodiversity and disrupting forest health.

"The relentless release of untreated raw sewage and industrial waste has wreaked havoc on the mudflats, with toxins accumulating up the food chain from the fish and the mud crabs to us humans," it argues.

Director’s profile

Mahera Omar is a filmmaker and co-founder of the Pakistan Animal Welfare Society, a nonprofit that advocates biodiversity protection, environmental justice and compassion towards sentient beings.

Her films have been exhibited in Pakistan as well as at international film festivals including Film South Asia, Istanbul International Architecture and Urban Films Festival and Delhi International Film Festival.

Highlights of her filmography include "Perween Rahman — The Rebel Optimist" and the Dream Journey’s musical travelogues. With an abiding interest in Karachi, its environment, plants and animals that share the city with its 20 million inhabitants, she works to document ecosystems that shape Karachi today.

When asked about her future ventures, Omar told said she was currently working on a feature-length documentary about air pollution in Pakistan, while another focusing on Karachi’s biodiversity was under production.