Director Arafat Mazhar’s animated short film Swipe continues to garner acclaim at one after the other international events.
The latest of a series of laurels the 14-minute hand-painted short has bagged is the Special Jury Award at ANIMAFEST International Animation Festival, considered the Oscars of animated movies.
The thought-provoking animated short is the first of its kind Pakistani film that has earlier featured at Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2021 as well as Animafest Zagreb.
Swipe premiered in November 2020 on YouTube. It narrates us the story of a boy who is addicted to iFatwa, an app that crowdsources religious death sentences. It allows users to vote in favour of or against the person whose case is submitted. The accused with 10,000 swipes (right) is sentenced to death publicly.
The film discusses the nexus of extremism and access to ICT. According to the film’s official synopsis, “Swipe is a hand-painted animated short film about Pakistan made by a team of 20 Pakistani animators, musicians, storytellers, and actors over the course of one year.”
Director Arafat Mazhar told The Truth International (TTI) that Swipe is his second animated film after Shehr-e-Tabassum, but it is in making for the last 10 years because it took lot of my personal and team research that cantered on the idea because lots of words e.g. honour, love, traitor, blasphemy has been distorted in the recent past and forcibly linked with violence.
Arafat Mazhar opted out of several international film festival because he wants this film to be watched by Pakistanis and that is why it is available for free on YouTube.
Several international film festivals do not honour those films which have been released earlier in their own countries. Arafat Mazhar, wanted his countrymen to watch this film first before anyone else in the world so he opted for only those festivals who do not have such restrictions.
Arafat Mazhar elaborates that producing a hand-painted animated film is a long process where one has to draws 24 pictures for only 1 second so it takes lot of time and energy to draw characters and environment, and it took about a year to complete this.
The young director further said that he chose to make a hand-painted 2D world because computer-generated images do not justify the imaginary world that we draw on paper using our creativity. Hand-painted technique also provides us the opportunity to play with colours and shadows freely, something using camera deprives us of.
Arafat Mazhar further said that people are continuously being told how to define love and honour. The scope of these words is getting narrowed while connotations of terms like traitor and blasphemer continue to broaden, so these terms are loosing their spirit.
He further added that dissenting voices are being silenced over the past few years, if not outright extinguished, and there is an excessive glorification of violence, as so many young people are resorting to violence in rallies organised by right-wing groups against marginalised communities.
“This happens when we feed them the manufactured meanings of honour and love, devoid of any spirituality, and it eventually becomes a deep reflection of our society with alarmingly narrow possibilities of love, mercy and humanity”, he added.
Arafat Mazhar is the founder of Puffball Studios in Rawalpindi. It aims to “push the boundaries of digital storytelling” in Pakistan and produces original Urdu content to educate viewers about digital literacy, bully proofing, and reporting on social media.
“We want Puffball Studios to be a space where young animators eventually direct their own films.”
In a Tweet, the director list the nods the short has scored so far. “How Swipe has done so far. 4 Oscar/BAFTA Qualifying festivals. We didn’t apply a lot of film festivals which denies us the right to make film freely accessible (you can’t screen at Venice if you release your film for free). Proud that we made it free AND received top laurels”.
Available online for free at https://swipethefilm.com, the flick is nearing 100,000 views on YouTube.