Hafiz: A Strange Familiarity In Film

Hafiz official poster

Hafiz is a Pakistani indie short film written by Amair Javaid, Omar Javaid, the former of whom also acts as a director. The film revolves around Hafiz, played to perfection by Omar Javaid. It was also nominated for Best Film and Best Performance at the CSIF Stinger Awards 2019 in Calgary, Alberta.

Joining him in the cast, is Chengis Javeri who plays Yahya, and Taha Akram who plays Rizwan. Both of whom add a dimension to the film, without which the film would have not been as good as it is.

The titular character Hafiz, a recent immigrant to Canada waits for his approval letter to practice as a doctor with thinly disguised anxiety. In between neurotic trips to the mailbox to check for his letter, he spends his time by calling his mother back home and learning how to cook Chicken Jalfrezi

Talking to Hadya Azeem for Calgary Journal, Amair Javaid revealed that he wanted to focus on the many dimensions of immigrant struggle. Hafiz’s story is not a new one, if you don’t can’t personally relate to it, chances are you probably know someone who can. However seeing it happen in front of you makes you pay attention in a way you might have not before. The rawness of Omar Javed’s acting makes you take a closer look at the situation and really think about people who go through similar struggles after immigrating.

The beauty of this film is the relatability. You don’t have to necessarily be an immigrant or even a doctor to understand Hafiz’s emotions. The way he processes everything has a sense of familiarity that has very rarely been showcases in Pakistani films.

It almost feels like you’re watching a friend. The way he cooks the chicken Jalfrezi, balancing the phone between his ear and shoulder, and clumsily chopping up vegetables is very reminiscent of learning how to cook for the first time. Here, the filmmaking plays a definite role in giving everything that signature raw, home-like feeling. From the messy splashes, and the sizzle as Hafiz puts chicken in to a too hot frying pan.

Later, seeing Hafiz’s emotions as the harsh realities of immigration rears it’s ugly head feels almost uncomfortable, as if you’re looking at a friend through a window. unable to help or comfort, only able to hope for the best.

Another interesting aspect Hafiz explores is the sense of community in a foreign land. Hafiz, like all immigrants is forced to build a makeshift community, the members of which each look after him in their own way. Brought together by circumstance, their interactions with each other is fantastic study of human interactions.

Hafiz is Amair Javaid’s first feature film, and it’s a beautiful attempt at bringing light to a dark, perhaps unexplored part of being human. The profound loneliness Hafiz as a character feels, is something we can all understand. But perhaps what Hafiz starts to understand by the end, is that we are not alone. Never truly alone.

Hafiz is available on youtube to watch for free and i highly recommend you consider watching it. After all, with the third lockdown in place, we could all do with some fresh entertainment.