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[Glasgow Film Festival]: In Flames

In Flames had its world premiere at the 76th Cannes Film Festival in the Director's Fortnight Section in 2023, the first Pakistani film to be included in over four decades. Directed by Pakistani-Canadian director Zarrar Kahn, In Flames is a genre bending examination of the constraints of a fanatically patriarchal society, and the struggle that many women face as they attempt to push back against the shackles placed on them by such a stifling culture of misogyny. 

Set in Karachi, Pakistan, In Flames stars Ramesha Nawal as Mariam, a 25 year old medical student whose small family are reeling from the death of their patriarch, Mariam’s grandfather. After meeting fellow student Asad as well as dealing with her conniving uncle who wishes to steal the family home, Mariam as well as her mother Fariha, begin to be haunted by ghosts of their past, all whilst dealing with a patriarchal society which seeks to pull the rug from under their feet at every turn. 

The supernatural aspect of In Flames is very much more of a subtle reflection of how men have affected both Mariam and Fariha’s past and consequently their present. Despite this, the real horror lies in the fact that the film invites audiences to experience the two women’s hesitance to trust any male character they come into contact with, as well as the fear and heartache that occurs when it's revealed that any good turn is not without an ulterior motive. 

What begins as a story of two women’s lives, although connected by family, with seemingly differing stances on modern life in Karachi, eventually interlocks with the realisation that both Mariam and Fariha are fighting the same fight against oppressive forces, and must work together in order to save one each other. With powerful performances from both Ramesha Nawal and Bakhtawar Mazhar, In Flames is a compelling portrayal of the lives of Pakistani women and the ghosts that haunt them in a male-driven society. 

4 out of 5 Screams 

In Flames received its UK Premier at Glasgow Film Festival on 7 March


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