These interviews form the centrepiece of the film. You speak with Sabeen’s mother, Mahenaz Mahmud, and with several of her friends. How did you prepare?

Kamiz: I really didn’t know in what direction the film would go. I didn’t have a personal agenda and I didn’t want my interviewees to say what I wanted them to say. I just knew that I had to speak with Sabeen’s friends and naturally with her mother. And with people who continue to do her work. I was lucky to find Marvi Mazhar, who was a close friend of Sabeen’s and is now the new manager of Sabeen’s cafe, "The Second Floor". At one point, I realised that the film had too many "talking heads". And because I kept researching, I found several Facebook posts dedicated to Sabeen after her death. I used these quotes and incorporated them into the narrative. They give the interviews some structure.

In the film one can see how Sabeen’s room is unchanged after her death. What was it like shooting in that room and in her house in general?

"After Sabeen" film poster
After the murder of Pakistani activist Sabeen Mahmud, director Schokofeh Kamiz follows Sabeen's mother and friends to not only record reports and memories of her, but also to create a portrait of a woman she never knew

Kamiz: I really wanted to live with Mahenaz. I first spent a week at her place, then I returned for three days and finally for two days. I never imagined that she would give up her own room for me. And that she would sleep in Sabeen’s room.

I’m based in Berlin and so I had this Berlin attitude of just turning up somewhere and sleeping on the floor. The place was big enough anyway. But Mahenaz didn’t allow it. Which, when I think about it now, was very important for the film. Since Mahenaz slept in Sabeen’s room, and I interviewed her there too, she was very involved and also very emotional.

You only speak with people close to Sabeen and create a very personal portrait of her. But that portrait is quite homogeneous. I’m sure there are many people in Pakistan who celebrated Sabeen’s death. Were you not interested in exploring their twisted point-of-view too?

Kamiz: The themes of "After Sabeen" are already very difficult enough and I thought, if I show a cross-section of society, it won’t really help the film. Especially for an audience in the West, because they might not know who Sabeen is or what "The Second Floor" means. A place like that, in a city like Karachi, has a high value. I would have loved to shot the entrance of "The Second Floor" and asked men walking past the building, if they knew who Sabeen was. But my hands were tied. I just couldn’t do it. After all, I didn’t want to draw attention to the project.

Would you perhaps shoot a sequel in a few years?

Kamiz: Absolutely! I’m originally from Iran and even there you have several people, who get killed when they do something that isn’t liked by someone else. They are either put behind bars or killed. But what happens after that? How do the people left behind cope with the situation? I have already spoken to Sabeen’s mother. I’d like to return in five years and make a second part. I want to see how Pakistan has developed and what role Sabeen and her ideas have played in that development.

You ask your interviewees what they’d do if they would get a chance to meet Sabeen again. What would you do yourself?

Kamiz: That’s a good question. I never thought about it, because I never got to know her personally. If you ask me like that, I think I’d hug Sabeen and kiss her and just enjoy the moment. Actually, I’m quite a pragmatic person, but I always felt as though Sabeen was there with me when I was making the film. That she was there and was giving me strength. So I’d just hug her tightly, with all my heart.

Interview conducted by Schayan Riaz

© Qantara.de 2019

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