Screens on Saturday, April 2, 12:00noon – RU Paul Robeson Student Center
Afia Nathaniel, Film Maker
Computer-scientist-turned-filmmaker, Afia loves pushing the boundaries of narrative cinema.
Afia’s debut feature film DUKHTAR (Daughter) premiered at Toronto in 2014 and was Pakistan’s Official Submission for Foreign Language Film at the 87th Academy Awards®. The film has played to critical acclaim in over 20 countries and became the Critics’ Pick in New York and the People Magazine’s Pick, winning several awards along the way.
Afia has been featured in the Variety, NYT, Indiewire, NPR, Huffington Post and Screen Daily. Variety says, “Nathaniel proves her mettle in a national industry where distaff directors are rare” with Indiewire labeling DUKHTAR as “groundbreaking” and LA Times calling it a “gorgeous, suspenseful cinematic achievement”. She has been featured on Fox 5 as “Women who shape the future”.
She is the recipient of the Adrienne Shelly award for Directors and was nominated for a 2013 Gotham award. She is a NYFA Fellow, World Studio Foundation Fellow, AAUW International Fellow, James Wolfensohn Fellow (MMMF), recipient of a Hollywood Foreign Press Association grant and Ezra Litwak for Distinction in Screenwriting.
Born and raised in Pakistan, Afia is now settled in New York. She has taught Screenwriting at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and NYU’s Tisch.
In the mountains of Pakistan lives a Pashtun family headed by an old patriarch married to a much younger woman, Allah Rakhi. They have a ten-year-old daughter, Zainab. One day, the father breaks the news that he has given away his daughter to a powerful tribal leader in marriage to settle a bloody feud. Allah Rakhi’s worst fear is coming true, as Zainab’s life, which has barely begun is about to end.
On the morning of Zainab’s wedding day, Allah Rakhi pulls off a daring escape with her daughter, and begins her journey into the unknown. The hunt for the mother and the daughter begins in earnest. The escape represents a damning act of dishonour to the family punishable only by death. On the road, Allah Rakhi and Zainab meet a truck driver, Sohail, who helps them thinking they need a ride to the next stop. As the men begin to pursue his truck, he finds out their true identity and purpose, and realizes his life is in as much danger as theirs since anyone helping the runaway mother and child would be caught and punished as well. As the relentless chase intensifies, Sohail has no course except to devise an escape plan in the formidable winter landscape where they can be betrayed by any stranger. As Allah Rakhi, Sohail and Zainab continue their journey together, their destinies now entwined, Allah Rakhi finds herself falling for a man she is forbidden to love. Carefully dodging the fearsome, far-reaching influence of the tribal leader, the trio embarks on an epic journey through the sweeping landscape of Pakistan where the search for freedom and love comes with a price.