Kalash customs through the eyes of a girl
By Our Correspondent
ISLAMABAD: In a remote valley at the Afghan-Pakistan border, the last 3,000 Kalash pagans live encircled by a community of Muslims and Afghan refugees. At the approach of the winter, they pray, dance and sing to celebrate the rebirth of the seasons and their culture. Among them, a young woman must choose between making a change in all aspects of her life or let her traditions endure. This is the theme of an award-winning documentary by Swiss filmmaker, Gael Metroz, which was screened for a select number of guests at the residence of the Ambassador of Switzerland and Mrs Bubb. Welcoming his guests, the ambassador said a few words about the filmmaker adding that he and his wife Regula value the cultural diversity of Pakistan and therefore they had decided to screen the documentary, which showcased the people of the Kalash Valley Hoping the audience would be just as engrossed by the film as they were, he invited them all to stay on for refreshments after the screening. Gael lived in the Kalash Valley for a year – it is one of the ‘fragile cultures’ of the world, with a fast dwindling population that is either migrating to other parts of Pakistan for a better living conditions or is being pressurised to change its traditional way of life by economic constraints and the wave of religious dogma that is sweeping the country. The documentary, titled, ‘Kalash – The Last of the Infidels’ tells the story of the customs, rituals and practices of the Kalash through the eyes of a young girl who favours the traditional way of life. It is fascinating to see the different aspects of their lifestyle and the fact that they remain cheerful although life is difficult in many ways, especially if you have never visited the area. After the film, Ambassador Bubb asked Siraj ul Mulk, who hails from the ruling family of Chitral, to say a few words. Siraj explained the reasons for the dwindling population, but said there was hope it would survive. In this context he mentioned a British author who had written about the Kalash in 1850 and stated they would survive at the most another twenty years! “That was over a century ago and they are still there,” he said. In 2004 Gael Metroz graduated in French Literature, Philosophy and Art History at the University of Lausanne. He has been awarded with many literary prizes, such as the Prix de la Sorge in 2004 and the Prix Nicolas Bouvier in 2008. After writing and directing the play L’Enfant Dechu, he decided to focus on his career as an author, director and journalist. In order to let the journey around the world come to an expression through images, Metroz didn’t stop filming while he travelled to Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Burma, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, India and Nepal. While working as a journalist, he published his experiences on television, on the radio and in several newspapers.