The six part series is a rare look at the extremely diverse and complex country that is Pakistan.
When we started filming ‘A Place Called Pakistan’, I don’t think we realised that we were about to witness a whole world in a single country. I had been living in Pakistan for a few months, observing and learning, but it was only while filming ‘A Place Called Pakistan’ that the crew and I were plunged into one of the greatest challenges of travel filmmaking: how to summarise an entire country into a six-episode series?
The further along we went, crossing the country from North to South, reaching all of its borders, meeting people of diverse cultures and religions, the more we realised that there’s so much more to Pakistan than what you might find reported in most mass media.
The first surprise was Karachi: the former capital, and currently the largest city in the country with over 20 million inhabitants. As you will see in episode 1, it is so much more than that. This city has countless stories and one of the most independent, resilient creative communities of any city I have visited. My favourite moments from the Karachi shoot were hanging out with a local hip hop crew, and participating in a spontaneous boxing match at an all-girls’ boxing club.
From Karachi, we headed north towards the undisputed cultural capital of Pakistan: Lahore. Although it is now a busy modern city, it still exudes the charm of bygone eras, with ornate mosques and palaces dating back to the Mughal times. After a whirlwind tour of the city, we got to listen to the inspiring story of one of the world’s last remaining players of the intricate instrument, the sarangi, who did not let his disability prevent him from achieving his musical dreams. To finish off our tour, we hitched a ride with Pakistan’s famous ‘Motorcycle Girl’, Zenith Irfan, and rode up to the Indian border for an unforgettable flag lowering ceremony.
In episodes 3 and 4, we got to travel to Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, arriving at the Iranian and Afghan borders. These little-visited parts of the country are very much off the tourist trail, and we got rare access to some unforgettable experiences you wouldn’t witness anywhere else. Some of my top highlights include meeting a female fighter jet pilot, witnessing a tribal trial and getting to see the mountain pass that defeated even Alexander the Great. Here’s the thing about episodes 3 and 4: if a mountain tribe dancing with rifles does not do it for you, then I don’t know what will!
And from there, we finally head up north to the area that is closest to my heart: the beautiful, mountainous Gilgit-Baltistan. It is a land known as ‘the Roof of the World’: it is where the world’s tallest mountain ranges meet, and where people living in extremely remote regions have developed their own cultures and languages. I was blown away by the kindness and hospitality of the people in this region – inviting me to a local wedding and handing me countless cups of milky chai – they really made me feel like part of their family. The last two episodes are probably my all-time favourites, and I hope they inspire you to think differently about Pakistan.
‘A Place Called Pakistan’ is a rare look at the extremely diverse and complex country that is Pakistan. While planning and filming the shoot, we tried to cover as much ground as possible in a travel series – but there is so much more. In fact, Pakistan is not just one single place: it is a collection of countless cultures, peoples, histories and stories, all woven under one astonishing roof.