“An erotic dance theatre in Lahore prepares for a new show just as a sacrificial goat goes missing, a dreamy trans girl vies for the spotlight, and a naive young boy falls in love.”

Pakistani filmmaker Saim Sadiq’s Darling is set to become the first Pakistani film to screen at the prestigious Venice Film Festival, the world’s oldest film festival.​​Darling, set in a dance theatre in Lahore where the story revolves around a young boy and a trans girl, is the first ever Pakistani film to be an official selection and screen at any of the ‘Big Three’ film festivals. The Big Three is a term used for the three most prestigious film festivals in the world namely Cannes, Berlin and Venice. ​

The film’s cast includes upcoming actress Mehar Bano and Nadia Afgan of Suno Chanda and Shaslik fame. The main leads are Shani, played by Abdullah Malik, and Alina, played by Alina, a trans girl from Lahore who makes her acting debut with this film.​

​The film’s director Saim Sadiq is a 28 year-old filmmaker from Lahore. He is currently completing his graduate degree in film directing from Columbia University in New York.

Before this, Sadiq’s short film Nice Talking to You was an official selection at South by Southwest 2019, Palm Springs International Shortsfest 2019 and won Vimeo’s Best Director award at Columbia University Film Festival 2018. Sadiq is currently developing a pilot for MakeReady in Los Angeles and working on his first feature, Gulaab, which was selected for the Open Doors Hub at the 2018 Locarno Film Festival. ​



Mahak Jiwani, who previously produced award winning films ​Premonition ​and ​Yumeproduced the film with Nadia Afgan while co-producers include and Fahad Nabi and Jasmin Tennuci. Mo Azmi, who produced and shot Cake and Laal Kabootar, was the Director of Photography for Darling. ​

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Saim Sadiq

Saim Sadiq is a Pakistani filmmaker with a undergraduate degree in Anthropology and a graduate degree in film directing from Columbia University. His short film Nice Talking to You was an official selection at South by Southwest 2019, Palm Springs International Shortsfest 2019 and won Vimeo’s Best Director award at Columbia University Film Festival 2018. The film also made the BAFTA Shortlist for Best Student Film. A recipient of the Kodak Student Scholarship Gold Award, Sadiq is currently developing a pilot for MakeReady in Los Angeles and working on his first feature, Gulaab, which was selected for the Open Doors Hub at the 2018 Locarno Film Festival. His latest film Darling, a short based on Gulaab, will have its world premiere at the 76th Venice Film Festival this September.

“​Darling i​s loosely based on my feature film in development, ​Gulaab​ – both being an exploration of masculinity and femininity set in a highly sexualized erotic dance subculture, an open secret in the otherwise repressive Pakistani society. It is in equal parts a coming-of-age story, a queer celebration, and a love letter to the Bollywood dream.”

Mahak Jiwani

Originally from Pakistan, Mahak Jiwani has produced films in Chile, USA, Japan and Pakistan. In 2017, she produced PREMONITION in Chile, which won the Cacho Pallero Award at Huesca International Film Festival and screened Aspen ShortFest, SIFF and Palm Springs International ShortFest. Her films, HORIZON (2018) won the GiGadgets Technology Award and DARLING (2019) was awarded the Katharina Otto-Bernstein Production Grant at Columbia University Film Festival. Mahak is a graduate of the MFA program at Columbia University and working for Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions. She is also developing features; GULAAB (Locarno Open Doors 2018) and SHADOW.

“Saim and I worked on this short film over a couple of years and iterations until we arrived at this story. We were both interested in exploring this world but we wanted to do it in a way that feels authentic and not exoticised. With Darling, I think we found a way to tell a great story while staying true to the world and its characters.”

Nadia Afgan

Nadia Afgan​ is a Pakistani actress and comedian known for her work in theatre and television. Her numerous work in television includes a series of plays in both Urdu and Punjabi. She rose to prominence when she appeared in the hit TV series ​Family Frontin the 1990’s. She has won numerous awards ​and is currently starring in critically acclaimed Suno Chanda.

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