Geeta Gandbhir is a prolific director, editor, and producer. She has co-directed numerous award-winning films, including “I Am Evidence,” “Prison Dogs,” “Remembering the Artist, Robert De Niro, Sr.” and “A Journey of A Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers.” She is also currently co-directing and co-producing a “Conversation on Race” series with The New York Times Op-Docs.
“Armed With Faith” will premiere at the 2017 Doc NYC film festival on November 12. The film is co-directed by Asad Faruqi.
W&H: Describe the film for us in your own words.
Gg: After 9/11, Pakistan, which is an American ally in the global war on terror, is plagued by both homegrown and international terrorism. The small yet heroic Pakistani Bomb Disposal Unit is on the frontline of defense defusing bombs, navigating land mines, and grappling with suicide bombers, all while dealing with financial hardship and familial pressure. Harrowing and suspenseful, “Armed With Faith” takes us on the ground with this dedicated squad of men who risk their own lives every day for their country.
W&H: What drew you to this story?
Gg: Asad Faruqi brought this story to me in 2014. We were working together on a film that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and I were directing, and he showed me some footage he had shot. I was immediately impressed by the men of the Kpk Bomb Disposal Unit — their bravery, wisdom, and empathy.
Sharmeen’s and my work is often vested in challenging false, harmful structural and systemic narratives that keep us isolated from each other as human beings and world citizens, and I felt strongly that the stories of these men, who face death every day to protect their communities and homeland, would resonate with a global audience.
W&H: What do you want people to think about when they are leaving the theater?
Gg: I hope people leave with a greater empathy for the struggle of the people of northern Pakistan and their fight to curb extremism, and the understanding and that we all play a part in their successes or failures. I hope people leave with a strong narrative that serves as a counterpoint to the racist, xenophobic, anti- Muslim sentiments and legislation espoused by our current government.
I also hope they leave with a renewed sense that all human beings, no matter where they live and what religion they practice, ultimately want and deserve the same things — peace, security, dignity, and a hopeful future for their children. I also hope they leave with a sense having been deeply moved by a powerful film!
W&H: What was the biggest challenge in making the film?
Gg: The logistics were challenging as the film was shot in northern Pakistan. Also, finding translators for the various languages spoken was not so easy.
W&H: How did you get your film funded? Share some insights into how you got the film made.
Gg: We received a grant from the Idfa/Bertha Brit Doc Journalism Fund and we were also funded by the Independent Television Service (Itvs) — and we are so grateful to them for their support.
W&H: What does it mean for you to have your film play at Doc NYC?
Gg: It means the world! I am a Doc NYC alumni and this is one of my favorite festivals. This is one of the few Us festivals that truly embraces diversity and international films — the curation is superb. It’s also just wonderful for all the hometown folks to have a chance to attend and celebrate. We feel lucky and honored to be part Doc NYC’s vision.
W&H: What’s the best and worst advice you’ve received?
Gg: The best was that each film has its place in the world. There is a festival and a distribution outlet for every film.
The worst advice: Pay yourself later. That never happens!
W&H: What advice do you have for other female directors?
Gg: Demand for yourself what a white, male colleague would demand. If you accept less, you will be given less.
W&H: Name your favorite woman-directed film and why.
Gg: This is an impossible question! As of recent I liked “The Cinema Travellers” by Shirley Abraham (and Amit Madheshiya), Kirsten Johnson’s “Cameraperson,” Smriti Mundhra and Sarita Khurana’s “A Suitable Girl,” and Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady’s “One of Us.” Those are only some that I can think of right now.
W&H: There have been significant conversations over the last couple of years about increasing the amount of opportunities for women directors yet the numbers have not increased. Are you optimistic about the possibilities for change? Share any thoughts you might have on this topic.
Gg: I am optimistic. I do see change coming. However, we cannot stop making noise about it — we can’t rest. The patriarchy won’t shift on it’s own. We have stay loud and in everyone’s face until there is equality and dignity for everyone in our industry.
Doc NYC 2017 Women Directors: Meet Geeta Gandbhir — “Armed With Faith” was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.