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Situating Riaz Shahid's Zerqa (1969) in a Palestinian Cinematic Archive


Situating Riaz Shahid's Zerqa (1969) in a Palestinian Cinematic Archive

Haider, Saba Fatima (2023) Situating Riaz Shahid's Zerqa (1969) in a Palestinian Cinematic Archive. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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Situating Riaz Shahid's Zerqa (1969) in a Palestinian Cinematic Archive

Saba Fatima Haider, Ph.D.
Concordia University, 2023

This research-creation doctoral project lies at the intersections of visual anthropology, cultural studies, film studies, and translation practice. This study presents the findings of an exploration of the Pakistani feature film Zerqa (1969), by Pakistani director Riaz Shahid (d. 1972), as a film that has until recently not been the subject of scholarly and artistic inquiry and warrants investigation into its lesser known history as a revolutionary Palestinian film. This aspect of the film’s identity is revealed through my study of archival sources, and inspired this project’s aims: to initiate a conversation between (trans)national cinemas and disciplines about Zerqa. An Urdu-language feature film set in an imagined Palestine, Zerqa tells the story of the creation of Israel and the rise of the Palestinian armed struggle. The film presented a direct call to action into Palestinian armed struggle and upon its release in 1969, the director made explicit the film’s ideological and translocal entanglements with the aims of the PLO and specifically Fatah. As such, it warrants exploration by Palestinian cinema scholars as an early PLO film and possibly the first feature narrative film that told the story of Palestinian displacement and the rise of the armed struggle. Surfacing that dimension of Zerqa can situate it beyond the Pakistani cinema archive but also into the canon of PLO films and Palestinian political cinema — bringing a new translocal dimension to understanding Palestinian cinema beyond language and geography.

The film was an unprecedented commercial hit upon its release in 1969, and played cinemas across Pakistan for over 100 weeks straight. Yet since then, Zerqa almost entirely disappeared from the film archive. A key goal of this project was to translate the film into English to bring it into wider dialogue. My analysis links vastly different political contexts and cinema histories, of Palestine and Pakistan. It also illuminates complicated relationships between separate but closely related disciplines and archives. The film speaks to two cultural and political spheres: Marxist productions in Pakistani popular culture in the 1960s and 70s, and the PLO’s early cultural activities and transnational relationships after 1967 and into the 70s.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Arts and Science > Humanities: Interdisciplinary Studies
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Haider, Saba Fatima
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Date:18 June 2023
Thesis Supervisor(s):Neves, Joshua and Abu Hatoum, Nayrouz and Cross, Daniel
ID Code:992979
Deposited By: Saba Fatima Haider
Deposited On:16 Nov 2023 17:03
Last Modified:16 Nov 2023 17:03
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