To the unsuspecting reader, this article might appear to be just another simple film review. You’ve come to assume that NAFN’s blog is just a spew of hyperlinks and sarcastic comments, and that the next few paragraphs will be neatly formatted into a review of Hammad Khan’s newest work. Well… you’d be right. But that’s exactly the mindset required for this 80-minute rollercoaster. Anima State leaves you grasping for what you know as it concertedly attempts to broaden your thinking by tearing away the familiarity of the New Art Exchange, and it replaces that with deceit, hypnotism and insecurity.
Still, I really idolised this newest feature. Khan is notorious for mashing up religious iconography and political jargon into edgy – sometimes uncomfortable – works of art, and Anima is no exception. Set in contemporary Pakistan, we’re coerced into following a masked gunman’s mass homicide, only to then discover that what we’d see as an attention-grabbing event barely even pricks the ears of a conflict-ridden country. Through nauseatingly tight close-ups and a subdued desert colour scheme, Khan then manages to distance us from the story and slam the subtext up to our noses. I couldn’t stop myself questioning the real meaning behind everything, from the film angles to the choice of background potted-plants.
Now I’m not one for spoilers, but I especially advise you to be on the look-out around the midway mark. Despite the gunman and his future plans feeling like the focal point, Khan manages to literally, physically and meta-freaking-phorically flip the narrative on its backside just when you were starting to get comfy. Instead he asks us to consider what we’re actually afraid of. Who would we kill for? Is murder purely a cry for attention? And perhaps most blunt of all: does a single life matter in a warzone? This made Anima State a great example of an event that really stretched my viewpoints to their limits, and forced me to consider the complex network that is the media. Ultimately, it even poignantly becomes a question of whose shot is scarier – the gun or the camera?
So there we have it. Another event that’s convinced me to delve into an artist’s background. Steer away from this film if you’re one for ribbon-tied endings however, as there’s loads of unanswered questions by the end of Anima State and they almost force you to delve deeper. You’ll find yourself on Google, uncontrollably typing phrases like ‘Pakistani warzone’, ‘Media is Eastern-Europe’, and ‘Terrorist groups in the Media’, because when you think about it, we only ever see the adverse side of Pakistan. But is that because we want to see that, or because that’s all there is? You sort of know that there will always be positive stories in any culture, so why do we only see the terror? Is happiness not also worthy of being broadcast? Deep, right?