TIFF 2023: ‘In Flames’ personifies women forced to navigate random violence of patriarchal society

Asha Bajaj
5 min readSep 19

Toronto/CMEDIA: An award-winning Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker, Zarrar Kahn‘s film ‘IN FLAMES‘ produced by Pakistani/Canadian filmmaker Anam Abbas in 2023 in Urdu had its North American Premiere in Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF 2023). The film is a gripping drama about trauma, internalized abuse, in which present-day Karachi, a medical student struggles to keep her family together while being followed by forces she can’t entirely understand. In this feature directorial debut, Zarrar Kahn tells a story of women, not just Mariam, but her mother as well, who are forced to navigate the random violence of their oppressive, patriarchal society.

In conversation with Zarrar Kahn and Anam Abbas, IBNS-TWF correspondent Asha Bajaj discusses the various aspects of this film.

Extract of the interview:

To Zarrar Kahn: What motivated you to introduce the element of psychological thriller in this mostly patriatrich movie?

In 2018, I made a short film ‘Dia’ and it was about similar themes. Initially it was supposed to be a drama but then I realized that there was so much fear that was coming out of the characters of psychology and when we were editing it together we discovered that it was a thriller. And as we approached this feature film, I wanted to lean into that feature as it follows the natural extension of the world where these characters are living. Initially it was a happy accident and ended in really being a deep terror.

What factors were responsible for the deteriorating relationship between the mother and daughter? Since there were many factors, can you highlight these?

The mother had an abusive partner and was psychologically affected by it. The daughter was also psychologically affected by her abusive father. She being older than her brother suffered the older daughter syndrome as she felt she had to support the household due to her mother being very vulnerable and living in a terror-stricken house. This led to a breach of balance between the relationship between both the nurturer as well as the nurtured. The traumatic scenes in…

Asha Bajaj

I write on national and international Health, Politics, Business, Education, Environment, Biodiversity, Science, First Nations, Humanitarian, gender, women