Son of a Lion

Imperfect but timely drama that puts a human face on a frequently demonized people.

Hong Kong Filmart HAS Screenings

Set in northern Pakistan in a Pashtun community, "Son of a Lion" is a docudrama that wears its politics on its sleeve in an illustration of life in a true gun culture. The town of Darra Alam Khel is the kind of village that serves as the West's current whipping boy as the source of extremism, but director Benjamin Gilmour's work here shows the more human side of a tetchy equation.

"Son" focuses on 11-year-old Niaz (Niaz Khan Shinwari) and his simple desire to go to school. His father, Sher Alam (Sher Alam Miskeen Ustad), expects him to help him in the family gun business, and resists both Niaz and his brother Baktiyar's (Baktiyar Ahmed Alfridi) pleas to allow him to enroll in school in Peshawar. Sher Alam sees no need for education, but things change when the local bully, Pite (Khaista Mir), is shot by a local thug.

The film was produced with the assistance of the residents of the area, and after Gilmour had lived in the Northwest Frontier Province for some time: credit is also given to the people of Kohat and Darra Adam Khel. The result is a realist tone that informs the story, performances and visual aesthetic. But it's Niaz's struggle to get an education that serves as the foundation for the story. That too many children are drafted into armies across the globe isn't in dispute, but Niaz's tragedy isn't in his destiny as a soldier. Darra Alam Khel's overt gun industry (gun shops line the streets alongside fruit markets) and the constant sound of gunfire (usually buyers testing the wares) is a reminder of the omnipresence of firearms.