One of the joys of the Edinburgh Film Festival is the plethora of great, foreign films that are shown every single year. One of those films was the Pakistan-set Urdu film My Pure Land and it's definitely one of the best films of the fest.

What we don't find out about My Pure Land until the very end of the film, though, is that it's based on a true story - which makes it all the more impressive, if it wasn't already impressive enough. When Nazo Dharejo (Suhaee Abro) is confronted by armed gangsters wanting to invade and claim her land - her father's before her; his land was very sacred to him and he sought to protect it with all he could - she must stand her ground, armed with only one gun and a scarce supplement of bullets, and fight against them to protect her property and her life. And, by gosh, is it a stirring watch. The fact that it's all grounded in reality by facts makes it all the more astounding and accomplished a feature.

Director Sarmad Masud's vision of familial Pakistan-conflicts and the harsh conditions endured by some is delivered with such conviction and grit. This is such a raw and honest film; we are front and centre in the action and it's all the more harrowing and intense because of just how grounded and intense an atmosphere Masud has crafted. There's a vulnerability to the proceedings, to these people. The characters are as human and real as can be. The screenplay relishes in its detail to capturing genuine authenticity, through its dialogue and pensive character building and a narrative that, refreshingly, takes its time in establishing its story and characters and relations. The decades of history in the Dharejo family can be felt; we can sense the lauded relationship between Nazo and her family - most especially her father - and understand her commitment to feel the need to protect the land from the outlaws that so raid it. The writing is so astute and brilliant in setting up a narrative we are so wholly enthralled by. Masud's work as a director stuns too, as the camera stalks and lingers around its characters, entrusting the talent of the actors and the genius of the screenplay to work their magic and opting for long, undisrupted shots of dialogue and emotion to drive the story. And it works. There's no need for flashy edits and big action set pieces; this is a character film that relies solely on the heart of its characters to keep us engaged and riveted.

The cinematography is gorgeous too, and the performances across the board are remarkable. This is a film so anti-patriarchy and such a paean to feminism and strong-willed female characters - if you thought Wonder Woman was a strong female superhero, so is Nazo Dharejo. There is a non-linear approach to the storytelling too, and - again - the screenplay so superbly treats its audience with maturity and isn't bogged down with exposition and explanations but rather lets us put the pieces together ourselves. My Pure Land is astounding. It's a masterfully crafted story of heroism and family and morals and is one of the most emotionally charged, riveting films of the year that will captivate from the start, stir your deepest emotions and refuse to let go as you leave with your jaw-dropped - rocked to your core by such a powerful, mesmerising piece of work.

VERDICT:
My Pure Land is an extraordinary, deeply stirring and breathtaking piece of masterclass filmmaking that will rock you to the core.


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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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