"Pakistan 7.6" film - produced by Aljazeera Children Channel about the massive earthquake that struck Pakistan in October 2006 - grabbed the attention of the attendees of The Aljazeera Second International Documentary Film Festival. This was because the film based its story on a minute that turned life into ultimate silence, the earth shocked and everything atop turned into rubble.
The incident was on Saturday, 8th October 2008 around 8:52 a.m. and the place was in Pakistan. It was a devastating earthquake with 7.6 on Richter scale. The damage left was 73000 fatalities, 3.3 million dislocated and homeless people, and sufferings that need decades to be erased from memory.
Aljazeera Children Channel went there, to the place where time came to a standstill, the bodies turned into stones, and the memory was lost. Aljazeera Children wanted its presence to bear a humanitarian presence, and it endeavored to save a new memory of its dream.
Media is also able to heal the wounds and open a window of hope in the middle of a murky night of despair when horizons are blocked and gruesome death become rampant. The camera of Aljazeera Children didn't go to the site of the catastrophe to document the destruction, but to exhibit the strength of life there and the great human ability to dust themselves off and move on.
This documentary film has more than one symbolic dimension: shedding lights on the mechanism by which humans retrieve the ability to live; and reaching areas of hope where children are with their sad eyes and challenging smiles.
The film depicts from its early scenes the eyes of the children, exhibiting their beauty and sadness. Exhibiting the beauty of eyes, in its own, is a means of assertion on their strong survival and their insistence to cross the bridge of pain to the future.
In the military hospital in Islamabad, the camera records all hope potentials that could bring life back. For instance, a scene of intensive tries to bring back a fleeing soul from an innocent child's body that bled memories and dreams.
Another scene depicts a woman reciting Quran and rubbing her hand on her son's head who is stuck in limbo between life and death in the hope that care can heal the horror caused by the shock. A heart of a mother is praying, will care be able to block the mouth of death?
In a journey to investigate the remains of life after a wave of sweeping death, the camera sets of in a search journey in the memory of the earthquake survivors. The picture tells bitterly the remnants of Blakot. There was not only the grey debris left behind the earthquake, but also fewer numbers of men and women who have nothing but silence to express their sorrow. This was in addition to children standing on the rubble of their school that swallowed 200 of their colleagues and teachers.
The camera records a notebook that has fresh ink which was scripted by the hands of an innocent child; also an open book depicting a story in which a girl was contemplating in her imagination.
The camera wants to take off and tell the world a story of an unstoppable death. So the tale is the means of humans to resist death, and the picture is a tool to show the humans' challenge to this destruction.
The camera went further than recording the traces of the catastrophe. Rather, it is trying to record life going back to normal: children attending school in tents and they have to accept the new reality; learning will also contribute in creating life in this exceptional moment in the life of Pakistanis.
A trader merchandizing what the earthquake left from his goods in a bid to exercise his right in this life; women washing clothes with scarce water as they are washing away the memory of destruction; a mother holding her child tightly trying to keep him warm with her cold body; other women cooking food; and in the background of all these scenes are children chanting with words requesting their mothers to give them warmth and care. Chanting is also a tool to resist destruction.
From Islamabad to Blakot which turned to a ghost town with less than a minute then to Muzaffarabad, the camera records the children and their daily practices, their charming smiles, and their eyes that are filled with frozen tears. The camera enters the town from its main gate and roams the wards of the hospital.
In space the echo of pain screams resonate, and screams here and there which fade out gradually in silence, and from silence stems a fresh desire for life. The lens puts more focus on the smiles of children, the innocence of their laughs, the desire for future which is reflected on their eyes. Smiles stronger than tears and have more ability to build. When the camera exhibits the challenge instilled in those smiles, it verily helps in creating hope for those.
Nevertheless, the camera is not enough to ward off cold and protect children from storms and rain; it also exhibits the role of humanitarian organizations in standing by the victims. Relief aids are visible here and there. In Kashkar camp, which lies between the cities of Mansehra and Blakot, UNICEF established their main center to relieve the devastated people and it had countless tents, a medical center, drinkable water, playgrounds, and a school. "People have never been more united or more loving to one another than now", a child says.
Natural disasters uncover the essence of kind humans. From nothing and with the remnants of memory and things, the rest of survivors work on building a new town. They are heading to future like crossing a bridge from one side to another. With new hope, the children set off their journey challenging destruction with beautiful but sad eyes.