Netflix, has released Sitara: Let Girls Dream the first - Pakistani Animated Film to be air on the streaming service.

The film takes the audience on a journey through the old city of Lahore, where, Pari, a fourteen-year-old girl dreams of becoming a pilot and whose story is told through the perspective of her younger sister, Mehr. 

Here we speak to three-time Emmy Award-winning director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy who in 2013, set up Waadi Animations to allow South Asian children to see a reflection of themselves on the big screen. 

She said, “We wanted children to hear their language, see their clothes and their streets come to life.

"Whilst we were quite used to watching animation from Hollywood here, I thought our children also deserved to see more representations of themselves and that’s what motivated us to create animation.

“It has been a very difficult journey because we had to start from scratch and we have made many mistakes along the way. It’s expensive to create animation - the software and the hardware are expensive. 

“We don’t have a basic infrastructure in place, so the very fact that we have been able to create Sitara and release it into the world, on this international platform - that in itself for us is our biggest accomplishment! From artists to producers, there are numerous women involved in the animation of Sitara. 

“I want Waadi Animations to be a company where women can come and create animation which allows them the ability to hone their skills, express themselves and display their own creativity. 

“As a female filmmaker I always strive to ensure that women have a place on the table, that they are given the opportunities and spaces to create and be creative.

“And with this film we had a number of women in key places- Maha Abdul worked on the character and environment design, Eleyna Haroun as the co-producer, Javeria Khan worked on story boarding and Imke Fehrmann came on board as a producer and Laura Karpman is our composer.”

Waadi Animations tells female driven animated stories and in the past seven years has created Pakistan’s first animated trilogy (3 Bahadur) and an animated short for Netflix Originals (Sitara: Let Gils Dream).

"The team have just wrapped up a documentary series called Fundamental with YouTube Originals and Global Fund for Women. The series looks at grass roots activists in five countries and their struggle to create a more equitable world. 

“Let Girls Dream is an animated short film that was initially dreamt up many years ago. When my team and I began researching and carried out a series of interviews with young girls around the world who had been forced into early marriage – aged between 10 and 13 and married off to much older men — what we most commonly encountered was that the girls spoke a lot about their dreams. 

“They regretted the fact that they had to give up school, were no longer able to be with their friends, and unable to study and become doctors, lawyers or artists.

“After going through those recordings I thought to myself that there needed to be a film made about the dreams of young girls that becomes a global conversation starter between parents and children — something that could be shown on digital platforms, in cinemas, in schools and community centers with the purpose of persuading parents to rethink the need to invest in the dreams of their daughters. That’s how the thought of Pari, the protagonist of Sitara, was born.

“When I began to write about Pari I always imagined her to be free and to be flying. We sat her on a rooftop, and gave her dreams of becoming a pilot because when that dream is taken away from her and she is married off, there’s a moment when you realize that her dreams will never take flight — that’s how the premise of the film evolved.”

Asian Image:

The film premiered in New York on International Day of the Girl in 2019 and then in early 2020 had its Pakistan premiere in Karachi.

She said it was extremely difficult to create animated films in Pakistan; the infrastructure does not support it. 

“We have long and frequent power cuts, our hardware is old, and our servers break down. We often have to try things in three different ways before we get it right- that’s why we are so proud of Sitara: Let Girls Dream because it truly is our contribution to the world of animation. 

“My team who has worked on the film have one simple hope: that girls around the world will be inspired to achieve their dreams. If Sitara can play a small role in doing that (which we are already seeing happen during and after screenings), it gives us all tremendous joy and hope for the future.

“Our outreach program in schools across the world with our partners Chime for Change, Girls not Brides and Equality Now has had an enormous reach. We have screened the film from Uganda to the United States and Pakistan.

"That for me has been the most memorable part of creating this film, reaching young girls everywhere and encouraging them to dream.”