Seemab Gul’s OSCAR® Qualifying short SANDSTORM shares the story of Zara who searches for the strength to reject the confines of a patriarchal society

Buzz, Film

Seemab Gul’s SANDSTORM is a coming-of-age story that navigates the tricky terrain of internet dating in a conservative Muslim society. The film questions the objectification of the female body and its relationship to honour in Pakistani culture. SANDSTORM has qualified to be considered for the 95th Academy Awards® after winning the top awards at Rhode Island and HollyShorts Film Festivals. SANDSTORM can soon be seen at and Bueu International Short Film Festival from Sunday 11th to Saturday 24th of September and ONE Country ONE Film International Festival on 16th October.

Zara, a schoolgirl in Karachi, Pakistan, shares a sensual dance video with her virtual boyfriend, who then blackmails her. Caught between his manipulative behaviour and the desire to experience love on her own terms, Zara searches for the strength to reject the confines of a patriarchal society.

Director, writer and co-producer Seemab Gul is a Pakistani artist and filmmaker based in London with a BA in Fine Art and an MA in Filmmaking from the London Film School. Her films interweave documentary and fictional elements to explore social-political stories and often focus on the outsider experience. Her award-winning short film SANDSTORM (Mulaqat) premiered at the 78th Venice International Film Festival and at Sundance Film Festival 2022. It won the Grand Prize at the RIIFF 2022 and Best Live Action award at HollyShorts Film Festival amongst many other awards.

Producer Abid Aziz Merchant is based in Karachi, Pakistan. After 21 years as a banker, in 2014 he founded Sanat Initiative, with a view to change the artistic landscape in Pakistan. Under the banner of Sanat Initiative, Abid ventured into film production with his first feature I’LL MEET YOU THERE (Grand Jury Award Nominee SXSW 2020). He has produced several short films including 1978, THE END and SANDSTORM (MULAQAT). In Pakistan, the film industry is in its revival phase & Abid aims to bring original and meaningful stories to an audience that clearly seeks engaging content.

The sensitive and wonderful cinematography was created by Alberto Balazs based in Lisbon, Portugal who is interested in projects that focus on the human condition while exploring social and environmental issues.

Upcoming festivals and Screenings

Filmfest Sundsvall 2022, Sweden (Official Selection) Sundsvall, 28 September–2 October, 2022

Calgary International Film Festival 2022, Canada (Official Selection) September 22 – October 2, 2022

South Asian film festival of Orlando 2022, US (Official Selection) Orlando 1-3 October

Donosskino film festival 2022, Spain (Official Selection) San Sebastian from 4-8 October 2022

Bolton Film Festival 2022, UK (Official Selection) Bolton, 5 – 10 October

The San Francisco International Festival of Short Films 2022, US (Official Selection) San Francisco from 7 – 9 October

Edinburgh Short Film Festival 2022, Scotland (Official Selection) Edinburgh from 28 October to 13 November

Festival Int. De Cine Invisible Film Sozialak 2022, Spain (Official Selection) Bilbao from 13-20 October 2022

Kaohsiung Film Festival 2022, Taiwan (Official Selection) Kaohsiung from 14-30 October

FILMETS Badalona Film Festival 2022, Spain (Official Selection) Badalona from 21-30 October

Sedicicorto Forlì International Film Festival 2022, Italy (Official Selection) Forlì, 6-15 October

Female Filmmakers Festival Berlin 2022, Germany (Official Selection) October 5-9 Berlin

Aesthetica Short Film Festival 2022, UK (Official Selection) 1 – 6 November, York – 1 – 30

Aaretaler Kurzfilmfestival 2022, Switzerland (Official Selection) 4-6 November 2022

Denver Film Festival 2022, US (Official Selection) Denver 2-13 November 2022

International Short Film Festival Berlin 2022, Germany (Official Selection) Berlin from 15 to 20 November 2022

25th Short Film Night in Lausanne 2022, Switzerland Lausanne, 19 November

20minmax Int. Short Film Festival 2022, Germany (Official Selection) Ingolstadt from 18 -25 November 2022

This timely and important film has qualified to be considered for the 2023 OSCARS®.