Allah Rakhi is determined not to let an even harsher fate befall her 10-year-old daughter Zainab (Saleha Aref), a promising student betrothed to a powerful, gray-haired man in their rural town by her father. And so Allah Rakhi and Zainab flee their home, with the little girl’s angry fiancé and his henchmen in pursuit to kill mother, daughter or both for “ruining their honor.”
Nathaniel has commented, “The seed of the film is inspired by the true story of a mother from the tribal areas of Pakistan who kidnaps her two daughters and seeks a new future for them. The story resonated with me deeply because in Pakistan, I come from a humble family of very strong women, women who have endured extremely tough lives in hope of a better one for their children. So while studying film directing at Columbia University in New York, I penned a fictional screenplay for this road-trip thriller. The mother’s journey into the unknown would raise important questions about the price we are willing to pay for freedom, dignity and love in a time when modernity, tradition and fundamentalism have come to a head.
“In the ten years that it took me to make this film, I became a mother to a daughter myself and the issue of child marriage became even more personal. Every year, around the world, nearly 15 million girls lose their childhood to marriage and for me this is an unacceptable reality. And so the determination to make the film and have it seen by audiences never left me.”
“Dukhtar” was Pakistan’s foreign-language Oscar submission last year and will open in NYC on October 9 and in LA on October 16.