In Flames

Pakistan | 2023 | 98 min. | Zarrar Kahn

A widow, her adult daughter, and her tween-aged son are haunted by ghosts of the past and the patriarchy when their paternal grandfather dies in this heart-wrenching Middle Eastern Gothic and Pakistan’s official Academy Awards® entry for Best International Film.

The debut feature of Pakistani Canadian filmmaker Zarrar Kahn, this claustrophobic psychological horror story centers on young would-be doctor Mariam (breakout star Ramesha Nawal) who finds herself tormented by terrifying visions of a nightmarish past following the death of the family patriarch. Unmoored in a hostile, male-dominated society, Mariam and mother Fariha (Bakhtawar Mazhar) attempt to navigate their existence as women in modern-day Pakistan. Set amid the hustle-bustle of inner-city Karachi, In Flames was written by Kahn as a comment on the country’s patriarchal society and sexism. Creeping in as the menfolk in Mariam’s community circle what they perceive to be easy, unclaimed prey, the film’s genre element is subtly introduced—the threat of violence is always there, from memories of Mariam’s abusive father to the women-hating men encroaching on her space on a daily basis. In Nawal, the film finds a magnetic, leading presence in this compelling account of a young woman under attack from insidious forces which, while supernatural, are very much rooted in our world. Bleak and distressingly relevant.

—Joel Harley

  • Director: Zarrar Kahn
  • Principal Cast: Ramesha Nawal, Bakhtawar Mazhar, Omar Javaid
  • Country: Pakistan, Canada
  • Year: 2023
  • Running Time: 98 min.
  • Producer: Anam Abbas
  • Screenplay: Zarrar Kahn
  • Cinematographers: Aigul Nurbulatova
  • Editors: Craig Scorgie
  • Music: Kalaisan Kalaichelvan
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Official Academy Awards® Submission 2024 (International Feature), Red Sea Film Festival 2023 (Golden Yusr for Best Picture), Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival 2023 (Grand Prize, International Newcomer Award)
  • Filmography: Debut Feature Film
  • Language: Urdu
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • US Distributor: Game Theory Films
  • International Sales: XYZ Films