Hunzo: an ethnofiction

In my exploration of ethnofiction I came across this great film that seems to have been made as a thesis. There is very little other information provided.  Having made a film years ago about the building of a Rebab, I really appreciated the central place of music in the film and the obvious importance of the instrument. When the grandfather and child are rescued the instrument is the only possession that came along with them.

The power of the ethnofiction is the normalization of culture. Unlike the documentary that begins with an intent to teach you something you don’t know, the ethnofiction invites you into a story. The consequences are quite great: a very signifiant difference between subjective storytelling (ethnofiction) and the objectification of disaster (documentary). The universe of the story with all its interests, curiosities, similarities and amazements are left to the viewer to feel. For me, it feels closer, less alien, less objectifying. I could understand the sadness of the child, the heartbreak of the grandfather and the sadness of the community members trying to make these new comers feel at home.

Making a film about disaster is terribly difficult, especially so if you want to humanize the impacts. From what I can tell this film is about the overflowing of Attabad Lake in Northern Pakistan. Here’s some info from wiki:

Attabad Lake, Hunza Valley, also known as Attabad Lake[4], is a lake in Ganish (Central Hunza Valley of northern Pakistan) created in January 2010 by a landslide dam.

Since the lake was formed the only means of crossing was by loading vehicles onto wooden boats. This changed when a road tunnel was built and it opened for traffic in September 2015.

The lake was formed due to a massive landslide at Attabad village in Gilgit-Baltistan, 9 miles (14 km) upstream (east) of Karimabad that occurred on 4 January 2010.[5] The landslide killed twenty people and blocked the flow of the Hunza River for five months. The lake flooding has displaced 6,000 people from upstream villages, stranded (from land transportation routes) a further 25,000,[6] and inundated over 12 miles (19 km) of the Karakoram Highway.[2] The lake reached 13 miles (21 km) long and over 100 metres (330 ft) in depth by the first week of June 2010 when it began flowing over the landslide dam, completely submerging lower Shishkat and partly flooding Gulmit.[2] The subdivision of Gojal has the greatest number of flooded buildings, over 170 houses, and 120 shops. The residents also had shortages of food and other items due to the blockage of the Karakoram Highway.[7][8] By 4 June water outflow from the lake had increased to 3,700 cu ft/s (100 m3/s).[9]

Water levels continued to rise in 18 June 2010 caused by a difference in the outflow and inflow of the new lake. As bad weather continued, the supply of food, medicine and other goods was stopped as all forms of transportation including helicopter service to Hunza could not resume.

Aftermath of landslide

Victims of the landslide and expansion of the lake staged a sit-in protesting the lack of government action and compensation payments to them.[11]

As a result of the damming of Hunza River, five villages north of the barrier were flooded. One village, Ayeenabad, was completely submerged. Major portions of another village, Shishkat, was also submerged. Around 40% of the village of Gulmit, which also serves as the headquarters of Gojal Valley, was also submerged. Significant portions of land in Hussain and Ghulkin villages of Gojal also got submerged as a result of the surging lake.

The entire population of Hunza and Gojal valley, up to 25000 individuals, were affected[12] as a result of the lake, due to difficulties of road access and reaching business markets and loss of land, houses, and agricultural products.

Panoramic View of Attabad lake

Attabad Lake has been visited by both current and former Prime Ministers Yousuf Raza Gillani and Nawaz Sharif, and by the Chief Minister of Punjab Shahbaz Sharif, Sharif announced Rs 100 million of aid for the victims from the Punjab government and Rs 0.5 million for the relatives of those who died in the landslide.[13]

Attabad Lake in May 2010

Attabad Lake in August 2011

Areas downstream from the lake remained on alert[14] despite some officials believing that a major flood scenario was less likely as the river began flowing over the landslide dam during the first week of June 2010.[15][16] Many people have been evacuated to 195 relief camps.[3] Two hospitals downstream, the Kashrote Eye Vision Hospital and the Aga Khan Health Service,[17] evacuated both their staff and equipment.[13] Some officials had incorrectly predicted that as soon as the lake began flowing over the landslide dam, a 60 feet (18 m) wave would hit the areas immediately downstream.[18]

As of 14 June 2010, the water level continued to rise. DawnNews reported that “242 houses, 135 shops, four hotels, two schools, four factories, and several hundred acres of agricultural land” had been flooded, and that villagers were receiving food and school fee subsidies. They reported that 25 kilometres (16 mi) of the Karakoram Highway and six bridges were destroyed.[19]

Frontier Works Organization blasted the spillway of the lake first on 27 March 2012 and then on 15 May 2012, lowering the lake’s water level by at least 33 feet (10 m).[20]


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