Award-winning Pakistani LGBTQ short film takes unflinching look at gay life in South Asia

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Art has the power to change hearts and minds - or at the very least spark a conversation - and that's exactly what the director of a new LGBTQ short film is hoping to achieve with his latest work.

Aadat ('Habit'), from Pakistani film-maker Iqran Rasheed, takes an intimate and unflinching look at the realities of gay life in South Asia, a region where LGBTQ life remains largely relegated to the shadows.

The 13-minute film follows the story of a young man (played by Ibrahim Ali Alavi) who hires a sex worker (Rahil Siddiqui) in an attempt to fulfil his desire for emotional and sexual connection in a conservative Islamic country.  

The ensuing scenes show the personal toll of repressing your innermost desires as well as the potentially devastating consequences for those who express them.

Aadat, which received the Merit Award at the Best Shorts Competition Film Festival in the US and was runner-up in Paksitan's EACPE Film Awards, was a labour of love for 25-year-old Iqran, who lives in Karachi, Pakistan.

"In a time where platforms [are] sharing all kinds of content from all around the world, I just felt an LGBTQ story from Pakistan needs to exist," he tells Attitude.

"Major and mainstream media channels will never take that kind of risk of producing something of this sort, so I just tried to make a film myself."

Iqran goes on: "In Pakistan, sex outside of wedlock is illegal and that is because of religion. Homophobic people use religion to defend their hatred towards an already vulnerable community.