Mohammed Naqvi: The Accused

It’s an understatement to say that I was shocked watching this film, that was part of the CPH:DOX Online program, that you can access until Sunday. Content-wise I don’t recall having been presented with so much hate and intolerance in 75 minutes, as this internationally financed documentary includes, rightfully, at the festival, placed in the section that includes films that are documentaries/investigative journalistic reports. ”Behead all blashphemers” is one of the first sentences you hear – later on (commenting the case of Asia Bibi, more later) some kids in the street say that they don’t need to eat anything today, “we are waiting for Bibi’s head”. Words to that effect. It’s painful just to write about it, so let me take an easy escape and quote the BBC intro:  


”In Pakistan, the blasphemy law prescribes a compulsory death sentence for disrespecting Prophet Muhammad and life imprisonment for desecrating the Qur’an. This (Storyville) documentary follows the stories and fates of four people accused of blasphemy. The most famous of them is Asia Bibi, a Christian woman who claims she was falsely accused by her Muslim co-workers after a disagreement. As the elections in Pakistan loom, the country is split between those who feel the law is being misused and want to change it, and those who believe it must be preserved at any cost. Its greatest advocate, cleric Khadim Hussain Rizvi, goes on a mission to do just this. As his campaign heats up, he gathers millions of supporters, sympathetic to his goal, and silences anyone attempting to change the law by condemning them to death. As the world awaits the outcome of Asia Bibi’s trial, Rizvi uses the blasphemy law as a key platform to run for prime minister of Pakistan in the upcoming elections. Amidst the hysteria, those who oppose him and even his own followers become pawns in the ultimate quest for power…”

The director Naqvi said the project was “the most dangerous film” he had ever worked on. ,“When I was initially approached to possibly explore this topic, I refused,” he explained. “As I saw my country falling prey to the political ambitions of a despot, one who was using Islam as a veneer, I wanted to expose Rizvi. Here was a cleric who did not speak for me or other Muslims, he only spoke for his own political ambitions. In doing so, he was also responsible for the lynching of several minorities and Muslims, who had been falsely accused of blasphemy. He had to be stopped and this was what motivated me to make this film.”

… to expose Rizvi (PHOTO); indeed the director succeeds. I have no words to describe what I think of him.

The film also follows the work of Gulalai Ismail, human rights activist, whose NGO is closed, and who is being threatened to death for her actions. She is now in exile abroad as is Asia Bibi, whereas many other mentioned in the film have been killed or executed according to the blasphemy law.

Naqvi, the director has previously taken part in CPH:DOX winning the F:ACT Award in 2015 for the fine “Among the Believers”, jury motivation:

“For its ability to show us a country with complex political situation, for unprecedented access to part of its educational system with far reaching consequences and to the dedication the filmmakers have shown in the following the story the jury has decided to give CPH:DOX F:ACT Award to “Among the believers” by Hemal Trivedi & Mohammed Ali Nagvi. (Filmkommentaren cph:dox 2015).

UK, Pakistan, USA, 2020, 75 mins.

Share your love
Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

Articles: 3872