Archive Researchers

Featuring: Mahawish Rezvi, Karachi

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You’ve worked in both the U.S. and Pakistan. Do archival repositories, licensing, and research procedures differ for you in Pakistan versus in the U.S.?

Working in both these countries has been an invaluable experience. While working in the United States one really learns to work within the confines of the laws and rules, meaning licensing and copyright laws are strictly enforced. This is not the case in Pakistan, one gets away with a lot more, the flip side being it is harder to get archival material. Pakistan went through a television news revolution in the early 2000s now as these organizations come of age they have accumulated a sizable archive and are now trying to figure out policies and rates according to demand. 

What is the relationship between archives or research to different cultures within Pakistan?

Since documentation is hard to come by in Pakistan verification is usually done either in person by going to physical locations and seeing for yourself. Or the other method is to use multiple sources to verify the information you are trying to gather. Things however are changing as the country turns towards technology, the National Identity database is now computerized and it is becoming easier to gather data and information. That being said the government of Pakistan very tightly controls access to such data and as a researcher getting your hands on it is difficult.

Your experience spans across multiple types of media outlets from online, to television and documentary film. What are the differences in sourcing and researching archives or footage for those different platforms?

I feel the pace varies so much in each platform. On the web linking allows one to use material and source it as long as the URL linking to the source material is there. That makes it go much faster. The resources a television channel has are vastly different and they often subscribe to services like Reuters and AP which gives them access to visual libraries. I feel like as an independent documentary filmmaker that’s where it is the hardest, resources are scarce, but at the same time goodwill and the kindness organizations have shown me as a documentary filmmaker also opens many doors to their archives.

A film you worked on, Outlawed in Pakistan (2013), won an Emmy for Outstanding Research. Can you explain a bit about your role within the project?

I was brought on much later on the project, to do some additional reporting/research. Research in Pakistan mainly consists of tracking people down and confirming either telephonically or in person. That is pretty much what I ended up doing, many phone calls to corroborate that the various police and court figures did exist. 

What is your vision for the future of the storytelling and media industries in Pakistan?

This is a very exciting time to be in the media industry in Pakistan. Stories are abundant and the skill level of storyteller is also something we haven’t seen in the recent years. I think we can hope to see better investigative stories and that too across multimedia platforms especially over the internet. I am very excited to be based in Karachi for the next few years.

Could you tell us a bit about your current project?

My current project is a feature documentary about a particular immigrant community in Karachi. They happen to be very good at sports and use it as a mean to escape life of poverty. This community is largely undocumented and therefore corroborating their stories is a challenge. There is very little academic research on this community and the media has also not covered them extensively, it makes it a very exciting project to report on, but on the flip side I am finding it tough to research certain aspects of the story.

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