Growing up in cosmopolitan Karachi, conservative Peshawar and the way-more conservative north-western tribal areas of Pakistan always intimidated me. To make things worse, I had heard of large gun markets there (Charlton Heston would have been thrilled to be there!). These markets have been thriving since the Afghan war against the Soviets in the 80s. Here is a short film (about 9 minutes), mostly shot in 2006, that takes you inside one of the largest illegal gun markets in the world. Now, I don't have much sympathy for the regressive Taliban - I like to read about the middle ages, but definitely don't want anyone in the 21st century to live in one. However, I found it incredible that some of the guns and the bullets are being made by hand, often using scrap metal from abandoned Soviet armored vehicles! Also check out the shooting range - a perfect collision of amusement and scariness. While I appreciated the fact that the film takes us into an area not accessible any more, I felt a bit put-off by the seeming joy of the film-maker and the cameraman shooting a Kalashnikov. May be it was the persona essential for having an access to this remote area. At the end, however, the difference in tone between the 2006 footage (somewhat joyous, bordering on romantic) and the solemn bookend comments from 2009, is perhaps the real story behind the film.
The film is produced by Saroosh Alvi. He is the founder of Vice Magazine - an intriguing independent media company, VBS.TV. By the way, Spike Jonze (of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation fame) is a creative director there.