In his documentary Without Shepherds, director Cary McClelland follows the lives of six Pakistanis — among them a journalist, a truck driver, and the cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan — as they navigate life in modern-day Pakistan. Since premiering at Slamdance in February, the film has been making the festival circuit. We spoke to McClelland at the film’s wrap party in Williamsburg last month shortly after Without Shepherds took home the Grand Chameleon Prize at the Brooklyn Film Festival.
How did you get the idea for this film and what drew you to this topic?
I always wanted to do something that turned the lens backwards on the war on terror in a way. And find a community that the U.S. considered a target in terms of foreign policy and figure out what the world was like from their perspective.
And it turned out to be a lot harder than I anticipated. The film emerged from a series of humbling incidents after arriving in Pakistan and developing a community of collaborators that really taught me how to appreciate the country in a new way.
The thing is that when you want to find people to be open and friendly, they will emerge if you yourself are open. We were also with a team of Pakistani filmmakers as well who vouched for the project. So I think all of those things harmonized together.
What do you hope for viewers like the New Yorkers who saw the film [at the Brooklyn Film Festival] to get out of it?
I just hope we read the paper differently. It’s not just about Pakistan, about any country where we look past the negative headlines, which may be the job of the daily news to present, but to find more of a human connection there and to look for optimistic reasons to see seeds of hope there that we may not be reporting regularly.