Six Flags New Orleans, which shut shop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, remains abandoned after a lengthy period bogged down in production hell. The amusement park was submerged under seven feet of rain and seawater after the levee broke and flooded much of Eastern New Orleans. It took a month for the water to drain.
Stuffed toy mascots and unopened carnival food still litter the walkways while roller-coasters slowly crumble into themselves. A number of mid-sized alligators have relocated to the park’s interior lake and pit-vipers have taken up nest in the vast underbrush that has grown well into the grounds.
The only sign of life left in the park is the extensive graffiti and discarded beer bottles yet to be bleached out by the Louisiana sun. The odd film crew can be seen there, taking advantage of the location’s obvious cinematic and eerie qualities. On this particular visit, a teaser trailer for ‘Go-go Girls of the Apocalypse’ was in mid-shoot.
Another day, another film, a similar plot, a similar budget, the same actors, the same stick-on facial hair.
What can I say, the Pakistani film industry is in shambles. With no support from the Government and pre-Partition equipment, who can blame them? The Punjabi, Urdu and particularly the Pashtun movie industry are in a sad state of affairs. The premier film studios of Lahore, once the capital of the country’s formidable film industry, are in complete decay and disarray.
The film crews carry on regardless. Some of the below photos are profiles of Pakistani superstars. They are the Shah Rukh Khan’s and Johnny Depp’s of their very own industry. Most actors have taken a ninety per cent reduction in pay in the last five to ten years.
People swamp to them for photographs and autographs while hypocritically trashing their art as unislamic. Actors here are feared, jeered and cheered for their place in the Pakistan’s cultural ranks.
And yet the film industry drags on with old relics, dusted off and reformatted for screens in decrepit cinema houses in Lahore’s red light district. Some are cut with porn clips while others rely on the dated violence of a bygone era.
The Lahore University of Management Sciences provides a unique and fairly optimistic vision of Pakistan. One of the most progressive higher eduction institutes in the country, LUMS students are pooled primarily from upper-middle class families. The campus is among the most politically active in the region, with faculty and student members involved in series of social movements over the past few years, including the 2007-08 Lawyers’ Movement during Musharraf’s military rule.
This week marked the annual ‘Colour Festival’ at LUMS. Monday kicked off the celebrations with Dacoit Day, where students dress up as highway bandits and rob teachers and fellow students of the money in their wallets. Among the revellers, some not-too-subtle interpretations of the traditional Taliban outfit could be seen.
These stony-faced specimens are members of the ASG, the private security wing of the Afghan defence force. In contrast to their Afghan National Army counterparts, ASG guards are poached from local FAM’s (Fighting Age Males) and are paid slightly better wages, depending on which private company employs them. For many of the men, the decision to join the war was purely economic, fighting under the flag of the highest payer.
These men, who spend their days and nights guarding Observation Post Mace, have moved their families from their home town in the valley to avoid retribution from Taliban and anti-ISAF militias. Many of their ancestral homes have since been burnt to the ground or re-occupied by the forces they are fighting.