Featured image for THIS STAINED DAWN (Dagh Dagh Ujala

This Stained Dawn

by Annam Abbas
Product Availability
Institutional, Home-Use, Community Screenings, Educational
About the Film

Karachi’s feminists organise a woman’s march, coming up against Pakistan’s radical religious right as “my body, my choice” becomes a controversial slogan that holds the country’s imagination in its grip. Filmmaker Anam Abbas follows the march’s organisers as they negotiate a deeply surveilled, paranoia-inducing, and often physically violent space in the hopes of spurring a revolution. A philosophical work, This Stained Dawn is not just about the Aurat March, but about the act of political organising itself.

Detailing the preparation of the multi-city Aurat March (Women’s March) in Pakistan, This Stained Dawn tells the story of a feminist movement asserting itself in the country’s urban spaces through the eyes of the march’s organisers. Just a few weeks before the start of the pandemic, 10,000 protesters gathered in Karachi. Filmmaker Anam Abbas follows the organisers of the march as they negotiate a deeply surveilled, paranoia-inducing, and often physically violent space in the hopes of spurring a revolution. The film’s approach is, suitably, a polyphonic one. Observational footage of the event’s planning and orchestration mixes with animation, and archive, tracing a history of the state suppression of women’s resistance in Pakistan and illuminating the urgency of the unfolding struggle of today, where “my body, my choice” becomes a controversial slogan that holds the country’s imagination in its grip. What emerges is a philosophical work, not just about the Aurat March, but about the act of political organising itself.

2021  ·  1h29m  ·  Canada, Pakistan
English, Urdu
English, Urdu subs
Festivals and Awards
Women's Voices Now, Tom Lantos Best Human Rights Documentary Award
Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival, Truth to Power Award
Aube Film Festival (Switzerland)
Tasveer - Seattle South Asian Film festival (Seattle)
NorthwestFest International Documentary Festival (Alberta, Canada)
Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (United States)
Film Southasia (Nepal)
Women's Voices Now (United States)
Victoria Film Festival (British Columbia)
Human rights Watch San Diego (United States)
Dhaka International Film Festival (Bangladesh)
Screening Rights Film festival (United Kingdom)
Dharamshala International Film festival (India)
Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival (Ontario, Canada)
Yamagata International Films Festival (Japan)
Sheffield International Doc Film festival (United Kingdom)
Director and Producer
Anam Abbas
Omar Majeed
Aziza Ahmed
Original Score
Rahema Zaheer
Aliya Rasheed
Anam Abbas
Additional Cinematography
Haya Fatima Iqbal, Gul Nayani, Mahnoor Mahar, Tazeen Bari, Warda Adil Shah, Sadia Khatri, Hadi Khatri, Manal Khan
Kulsoom Aftab
Assistant Editor
Anam Abbas
Additional Story Editor
Asmaa Malik
Additional Sound
Zoha Hussain
Archive Research
Warda Adil Shah, Azee
Post Production Services
Online Editor
Darren Hinchy
Arlene Moelker
Finishing Producer
Mateusz Sklarzyk
Dialogue Editor
Kathy Choi
Sfx Editor
Chris King
Re-Recording Mixer
Martin Lee
Assistant Re-Recording Mixer
Mike Kennedy
Project Coordinator
Louise Finn
Head Of Operations
Alex Aslund
General Manager
Peter Gibson
Voice Over Recording Studio
The Circuit Live
Aliya Rasheed Vocals Recordings
Rakae Jamil

This vibrant and clamorous film shines its lens on contemporary Pakistan, and more importantly, its women, as they prepare for the multi-city Women’s March in 2019,” remarked the jury in a statement from Reel Asian. “From striking images of 10,000 protesters in the streets of Karachi, to intimate portraits of young women organizing in living rooms and on roof tops, This Stained Dawn is a reminder that the fight for gender equality is relentless, universal, and far from over.

The footage she captured evolved into This Stained Dawn, a documentary that captures the full gauntlet of emotions that come with a grassroots organization—the frustration, exhaustion, and even the elation that comes from camaraderie. Abbas’ physical and emotional closeness to these women acts as a magnifying glass, showing us just how hard, and terrifying it can be to fight for women’s rights in a patriarchal society.

Abbas observes of the tendency among some on the Pakistani right to regard the marchers as tools of western propaganda. The director also realised that the visual history of Pakistani feminism had not been properly archived or celebrated. She was keen to “situate this particular movement within a history of feminist resistance” in Pakistan. In the documentary, there is startling footage from a press conference at which the Aurat marchers are berated by male Pakistani journalists ostensibly there to cover their event in an impartial fashion.

At the same time, Abbas also focuses on the frustrations and the struggles of political organizing, as the leaders of the group have to face uncountable issues in order to make the March happen, from errors of the people working for the march, to the police trying to get the names of the leaders of the movement, to another march that happens at the same time as theirs with the exact opposite purpose, and the inevitable violence that ensues.

About the Director

Annam Abbas

Anam Abbas
Anam Abbas

Anam Abbas is a Pakistan based Pakistani/Canadian filmmaker. She runs Other Memory Media.

As a producer and DOP her first feature Showgirls of Pakistan, premiered in the First appearance
competition” at IDFA 2020 and was released globally by VICE in Feb 2021.

Dagh Dagh Ujala (This Stained Dawn) is her award winning debut feature documentary as a director. It premiered in international Competition at the Sheffield Doc Fest 2021.

Her first fiction feature “In Flames”, Directed by Zarrar Kahn, will have it’s World Premiere at Director’s Fortnight at the Cannes Film Festival 2023.

Anam is an alumni of Locarno Film Festival’s Open Doors Hub 2017, 2018 Berlinale Talents, 2019 Film Independant Global Media Makers, 2020 Berlinale Talents Project Market Fellow and 2020 Cannes Producer’s Network. Anam is also one of the founding members of the Documentary Association of Pakistan (DAP).

Other films by Annam Abbas