'Darling' by Columbia Filmmakers Wins Best Short at Venice Film Festival

Felix van Kann
September 11, 2019

Darling, directed and co-written by current student Saim Sadiq, co-written by current student Rodney Llaverias, co-produced by current student Jasmin Tenucci, and produced by alumna Mahak Jiwani ’18 won the Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film at the 76th Annual Venice International Film Festival.

Being the first Pakistani film to ever screen—let alone win—at the oldest film festival in the world, Darling triumphed over 13 other nominated short films in the competition.

Praising the accomplishment, Venice Festival Programmer Paolo Bertolin said: "There are wins that truly matter. In 75 editions of the Venice International Film Festival, there had never been a Pakistani film competing for awards in the official selection. Saim Sadiq’s Darling not only became the first film from Pakistan to screen in a competitive section of Venice, but managed to win the Venice 76 Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film - with a unanimous vote of the jury! An incredible reward for a much adventurous and brave journey!”

Set in an erotic dance theatre in Lahore, Darling tells a tale of romance and coming-of-age. As the theatre prepares for a new show, a sacrificial goat goes missing, a dreamy trans girl vies for the spotlight, and a naive young boy falls in love.

In his acceptance speech, Sadiq thanked his cast and crew “and especially the people of the trans-gender community back home in Pakistan. They are an extremely vibrant and important part of our culture unbeknownst to the world. I really want to thank all these trans-girls who allowed me into their world, so whole-heartedly shared their stories and allowed me to tell mine.“

Sadiq is a Pakistani filmmaker. His short film Nice Talking to You was an official selection at South by Southwest 2019, Palm Springs International Shortsfest 2019 and won Vimeo’s Best Director award at Columbia University Film Festival 2018. The film also made the BAFTA Shortlist for Best Student Film. A recipient of the Kodak Student Scholarship Gold Award, Sadiq is currently developing a pilot for MakeReady in Los Angeles and working on his first feature, Gulaab, which was selected for the Open Doors Hub at the 2018 Locarno Film Festival. He is currently pursuing his MFA at Columbia University.

Llaverias is a New York City native filmmaker who places great value on stories and visual story-telling. He is a graduate of the School of Visual Arts and is currently pursuing his MFA at Columbia University.

Tenucci is a writer and director, known for Tempero SecretoLook Out For Cows, and Descompasso. She is pursuing her MFA at Columbia University.

Jiwani has produced films in Chile, USA, Japan, and Pakistan. In 2017, she produced Premonition in Chile, which won the Cacho Pallero Award at Huesca International Film Festival and screened Aspen ShortFest, SIFF and Palm Springs International ShortFest. Her film Horizon won the GiGadgets Technology Award and Darling was awarded the Katharina Otto-Bernstein Production Grant at Columbia University Film Festival. Jiwani received her MFA from Columbia University and works for Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions.