For a Place Under the Heavens

A film by Sabiha Sumar

Pakistan/France | 2003 | 53 minutes | Color | DVD | Urdu | Subtitled | Order No. 04845


Acclaimed director Sabiha Sumar, recent winner of the Golden Leopard at the Locarno International Film Festival for her feature Silent Waters, offers an insightful perspective on Pakistan in this finely crafted personal film. Beginning with the creation of Pakistan in 1947, Sumar traces the relationship of Islam to the state in an effort to understand how women are coping with and surviving the increasing religiosity of civil and political life in her country. Raised in a more secular time, she struggles to comprehend how religious schools have expanded at once unthinkable rates and presents chilling footage of a mother encouraging her toddler to be a martyr when he grows up. Mixing political analysis with interviews with activist colleagues, noted Islamic scholars and Pakistani women who have chosen to embrace fundamentalism, Sumar’s provocative questions dramatically capture the tension between liberal and fundamentalist forces that are shaping life in contemporary Pakistan.

“Less an ethnography than a philosophical and historical inquiry into the meaning of gender within Islam, it provides a witty, incisive, and important reflection on the "parameters" of gender hierarchy and, indeed, the "truth" of law, both secular and religious. Required viewing to understand some of the specific ideological conundrums within the sexual politics in Pakistan.” Joseph Boles, Northern Arizona University


“An extremely personal documentary in which the director confronts the harsh reality: that of a country where mothers take pride in teaching their sons to die as martyrs in order to win their place in paradise.”

Le Monde Television

“A faultless documentary about and for women by Sabiha Sumar, touching and intensely moving.”


“Fascinating and compelling…a must-see for anybody interested in the complexity of female politics in transnational world dominated by religion and tradition.”

Karen A. Ritzenhoff Central Connecticut State University

“Highly recommended to viewers from junior high school to adult and to the libraries that serve them…Of value to viewers with an interest in Pakistan and in the place of women in Islamic societies.”

Paul Moeller Educational Media Reviews Online


  • International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam
  • Cape Town World Cinema Festival


Sabiha Sumar

Sabiha Sumar is a Pakistani filmmaker.

Born in Karachi, Sabiha Sumar studied Filmmaking and Political Science at Sarah Lawrence College in New York from 1980–83 and then read History and Political Thought at Cambridge University.

As an independent filmmaker, Sabiha Sumar has earned much acclaim for her films, which deal with political and social issues such as the effects of religious fundamentalism on society, and especially on women. Her first feature film, 'Silent Waters (Khamosh Pani)' has played in film festivals around the world. Silent Waters won the Golden Leopard award at the Locarno International Film Festival in 2003. Sabiha's first documentary, Who Will Cast the First Stone, about three women in prison in Pakistan under Islamic law won the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco Film Festival in 1998. Her documentary films include Don't Ask Why (1999), For a Place under the Heavens (2003), On the Roofs of Delhi (2007), and Dinner with the President (2007).

Who Will Cast the First Stone led to the quashing of death-by-stoning sentence for Shahida Parveen, accused of adultery, while For a Place under the Heavens kicked off a critical debate on women wearing the hijab in the Muslim World. (8/14)


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