I had never followed or known much about Qandeel Baloch, but I remember stories circulating about her death. Safyah Usmani’s documentary short chronicles the determined rise of the social media sensation but audiences will be shocked and sickened by the details surrounding Baloch’s murder. Co-directed by Saad Zuberi, A Life Too Short, from two-time Oscar winning producer Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, shows how a young woman was silenced for finding her own voice.
Baloch originally had dreams of becoming a singing star and professional model. An audition on an televised singing competition quickly dashed those hopes when judges ridiculed Baloch while she was in the room. It’s very hard to watch someone have their dreams crumble right in front of them. The footage of Baloch crying and talking to the host ended up going viral and she took her potential into her own hands.
Armed with just a phone, Baloch starts cranking out short videos of her talking to the camera. They are short, seemingly innocent posts–she will pout and speak to the camera or reveal how she is feeling in the morning–but she quickly begins to garner attention from people who both love and hate her. Usmani wisely mixes the social media posts together or shows them side-by-side to make us aware that there is a balance in the reaction to these posts. There is a creeping danger present almost immediately.
At a certain point, it felt like Baloch could never do anything correctly. The media would pounce on her repeatedly and officials would tell her that she shouldn’t be acting the way she is on social media because she is disgracing her family. Someone points out, “We live in a hypocritical society. we love everything that’s considered morally wrong but we also like talking against it.” Baloch became eager to show how religious leaders should be held to a high standard and a series of selfies with Mufti Qavi–especially one where she is wearing his hat–became a front page frenzy.
With social media constantly being linked to the actions of politicians and leaders in America, A Life Too Short feels even more incredibly timely. Usmani celebrates Baloch’s resolve and ingenuity, but acknowledges that men in power can abuse their rights in a country where honor killings used to allow people to go free. When Baloch’s brother goes before the press and confidently admits to killing his sister, it’s wretched and there are scenes of Baloch’s mother crying over her daughter’s clothes and shoes that will break your heart.
We can sometimes our freedom of speech for granted. Qandeel Baloch deserved to speak freely. Just imagine what she could could accomplish if she were still alive and she could step into her role as an advocate for women.