Mohammed Arif Urfi is a journalist and filmmaker based in Muzaffarabad, the capital of the Pakistani-administered side of Jammu and Kashmir. Along with three other filmmakers, from either side of the divided region, he has made a series of films highlighting the need for collaboration across the Line of Control (LoC).
As a journalist, I have spent a lot of time travelling along the Line of Control; seeing and hearing the stories of divided families.
From 1989-2004, when India and Pakistan were fighting over the Line of Control, I was a war reporter. I experienced dead bodies, burned homes and broken families and I wanted to do something that could help to neutralise the tensions. When I heard Conciliation Resources wanted to support connections across the LoC, I volunteered myself to help share the stories of the people living on the divide.
Jammu and Kashmir is an active conflict. You may have some talks, some confidence building measures, but people are dying on the Line of Control. There are people who are actually suffering.
In active conflict, it is hard to discuss sensitive things without having some negative reactions. So films are a good concept to start discussions with the community, I think media is an important tool to create dialogue.
At the time of making the first film, I did not have a single connection with anyone on the other side of the Line of Control. It was fascinating when I first met Pawan, my fellow filmmaker from the Indian-administered side of Jammu and Kashmir. Growing up, I was told that people from the other side are our enemy, and that we were their enemies. So it was difficult to have confidence in the person who was my enemy for so many years.
But we began to discuss many things and I realised she is not the enemy, she thinks like me, she has the same emotions. The more people I met from the other side, the more my perceptions changed. We may have different languages, education and culture but we can accommodate these differences. This is a great learning, it has given me confidence that we can move forward.