A Filmmaker’s Quest to Save the Elusive Brown Bear

Muhammad Lila

ISLAMABAD – It’s a side of Pakistan few will ever get to see.

Snow-capped mountains, flowing streams that trickle crystal-clear water down from the Himalayas, and some of the world’s most beautiful lakes, sparkling like jewels scattered along valleys that crisscross through rugged landscape.

All of it – less than 100 miles away from a raging, violent insurgency that’s claimed thousands of innocent lives.

For filmmaker Nisar Malik, the goal is simple: Capture Pakistan’s hidden beauty and share it with the world. As CEO of Walkabout Films, Malik is doing something no one else is. He and his crews spend months at a time shooting and producing nature documentaries in some of Pakistan’s most beautiful locations. The images themselves –riveting shots of moving landscape HD – are stunning. His work has been seen on major television networks across the world.

For his current project, funded by USAID thanks to a special assistance fund overseen directly by the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Malik is tracking and filming Pakistan’s elusive brown bears in the Deosai National Park. Within 24 hours of arrival, they’d set up nearly a dozen tents, with heat, showers, a stove, a water filtration system, and an edit suite to monitor – in real time – incoming video feeds from a handful of tiny cameras they’d laid out to monitor the bears’ movements.

But unlike other filmmakers, who come to the country, shoot their films and then leave, Malik does something different. He takes his footage, cut down into easily watchable 5-10 minute segments, and shows them first to the villagers who live closest to the areas he films in.

Many of the villagers don’t have regular access to electricity, let alone televisions. On a recent trip, dozens of young schoolgirls sat on the floor cross-legged, their eyes fixated on a propped up television screen, as Malik showed them footage of Pakistan’s endangered snow leopard.

For Malik, it’s the first step in conservation, working with those that he calls “the first line of defense.”

“For generations, people have hunted these creatures” he explains. “If we can get them to understand the importance of conservation … none of these animals will ever be threatened again.”