Mir Zafar Ali,"Pakistani Oscar Winner"

Mir Zafar Ali, a visual effects specialist, and the film he worked for was the high-profile flick, The Golden Compass, starring Nicole Kidman and "Bond" man Daniel Craig.

The Golden Compass picked up the award for Best Visual Effects and Mir Zafar Ali was one of the `Effects Technical Director` at Rhythm and Hues, the US-based company that worked on this particular film. Those of us who`ve seen the film do not recall a Pakistani man up onstage picking up the Oscar. And the only reason for that is that only the main four supervisors went and picked up the trophy.

However, Mir Zafar Ali is actually mentioned in the full credits of the film.

Academy Award isn`t his only accomplishment. The Golden Compass also managed to pick up a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award as well.

About The Golden Compass
The Golden Compass is the first book in the best-selling trilogy His Dark Materials. Widely acknowledged as a scholarly Harry Potter, the trilogy is set in Oxford College where the author Philip Pullman spent many years teaching. It covers the adventures of Lyra, an orphan growing up on the grounds of Oxford and this is a very magical Oxford where science, theology and magic are closely intertwined. When children start disappearing, Lyra gains a new mentor in Mrs Coulter, played by Nicole Kidman in the film. And then she discovers the Gobblers who are taking the children and the organization that is responsible for them.

The film has won praise for the Special Effects that require a flow of magical creatures alongside the actors to recreate the magical world of His Dark Materials. And it was this breakthrough that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized this year. That a Pakistani played a key role in this achievement is a high for us.

Who is he?
Mir Zafar Ali is a not a naturalized American. Rather, he is a homegrown Pakistani. He studied computer sciences right  in Pakistan from BCCI FAST in Karachi. He then worked for quite a few companies there Sharp Image, Nucleus Studios and Carrot. His forte was always computer graphics and to refine it further he also did a course in sculpture from the Indus Valley School of Arts and Architecture in Karachi. He finally came to the US  in 2000, where he enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia and specialized in Visual Effects. And the rest, as they say, is history.

America is a country where talent is recognized. In 2003, soon after completing his BFA in Computer Animation, Mir Zafar Ali was offered a position at Digital Domain, which is known for its Visual Effects on films such as Titanic, Fight Club and The Fifth Element to name just a few. The first film he worked on there was The Day After Tomorrow on which he ran most of the water simulations.Mir is the first Pakistani to have worked on a film to win an Oscar for the Best Visual Effects. Still at Rhythm & Hues, the big project he`s working on these days is The Incredible Hulk, featuring Edward Norton and Liv Tyler. It will be a big summer blockbuster, so watch out for it.

Mir Zafar Ali plans to continue working in the Visual Effects industry and intends to delve further into the development side and work in other areas of visual effects such as CG pipepine, shader writing, lighting and compositing.The importance of being a brilliant behind the scenes man.

With the emphasis on Special Effects in Hollywood, Mir Zafar Ali has followed his passion to a place where he can be at the cutting edge of technological breakthroughs. Indeed, the Oscar won by The Golden Compass validates the fact as to how far he has come to realizing that dream.
The unfortunate bit, however, is the fact that even as Mir Zafar Ali remains a well-known name in the digital business in the United States of America, his success story is one that many in Pakistan are simply unaware of.

When Indian filmmakers make it in Hollywood, their stories are written about and hyped to the skies in India and consequently abroad. But when it comes to a Pakistani success story such as Mir Zafar Ali, they remain in the shadows.

Part of the problem is the fact that it is only now that media has grown in Pakistan. What the growth of media does is that it causes a coming together of talent. So many Indian films employ Westerners to help them get the technicalities right. It is hoped that with the revival of cinema in Pakistan, there will be Pakistani films that will employ the talent of Mir Zafar Ali.

While it is important that talent like him hone their skills in the West, it is equally important that films in Pakistan are one day strong enough to claim him as our own.

Here`s to Mir Zafar Ali for making Pakistan proud. Now that The Golden Compass has won, maybe the Western media will realize that there are people in and from Pakistan who are talented and this country has a lot more to offer than it is credited for.

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