Monday, April 07, 2014

Swoosh! Burka Avenger picks up a Peabody!

interview: tview

Burka Avenger, the animated television series about a female superhero fighting for “justice, peace, and education”, caught the attention of the world when it started airing on Geo Tez in July last year and has since received numerous accolades. And now the show has given its production team yet another reason to celebrate: the series has just been named as one of the recipients of this year’s Peabody Awards, one of the most prestigious honours in broadcasting.

The brainchild of singer Haroon Rashid, Burka Avenger is described on the Peabodys’ website ( as “smart, colorful and provocative”, which goes on to say that “this Pakistani-produced television program about a super-heroine sends a clear message about female empowerment that has the potential to affect an entire generation.” Instep had the chance to talk to Haroon about the latest honour that his show has received. Here’s what he had to say:

Instep: Burka Avenger just won a Peabody Award. Congratulations! How does it feel?
Haroon Rashid: It is an amazing feeling. Burka Avenger is a 100% Pakistani production, from conception, scriptwriting, voiceovers, music, art, animation, etcetera. I produced it with my team at Unicorn Black in Islamabad. We are a small animation studio but we won the award right next to multimillion dollar productions like Breaking Bad and others. That is quite an achievement for Pakistan and a true testament to Pakistani talent.

Instep: This is the first time a Pakistani production has won this prestigious award. What does this win mean for the Pakistani entertainment industry?
Haroon: I think more and more Pakistani productions will achieve recognition on an international level in the near future. We are a country with a rich heritage, culture, music, and arts. We have the talent and ambition to create world class productions. I think when Pakistan wins awards like this it helps other producers and young talent to dream big.

Instep: Why do you think this story of a female, burka clad superhero rallying for education and female empowerment has generated so much international interest?
Haroon: I think the media worldwide objectifies women. Most women roles in TV and film are no more than side roles or romantic interests to the male hero. It is a very male dominated industry with male dominated stories, not just in Pakistan but everywhere. With our female super-heroine, Burka Avenger, we received praise and accolades from all over the world for our strong women empowerment messages. Some reviews went so far as to say Disney and Hollywood could learn a thing or two from the fearless Burka Avenger and her women empowerment themes. As far as any criticism regarding her using the Burka as a disguise, that is unfounded. I say please first watch an episode before making judgments. We were very careful when putting the show together.

Instep: The Peabody Award is such a coveted honour. Did you have any idea while making Burka Avenger that it would get such recognition?
Haroon: I had a feeling it would be successful because it was such a great concept and secondly the level of production was beyond anything seen for a Pakistani animation. But I had no idea that we would receive this level of acclaim or awards.

Instep: Which members of the Burka Avenger team will accept the award when it’s presented in New York in May?
Haroon: Well, they are only giving us one ticket, and as creator, producer, and director of the series my team at Unicorn Black has urged me to go and accept the award.

Instep: Burka Avenger is now in the same company as some of the world’s biggest and most acclaimed shows, like Breaking Bad. Speaking of which … do you promise me that you will tell Vince Gilligan (or whoever is at the Peabodys from Breaking Bad) that I love them?
Haroon: Hahahahaha, ok. Yes.

Instep: Thanks! Finally, what does this win mean for Unicorn Black?
Haroon: Unicorn Black is made up of a team of about 50 young talented and driven Pakistani men and women. We have artists, animators, writers, musicians, graphic designers, recording engineers, voiceover artists, production managers, directors, programmers, etcetera.
I think this will definitely give the team a great boost. They worked very hard, made many sacrifices, working late and often on weekends to get this show ready. We learned so much and grew together. We are like a family now. I feel honoured to be able to work with such a talented team. We have many other exciting projects in the pipeline, so stay tuned.

The Peabody Awards will be formally presented on the 19th of May at the Waldorf Astoria in New York.

- By Sameen Amer

Instep Today, The News - 7th April, 2014 *

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