Danial Afzal’s The Survivor retraces the unfortunate attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in 2014. The Survivor is the story of Muneeb, whose brother Shaheer was massacred in the carnage that took place that unfateful day. It focuses on his PTSD and survivor’s guilt, both a result of the ugly truth he has to live with every day for the rest of his life.

As is the case with most tragedies, the APS attack remained in the subconscious of the people that remember it as statistics and yet another terrorist attack that hit the people of Pakistan. Two years down the road, we in Pakistan, do not truly remember the juvenile faces of these innocent souls or those that were able to escape the bloodbath that consumed their friends.

The Survivor is the first film since the attack to delve into the life of those that lived and those that didn’t make it through this terrible massacre of innocent children.

Afzal carefully reveals the silent suffering and dreams of Muneeb, as he reconciles his past and moves forward with the memories and passions that he and Shaheer shared.

Muneeb’s story is one of tragedy, unparallelled loss and moving forward piece by piece. Shaheer’s death haunts him day in and day out and more often than not suffocates him with the self-condemnation of not being able to save him from his ruthless death.  

Muneeb and Shaheer both shared a passion for video games and it was in part a result of playing these games that he was able to survive the attack. Muneeb wants to use his experience and passion to create video games that teach practical combat skills. He wants to use the darkness of his tragedy to light up the world that has forgotten him.

I was so taken aback after viewing this film at the private screening. I was truly moved to tears. Muneeb’s tragic near death experience, his guilt to be living while his baby brother, Shaheer no longer lives and his struggle to pick up the pieces and make something valuable out of the life he was able to miraculously hold on to is something that is both haunting and inspiring.

Danial Afzal’s The Survivor, revisits this heinous tragedy and immortalizes the victims, who as years go by will otherwise be erased from our memories. It is through the positive use of media that these stories can be told. Through such powerful films, this generation of children in Pakistan, that has grown up in the grips of terror and its aftermath of sensationalized, insensitive media coverage, can be focused on positively and facilitated to overcome their demons.

The essence of the message of The Survivor lies in the words of Professor Dr. Mowadat H. Rana in the film.

“The world needs to realize that these young Pakistanis, these Shaheers and Muneebs need to be now taken up by the world with open arms.”

Afzal has personified the tragedy and enshrined the memory of its victims. He has shone the spotlight on a boy, who would otherwise be consigned to oblivion, and inspired us to help his traumatized generation move forward and accomplish their dreams.

The Survivor is set to be screened at international film festivals. While there has been a private screening, there is no word on its release yet. Details of its release will be announced by the director, Danial Afzal.

It is a must-watch film for all those that have a conscience. It is a tribute to memorialize the fallen angels of this generation and those that survived, living with the trauma of terrorism each day.