American engineer Craig Evans (Robin Dunne) is working in Pakistan taking meetings back the U.S. on conference calls alone in a boardroom while supporting his doctor wife. His wife Insiya (Juggan Kazim) is treating a patient in the early stages of a developing local virus named MN-2. Before the protocols of the disease are know the patient spreads the virus to Insiya leaving her fellow medical practitioners with little choice but to put her into an induced coma to slow down the disease. Meanwhile, an investigative reporter Shehzad Ameen (Aamir Qureshi) is gathering information about the outbreak and the drug company InGenec that's making a fortune by selling a Cidhar patch that calms the early symptoms of uncontrolled violence and rage. While in Orangi Town a poor section of Karachi many infected referred to as carriers can't afford the patch quickly progress to the advanced stages of the disease that turns them into frothing wild animals. As Ameen gets closer to the heart of the story he disappears prompting his wife to deliver all of his paperwork to Evans who she has seen on T.V. giving an update on his wife's condition. With a personal stake in the matter, the engineer takes an interest in Ameen's material starting an investigation of his own.
Writer-Director Ananan Ahmed film is shot on location in Karachi, Pakistan. The city and country play a major part in the story rising to the level of a central character in the piece. Early on a local comments on how Pakistan deals with a crisis: If you could ever fix a problem by denying it existed this pace would be a F*cking Utopia. Instead, those in power warn anyone that would speak up to keep their eyes closed and let the incident pass. That comment sets the tone on how the authorities handle the outbreak, treating the infected and getting answers from InGenec a local economic success story with a pending massive deal to sell to an American firm. The narrative also contrasts the different experience between rich and poor in the city. One group works in air-conditioned skyscrapers when not at their gated homes. The others do grunt work in the shadows living in small dusty spaces in neighbourhoods that the authorities have largely abandoned protecting.
Ameen's wife went to Craig because as a foreigner he could go places and ask questions that her peer group just can't. Our protagonist picks up the threads of the story and with the help of a local contact and some sympathetic locals at a key moment flesh out the details. The piece is a study on Pakistani culture, lack of corporate governance and the important role of whistleblowers who come forward to speak the truth.
*** Out of 4
Altered Skin | Adnan Ahmed | Canada / Pakistan | 2018 | 80 Minutes.
Tags: Pakistan, Karachi, Engineer, Foreigner, Virus, Coma, Investigative Reporter, Pharmaceutical Company, Treatment, Researcher, Scientist, Test Subject, Lab.