A young and rebel pregnant woman is travelling by bus to meet her doctor, when an argument erupts between her and a conservative father, along the smoky streets of Lahore.

MAY I HAVE THIS SEAT? is a short film that seems to be plain and simple, just a story of a girl on the bus with nobody willing to let her seat. But, in fact, it has many complex issues, some hidden, some more noticeable, all woven into the texture of the storyline. This film talks about genre stereotypes, status differences, social media as a powerful weapon and, at the same time, a dangerous one. Sonia is pregnant and needs a seat on the bus, so she approaches a man with her son and asks: Masood refuses in a pretty rude way and everything escalates real quick. One on hand we have the woman, in trouble, with a bus so full she cannot even reach the women side of the vehicle; on the other, we see a man apparently just disrespectful. What we don’t know, still keeping in mind that he wasn’t so polite, is what drove him to refuse: he was with his son, teaching him something before bringing him to school. He may have had many reasons apart from being misogynist or irrespective.

What we see is an argument that escalates more and more each minute that passes. Sonia brings out her phone as a weapon, ready to denounce an impolite and abusive behavior: while she films Masood, the men in the bus start commeting on what happened. Some even side with her, but just in words: nobody intervenes. At the same time, Masood’s life could be devastated by a video of that kind, and the audience is not entirely sure if he deserves it or if it was a misunderstanding. The story continues when a friend of Sonia helps her find a seat in the woman section of the bus, but even at this point the confrontation isn’t over: now we have a culture clash between a more modern, independent, rebel woman, seen by the other as extreme, loud and too westernized. Sonia’s friend is much more traditional and, while helping her, judges her constantly.

We won’t spoil the ending of this multilayered great piece of a film, but MAY I HAVE THIS SEAT? ends even dangerously for both Masood and Sonia. A very interesting work by Habib, capable of involving and entertaining while reflecting and asking questions on the moral dilemma between what is happening on a normal day on a bus.

MAY I HAVE THIS SEAT? won the Jury Special Prize at Lamezia International Film Festival and the Special Mention of the Grand Jury at Amarcort Film Festival. It was in selection around the world DC South Asian Film Festival (DCSAFF) in Washington DC (USA), Vancouver International South Asian Film Festival (VISAFF) in Vancouver (Canada), Tasveer South Asian Film Festival (TSAFF) in Seattle (USA) and many more.

Director: Tabish Habib
Country: Pakistan
Year: 2020
Running time: 10