Monday, January 30, 2012

Valley Of Saints

This is surprising. While we make a big deal with any Hollywood connection with India, one American-Indian film has won not one but two distinguished awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and the newspapers are somehow immune to it.

The film is Musa Syeed’s ‘Valley of Saints’, a tale of Kashmir, the Dal Lake, furtive romance and environmental issues, all rolled into one “lyrical, tender film”.

The film has won the ‘World Cinema Audience Award: Dramatic.”

It also received the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize. The Alfred P. Sloan jury presented the Sundance award to the film for its “brave, poetic and visually arresting evocation of a beautiful but troubled region, and for its moving, nuanced and accurate depiction of the relationship between a local boatman and a young woman scientist whose research challenges the status quo and offers hope for a restored ecosystem.”

Sundance Film Festival describes the film: “Gulzar plans to run away from the war and poverty surrounding his village in Kashmir with his best friend, but a beautiful young woman researching the dying lake leads him to contemplate a different future.”

Writes Justin Lowe in The Hollywood Reporter:

By most Western standards, Valley of Saints would barely be considered a romance – Gulzar and Asifa never actually go on a date, barely touch and never kiss. But in a culture that frowns upon unsupervised interaction between unmarried young men and women, the time that they spend alone together is an unanticipated opportunity.

Nonprofessional actors Bhat and Sofi have an easy rapport as the two young men and playing off Kashmiri actress Neelofar Hamid they create a convincing romantic triangle. The naturalistic performances complement the setting, with the majority of scenes shot on or along the lake.

Syeed, whose parents are from Kashmir, has directed several documentaries and his nonfiction experience proves apropos while working on and around the lake, shooting in cramped indoor quarters or aboard boats, mostly with available light. Setting his characters in their cultural setting and against the spectacular landscape, he favors minimal camera movement and fluid editing, picking up the pace when Afzal and Gulzar go into town or steal building supplies. The film’s bucolic mood is constantly threatened by the prevailing reality of violence and injustice in the region, a creeping tension that Syeed carefully calibrates to emphasize the tenuousness of his characters’ relationships.

The Complete Review Here.
The film is now playing at Rotterdam. Here is the Facebook page.

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