Sunday, April 29, 2012

Valley of Saints

Saturday night I attended the "at rush" screening of Valley of Saints at the SF International Film Festival. This neo-realist film was beautifully shot on location at Dal Lake, Kashmir. A poor but honest boatman is about to flee the area with his best friend, but a military clamp-down thwarts their plans. He draws close to a young female ecologist also stranded by the curfew, & a rift forms between the 2 male buddies. The storytelling is neatly straight-forward, & Lake Dal appears lushly scenic & yet neglected & polluted by its own inhabitants.

Present at the screening were the producer Nicholas Bruckman, director Musa Syeed, cinematographer Yoni Brook, & composer Mubashir Mohi-ud-Din. We learned that the actor playing Gulzar is indeed a real boatman on Dal Lake. Mr. Syeed even lived with him for 3 months in preparation for the film. The real Gulzar Ahmed Bhat does not have a visa to leave Kashmir & has yet to see the film in an actual movie theater. Mr. Syeed's original script avoided the political situation in Kashmir altogether, but when the film crew arrived, they found themselves in the middle of a military crackdown, which inevitably made its way into the story. Mr. Bruckman recorded the film's sound, & when he heard the actors' hearts pounding during a night shoot, he realized how dangerous conditions really were.

§ Valley of Saints
director, Musa Syeed
India/USA, 2012, 82 min

55th San Francisco International Film Festival
Sun, Apr 22    6:15 / PFA
Fri, Apr 27    6:30 / Kabuki
Sat, Apr 28    9:15 / Kabuki

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