Valley of Saints
PROD Nicholas Bruckman
SCR/ED Musa Syeed
CAM Yoni Brook
MUS Mubashir Mohi-ud-Din
PROD CO Peerwar Pictures / Associated Media Kashmir
In the picturesque Kashmir Valley, young boatman Gulzar has grown weary of the poverty and violence that dictate his life. Also disenchanted with ferrying tourists around Dal Lake, he conspires with his lifelong friend Afzal to abandon their squalid existence in favour of New Delhi. Alas, their escape is scuttled when nearby protests necessitate a week-long curfew. There is some consolation for Gulzar: a beguiling scientist requires his help in studying the lake’s rampant pollution. However, for Afzal, there’s only mounting jealousy and resentment.
As political tensions, interpersonal conflicts and environmental concerns swirl in this seldom-visited corner of the world, director Musa Syeed mines absorbing drama from the most minor of incidents. With his largely nonprofessional cast providing both convincing performances and a sense of verisimilitude, Syeed crafts a heartening tale of a young man making a profound connection with the home he was ready to abandon. While ostensibly fiction, the story hinges on very real issues. Consequently, the first film ever set in this endangered community won’t soon be forgotten.
"A lyrical, tender film… The naturalistic performances complement the setting, with the majority of scenes shot on or along the lake… 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."—Justin Lowe, Hollywood Reporter