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Award winning Kashmiri film to open 20th Filmfest Hamburg

Award winning Kashmiri film to open 20th Filmfest Hamburg


The 20th edition of Filmfest Hamburg has announced its opening movie:an award winning Indo-American co-production which is set in Kashmir.
The red carpet will be rolled out at the port city's CinemaxX Dammtor next month for the screening of "Valley of Saints" in the presence of its  New York-based director Musa Sayeed and Hamburg’s mayor Olaf Scholz. Also lined up to attend are the film's producer Nicholas Bruckman and principal actors Gulzar Ahmed Bhat, Neelofar Hamid, Afzal Sofi.

The film “Valley of Saints” is the first feature-length film for  Musa Sayeed whose parents fled from Kashmir  and emigrated to the USA  where the director was born.Years passed before Sayeed visited his parents’ country to be "overwhelmed" by the encounter.
 A blend of fiction and documentary, “Valley of Saints” is based on "these intense impressions".
“Kashmir is a blank spot on the cinematic map. There are hardly any theaters and even the leadactor, an amateur, has yet  to see
 “Valley of Saints” on the big screen. In this way we want to present Kashmir to our audience; the impressive nature and the myths of ancestors  on the one hand and the political instability of the region that we often forget about on the other,” says festival director Albert Wiederspiel, about his choice for the opening film which is a marked departure from the usual German movie fare.

Around 40,000 filmfans are expected this year at Filmfest Hamburg 2012 which will host over 140 international productions ranging from arthouse cinema to mainstream features, and debut films of young International and German filmmakers.
 The fest will serve as a platform for several German, European and international premieres.

The opening film, “Valley of Saints” is an Indo-American joint-production which was filmed in Kashmir in the Kashmiri language and has already won several international awards:To mention just two, it received the award for best film at the Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and the Sundance Film Festival where it was adjudged co-winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize.

The setting is Kashmir's idyllic Dal Lake where Gulzar (Gulzar Ahmed Bhat), a young boatman, lives in a leaking stilt house
 with his uncle. To escape poverty and the turbulence of political violence he decides to run away  to Delhi with his best friend Afzal (Afzal Sofi).  But their plans are thwarted by  a military curfew.
Gulzar then meets Asifa (Neelofar Hamid )  a pretty, Kashmiri-American woman scientist and helps her to take water samples
from the polluted lake for an environmental study. His life is turned upside down when he becomes aware of the extent of environmental degradation  and falls in love with Asifa in a socio-religious culture that prohibits unsupervised interaction between the opposite sexes.

What are the choices for beleagured young people? Fast-paced living in a modern metropolis or an impoverished lifestyle in an endangered  lakeside community? For, the Dal lake is threatened with a slow demise  and if he stays, Gulzar could perhaps help to save it or conserve it.

Debut film-maker Musa Syeed creates a multi-layered portrait of his conflicted ancestral homeland against a backdrop of environmental,cultural  and political upheavals. “Valley of Saints”  not only showcases a compellingly told love story helmed, written and edited by Musa Sayeed  but also Yoni Brook's expansive camera work which allows moviegoers to immerse themselves in Kashmir.

The 20th Filmfest Hamburg will take place from September 27th to October 6th , 2012 at eight venues.Running parallel to the fest is the  Michel Children and Youth Film Festival which celebrates its 10th anniversary.German audiences are familiar,perhaps even enamoured  by Indian movies.As is well known, Bollywood badshah Shahrukh Khan has a considerable fan following.
The Ranbir Kapoor starrer Bachna Ae Haseeno was  nominated for the Art Cinema Award at the 2008 Film-Fest at Hamburg.
 
And a number of Indian films have been shot on location in Germany.Hamburg itself is  Europe's largest and Germany's richest city
has been showcased in various films from such classics as ‘Große Freiheit Nr. 7’ filmed during the Second World War,
cult movies  like ‘Absolute Giganten’, films by Hamburg’s home-grown award winning Turkish director Fatih Akin and Hollywood fare like The Heist, a caper starring Warren Beatty and Goldie Hawn  which was shot with support from the Hamburg Art Museum and Bendestorf Studios.

And then, there was the Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies which was partly shot in Hamburg's historic Atlantic Hotel where a German orchestra had premiered Tagore's Jana  Gana Mana in the presence of Netaji Subash Chandra Bose, Hamburg's then mayor and international diplomats.

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About Ronita Torcato

Torcato Agnela Ronita
An incomplete round-up of movie news, features & views from an independent journo & (dare I say it:-) film critic in Mumbai

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