New Yorker Kashmiri-American 29 years old Tariq Tapa travelled to Kashmir to make a film based on tales told to him by Kashmiri relatives. Filmed by Tapa with a digital hand-held camera with non-professional actors ala the famous realist film La Terra Trema, the story is simple, interesting, and was shot in simple, poor sections of Kashmir, probably for the price of the camera's memory sticks. Amazing that this might be the only feature film from Kashmir in the last 40 years. Rotten Tomatoes (83% critics approval) incorrectly includes a picture of ex-boxer Mohammed Ali instead of non-professional actor Ali Mohammed Dar.
A gritty, realist film that feels like an intimate documentary. Set in legendarily beautiful Kashmir, the camera doesn't focus on the stunning natural beauty sought out by tourists, but on Srinagar's scruffy streets and cramped rooms that local residents live in. The young adopted teenager Dilawar is rootless and yearns for a better life. Sharing a cramped room with his adoptive uncle and doing odd jobs for him and his more affluent classmates, he crosses paths with a beautiful older girl named Bani who works at a shipping agency. A tender, shy love develops between them, and almost worldlessly, together they plot their escape from their cramped lives. The scene of them playing chess in the fading afternoon light with an old radio song in the background is one of the most beautiful, realist depictions of budding love I've ever seen. The film ends on a perfect note of realism, neither melodramatic nor escapist. The camera's relentless, often distorting close-ups of faces and interiors brilliantly conveys Dilawar's and Bani's confinement and desire for escape.
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