Musa Syeed wrote and directed Valley of Saints featuring Gulzar Ahmed Bhat as a young boat taxi driver that lives on Dal Lake in Kashmir.
He lives with his aged uncle in a home with a leaky roof. The lake is a tourist attraction and its own self contained community. Travellers from the West come daily looking fir rides around the lake to see the attractions. Commerce takes place all over the lake with vendors selling their wares on long boats on the river wile visitors rent out houseboats from the locals.
Against this backdrop there are daily protests in the street by the youth for freedom and riot police armed to keep the peace. Gulzar plans to leave Kashmir with his best friend Adzal as soon as they have an opportunity.
Gulzar's Uncle goes away for Adzal comes by to put their escape in motion. However their plans are put on hold as the the police put a one week curfew in place which is the centrepiece of the film.
Gulzar is asked to look in on a residence of a houseboat by an owner who is trapped outside the city due to the violence and curfew. Gulzar discovers the resident is a female and starts to bring her food daily.
The friends spend most of their day goofing off and horsing around. They take on small jobs at night mainly stealing rice for resale as prices skyrocket during the curfew.
At first Adzal and Gulzar fight for Asifa's attention. They learn that she studies in the US and is conducting a project on the lake checking the pollution levels. Gulzar takes her around on his boat. Asifa takes water samples and readings. As they travel they view residences of the lake dumping plastic bottles directly into the lake and near the shore is a film of wrappers , plastics and other floating debris.
Sayers weaves a captivating tale mixing the old world and modern day. Dal lake is the lifeblood of the community that the residence do not protect but rather continue to build on the lake sneaking in illegal concrete and wood that is actually killing the lake.
*** 1/2 out of 4
Valley of Saints | Musa Syeed | India /USA 2012 | 2012 Reel Asian Film Festival