Winner of the prestigious Golden Leopard, as well as Best Actress honors for Kiron Kher at the Locarno festival, this powerhouse film about a woman's plight among Islamic radicals SILENT WATERS is the most recent title in ... more »the HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH SELECTS series. First Run Features and Human Rights Watch launched a collaboration to bring films dealing with human rights issues to a wider audience. The Human Rights Watch International Film Festival division annually endorses selected First Run titles that shed light on human rights abuses throughout the world.
Set in 1979, in a Pakistan under President General Zia-ul-Haq's martial law, SILENT WATERS begins as a bucolic story about a woman and her son, complete with a wedding celebration worthy of any Bollywood film, and then transforms into an eloquent tale of identity and belonging, faith and radicalism, and love and loss.
Ayesha is a seemingly well-adjusted middle-aged widow whose life centers around her son Saleem, a gentle, dreamy 18 year old. However, as the country embarks on the road to Islamization, political events begin to change the complexion of the town's innocent daily life and of the relationships for those who live in it. Saleem and a few of the town's other young men are soon gripped by a religious fervors. Events escalate considerably when Sikh pilgrims from India pour into the village. When one pilgrim goes looking for his sister who was abducted in 1947, Ayesha's long and sheltered past is brought to light.« less
"Set in a 1979 Pakistani village, during the regime of General Zia Ul-Haq, this is an absorbing story of a mother and a son who go through the rise of Islamic extremism. Wanting to do something in his life, the once-upon-a-time-aimless son now has a worthy cause to live for --> he embraces Islamic extremism and aspires to make Pakistan an Islamic state. On the other hand his mother stays moderate and secular with her views and doesn't like her son being a fundamentalist. The plot revolves around the conflicts between the mother and the son and more significantly focuses on how religion is being misused by the few politicians and religious leaders to wrongfully influence the masses, resulting in a burdensome encumbrance on the free flow of moderate thought, democracy, and secularism. This movie exemplifies how young adults in the villages all over the subcontinent have been the targets of emerging religious (Hindu and Islamic)extremist & fundamentalist organizations in the last two and a half decades or so. I recommend this movie to anyone who is looking for an example of the impregnation of the seeds of religious extremism."
Finally a movie from Pakistan
Rehan Rafay Jamil | USA | 09/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is undoubtedly one of the most important films of to come out of Pakistan. The film which is set in a small village in Punjab is shaped by the political context of General Zia 's military coup which overthrow Pakistan's elected prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto. Zia used "Isamic"ideology to justify his rule. There are two parallel but interrelated stories in this movie . On the one hand it is the story about a young village boy (Saleem) and how he gets involved with political Islamists from the city. One the other hand it is about the thousands of sikh, muslim and Hindu women (represented in the character of Salems mother Ayesha)who were either killed or left behind on the wrong sider of the border at partition. The character of Ayesha is played by the superb Indian actress Kiron Kher who is emblematic of the tolerant sufi islam that has historically had such a strong tradition in Pakistan. This is juxtaposed with the new virulent, political Islam imposed by zia-ul haq that the men from Lahore convince Salim to advocate. This is one of the most beautifully made movies on partition and the dispalcement and violence followed it that I have seen."
Haunting indictment of religious extremism
Roland E. Zwick | Valencia, Ca USA | 04/15/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
""Silent Waters" is an eye-opening film about a young Pakistani man who falls under the spell of radical Islam. It's 1979, and there's a move afoot to turn Pakistan into an authoritarian theocracy, one in which only Muslims would be free to practice their religion openly, and the rights of women would essentially cease to exist. Saleem is a good-hearted but somewhat aimless young man who is at first apolitical in his beliefs but who becomes a fervent believer in the cause when a group of young radicals arrives in his village preaching religious solidarity and intolerance. There's an even more interesting back story involving Saleem's mother, a woman who has been carrying a very dark secret around with her for over thirty years, one that goes to the very heart of religious fundamentalism.
The film is, in many ways, reminiscent of "The Shop on Main Street" in that it captures what it is like when a feeling of doom subtly and gradually descends upon a community. Most of the characters in the film go about their daily business without giving much thought or heed to what is about to happen to them until it is already too late to do anything to stop it. In fact, it is the people of good will who just want to be left alone to live out their lives in peace who, by their very obescience and indifference, become complicit in the horror.
Although the acting tends a bit toward the amateurish, wooden and melodramatic at times, and the stages through which Saleem goes from being a disinterested bystander to a fanatical follower are not always as convincing as they could be, "Silent Waters" is a grimly compelling film that reminds us of just how evil and dangerous any type of religious fundamentalism can be."
Explosive Timely Message with Artistic Subtle Elements
Erika Borsos | Gulf Coast of FL, USA | 06/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is an elegant and subtle film about the lives of widow Ayesha and her teenage son Saleem and how the political and cultural climate of the past and present clash ... destroying their lives forever. Buried memories return to haunt the widow Ayesha ... until she can take no more. Saleem is nearing adulthood and is the indulged and only son of the widow. Ayesha prays at the graveside of her husband - supplicating Allah to provide a good marriage partner for Saleem. She asks for a daughter-in-law who will be of assistance with the housework as she ages. Saleem secretly meets Zubeida his girlfriend at the mosque. SThey discusses their future. Zubeida hates housework and talks of attending a women's college so she can work in an air conditioned office ... As they exchange kisses Saleem sees a bleak future for himself. He has limited opportunities, realistically he can either become a laborer in the fields or work as a clerk for a shopkeeper in town. Neither appeals to him, he is restless, unsettled, looking for a more meaningful existence and better working conditions ...
During a wedding celebration of a wealthy businessman ... two politically connected religious fanatics come to the village as guests of the groom. Their goal is to raise the concsiousness of the young people to new ideas about building an Islamic republic in Pakistan. One of them is so serious and focused, he does not even attend the wedding feast where a famous dancer is entertaining guests. Around this time, there is a political deal struck between India and Pakistan which allows the Sikhs, past residents of the village and political exiles to return and visit Pakistan. Many come to their former village to celebrate a religious holiday at the local temple. There is a heart-warming scene in which two Sikhs are walking on the hillside which overlooks the village. One reminisces how his dying father still talks about wanting to view the scenery and mountains from the paths they walk.
Saleem and his male friends attend the mosque and listen to the strongly worded emotional appeals of the Imam ... He whips up passion and obedience. He intertwines their religious fervor with spiritual messages and political rhetoric ... Saleem is seduced and wantw to help build a strong nation based on these distorted principles. Saleem becomes emotionally distant from his mother and girlfriend as the teachings take hold of his psyche. He comes home late one night and beseeches his mother to express her allegiance and beliefs publicly in the village square. He adds, "Or I will not be responsible for what happens." He asks, "What is wrong with standing out in the open and making a statement?" Ayesha has flashbacks of standing over a well looking down into the water. She remembers other girls doing the same. She recalls men surrounding the girls - somehow during the commotion ... she managed to run away and find shelter in a cave. In another flashback, a man proposes marriage and states that from then on her name will be "Ayesha", they marry. Meanwhile Saleem joins a mob as young men carry sticks and demonstrate in the village, chanting Islamic slogans ... Wary shopkeepers close their doors in acquiesence to the changing times and the implied and actual threats.
One of the Sikh men walks around the business district making inquiries about survivors of a politically charged tragic event of the past. Specifically, he is looking for someone, a female survivor whom he names. A Pakistani couple of Muslim background knows or suspects they know who the woman is. They debate whether or not to notify her about the visitor and his questions. The husband lets her know. The Sikh recalls the paths and buildings in the village and visits his former home: he sees Ayesha and calls out her former name, he is certain she is his sister. The suspense of this meeting and how the past and present collide to create highly charged emotional scenes that are politically and culturally based are difficult to describe, they must be viewed. The director deals sensitively and delicately with a difficult cultural issue. The scenes are superbly done with extraordinairy artistry and symbolism. The dramatic scenes are carefully crafted which makes them more poignant and real. The bonus material includes an interview with a Human Rights expert who deals with Muslim women's rights. This enhanced DVD brings full attention to how complacent the rest of the world is to the very real threats women face who live in this part of the world. It is sad how misguided beliefs and distorted value systems destroy the human spirit and are used as the excuse to kill people. This is a beautifully done artistic film which packs a powerful punch. It leaves the viewer more enlightened about the plight of women in parts of the Muslim world. Erika Borsos [pepper flower]"
The Sikh women living in Pakistan in 1947 had to make some h
Linda Linguvic | New York City | 10/25/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This 2005 Pakistani film deals with an all-too-familiar theme. It's set in Pakistan in 1979 in a small town where water is fetched from the village well. Here, a widow, a well-liked Muslim member of the community, lives with her 18 year old son. She has a secret though and we sense it in some early flashbacks to the year 1947 when India was partitioned. At that time, Pakistan was created, and Muslims from all over India were forced to go there. But what of the people who were living there already and were not Muslims? That is the theme of this story. And it is indeed a moving one.
When we first meet the widow she is happy because her son is romancing a young woman and it looks like a marriage is going to take place. But soon some Islamic fundamentalists come to town and radicalize the son. There is bloodshed when the Sikhs, who used to live in the land, try to hold a festival. And that's when the widow's secret comes out as we learn about what happened to Sikh women in 1947.
All this is told in a slow manner, the viewer gradually learning about a horror that was not immediately seen in the seemingly idyllic life of the village. We're also not surprised when tragedy results.
This is a sad film and not for everyone. And yet, I'm glad I saw it as it taught be about a piece of history of which I was not aware."