Valley of Saints
We can’t always get back what is lost, but we can nurture what remains.
Widely considered to be the crown jewel of Kashmir, Dal Lake is a sprawling aquatic community where erupting political violence often distracts from the natural beauty. Gulzar, a young, working-class boatman, plans to skip town with his best friend in search of a better life, but a weeklong military curfew derails their departure. Forced to wait it out, Gulzar takes a job assisting a pretty scientist named Asifa. As they navigate the floating landscape, collecting water samples for an environmental study, an unlikely relationship blossoms between the two. When Asifa's research reveals harmful pollutants, Gulzar realizes that the ecology of the lake and an entire way of life face an alarming threat, and everything in his own life begins to take on a new hue.
Lush cinematography heightens the region’s visual splendor in this enlightening feature. Intricately weaving contemporary issues with traditional culture and ancient myths, Valley of Saints is a vibrant, lyrical film about finding one's path home in a changing world.
When looking at Kashmir, I was struck by how the resilience of the people is reflected in the resilience of the environment. Even in the face of a dangerous conflict, people find ways to embrace life, love, and hope. The environment, too, is still beautiful, and even though it’s not what it used to be, there is something there to be cherished and preserved. Ultimately, the film is optimistic about the environment--and about the nature of life in conflict--through hopeful honesty: we can’t always get back what is lost, but we can nurture what remains. Musa Syeed