Valley of Saints FL, 2012, 2 stars

Valley  not quite deep enough

From The Orlando Weekly, October 3, 2012

Valley of Saints, a Kashmiri-language production, quietly washes over you, much like the waters of Dal Lake, where its characters live and work. It conveys both a Yasujirô Ozu-like serenity and a darker edge, but it’s ultimately a simple tale of a young man finding a new direction in a world he realizes he never truly knew.

That man is Gulzar, played with quiet confidence by Gulzar Ahmed Bhat, and he desperately yearns to escape his life as poor boatman in war-torn Kashmir. “If [the saints of the valley] were real,” he complains, “they forgot about Kashmir.”

After an escalation of violence, Gulzar and his friend must wait out a military curfew before fleeing for Delhi. During that delay, Gulzar meets a young woman who gives him a new view of his environment and himself, while also driving a wedge between him and his friend. The ensuing events are not without dramatic power, and when director/writer Musa Syeed, in his non-documentary debut, combines them with stunning cinematography, the result is a cultural document of stark realism. But like the shrinking waters of the once-great lake at the heart of its story, Valley seems a bit shallow.

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