Reel Asian is honoured to present the Toronto premiere of director Musa Syeed’s Sundance Film Festival multi-winner Valley of Saints as the festival’s inaugural South Asian feature film. Valley of Saints is a lyrically beautiful slice-of-life film with strong performances and lush cinematography that paints an ethereal atmosphere throughout its brief running time.
Dal Lake is widely considered to be the jewel of Kashmir. The lake is a sprawling aquatic community where idyllic life is often disrupted by political unrest that occurs on shore. Gulzar, a young working class boatman, lives with his elderly uncle but longs to escape with his best friend for the bright lights of the big city. When his plans are temporarily thwarted by a military curfew, Gulzar is forced to wait it out, and takes a job assisting Asifa, an attractive young scientist who is in Kashmir to collect water samples for an environmental study. As they navigate the floating landscape collecting samples, an unlikely relationship blossoms between the two that soon causes a rift between Gulzar and his best friend. When Asifa’s research reveals harmful pollutants in the water, Gulzar’s worldview is shaken as he realizes that his livelihood, as well as his community and its entire way of life, may soon disappear.
Syeed expertly contrasts two different worlds in his film. Life on shore is reality, while life on the lake is almost fantastical–a sanctuary away from the chains of law, greed and other human vices. But through Asifa’s scientific discoveries, real life consequences creep into the serene world of the lake. Enlightening and filled with visual splendour, Valley Of Saints is a dynamic yet sensitive film about finding one’s life path in a changing world.