Valley of Saints

This 2012 Seattle International Film Festival entry from India takes us to Kashmir, which is in a military, political and economic turmoil because neighboring countries still want to control it. We see a microcosm of the situation when we join Gulzar, a young man who lives with his elderly uncle but wants nothing more than to get out!

He is a tourist boatman who ferries paying customers around on Dal Lake, his home base, which is so polluted it is classified as a dying lake. He and his best chum plan to leave for Delhi while his uncle is away but their plans are stymied by a military crackdown and curfew.

During this hiatus, he volunteers to help a studious young woman who is researching the effects of antiquated sanitation and pollution on the lake. It has never occurred to him to question the local traditions which sys- tematically add to the problem. The "Saints" of the title are drawn from an old local folk tale which he relates to the researcher. When she asks if polluting the lake might anger them, he replies that "all the saints are dead." As he ferries her around, he begins to see a way to make life a little better without running away.

This film won the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize for 2012 and the Audience Award for World Cinema in 2012.