South Asia

Le serviteur de Kali (2002)
Adoor Gopalakrishnan
India
89′
Kaliyappan is the executioner of the Maharajah of Travancore. He lives on the edge of a small village in the magnificent countryside of Kerala. For generations his family has lived on the benefits granted to the Maharajah after every execution. But these are becoming increasingly rare, and Kaliyappan's family lives in misery. Paradoxically, the old executioner, tired of fulfilling a mission that had become a curse, has also become a healer. Adoor Gopalakrishnan is one of the central figures in Indian cinema and one of the outstanding filmmakers from Kerala, whose film culture he and Shaji Karun have a major influence on. His film "Le serviteur de Kali" is a fable based on real facts. The first shot shows an old executioner looking at his hands. He feels guilty about the last execution and is afraid of the next one. When he again receives the order to execute the sentence, Kaliyappan feels miserable, staggers around and drinks to forget his remorse and misery. As if the alcohol could lift the responsibility and replace the executioner. The son will execute the sentence, the curse threatening the family cannot be averted. In the end, the shadows of the procession are the dark shadows of an endless succession of mourning, unless they are the shadows of the cave. A hidden pearl of cinema.
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My Name is Salt (2013)
Farida Pacha
India
92′
Year after year, for an endless eight months, thousands of families move to a desert in India to extract salt from the burning earth. Every monsoon their salt fields are washed away, as the desert turns into sea. And still they return, striving to make the whitest salt in the world. The desert extends endlessly - flat, grey, relentless. There is not a tree or blade of grass or rock. But there is one thing in abundance: salt. Salt is everywhere, lying just beneath the cracked, baked surface of the earth. This is the Little Rann of Kutch, 5000 sq kms of saline desert. And for eight months of the year, the salt people live here - laboriously extracting salt from this desolate landscape. They have been doing this for generations. Year after year, they migrate from their villages, 40,000 of them, to live on this bleak land without water, electricity or provisions. Arriving just after the monsoon, Sanabhai and his family will live here from September until April. Their nearest neighbour is a kilometre away. They communicate by flashing mirrors in the sunlight. Sanabhai’s wife Devuben walks across the bare, trackless desert to chop firewood. They buy the family’s water supply from a private tanker that comes once a week. Sanabhai has taken a large loan from the salt merchant in town as an advance on his salt harvest. He needs money to dig a well to reach the saline water 70 feet below ground, and to buy the diesel for the pump which draws the brine into the salt pans. Over the next few months, the only sound to break the silence of the desert is the mechanical drone of the pump’s engine. It takes eight months for the brine to crystallise into salt. Knee-deep in the brine pond, under the blinding glare of the sun, Sanabhai and his family trample the ground to prevent the salt from congealing. Once the brine has evaporated enough to allow the salt to be handled, they gather it with heavy wooden rakes until large crystals have formed. Their labor is rhythmic, a dance that mirrors the dance of the mirages on the burning horizon. The white crystals are as sharp as glass. Only two of them have rubber boots. Several times in a day Sanabhai inspects the quality of the salt crystals and keeps a close watch on the level of water in the salt pans. Two of Sanabhai’s children - a boy and a girl aged eleven and eight- go to a school recently opened by an NGO. Everyday at 11, after their morning’s work at the salt pans, they cycle off to school - just another hut in the vast emptiness of the desert, but with one difference: the children have planted paper flowers around it. In April, the salt merchant sends his man to inspect the salt. No good, he says: the crystals are small, not white enough. He cuts the price agreed with Sanabhai at the beginning of the season. Sanabhai is downcast, but he shrugs his shoulders: what can you do? The next salt season will certainly be better. Meanwhile, somewhere at the edge of the desert, mountains of salt lie next to the railway tracks waiting for transport to the city. The season is over and the monsoon is on its way: the heavy rains will soon wash the family’s salt fields away. The desert itself will not remain a desert anymore, but will turn into a sea. And the only way one can cross it is by boat.
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Peepli Live (2010)
Anusha Rizvi
India
107′
Our media are always running after new sensations and seem to love every crisis. In the Indian comedy Peepli (live), a former journalist shows us how much the media likes to influence events, when they end up smelling their headlines or the supposed scandal. This story takes place in a peaceful Indian farming village where the families have too little to live and too much to die. The farmer Natha fights for the survival of his wife, mother, brother and children as a way out of the misery looms: The government has set up a program to compensate the bereaved if a farmer kills himself. One could also use this offensively, one of Natha's family could kill himself so that the others could earn something. The media, who are currently accompanying the local election campaign, are getting wind of the idea, and suddenly the planned peasant suicide becomes the number one topic. You don't want to save the farmer, you want to be the one who is there live when he does. Bollywood star Aamir Khan (Lagaan) has produced Peepli (live), Anusha Rizvi has sovereignly designed the amusing and thought-provoking debut film and you can feel that she knows exactly what she is talking about. She does it with pleasure.
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Qissa (2013)
Anup Singh
India
110′
Set in post-colonial India, QISSA tells the story of Umber Singh, a Sikh, who is forced to flee his village due to ethnic cleansing at the time of partition in 1947. Umber decides to fight fate and builds a new home for his family. When Umber marries his youngest child Kanwar to Neeli, a girl of lower caste, the family is faced with the truth of their identities; where individual ambition and destinies collide in a struggle with eternity.
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The Lunchbox (2013)
Ritesh Batra
India
105′
A mistaken delivery in Mumbai's famously efficient lunchbox delivery system connects a young housewife to an older man in the dusk of his life as they build a fantasy world together through notes in the lunchbox.
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Une ville à Chandigarh (1965)
Alain Tanner
India
53′
When, in 1947, a portion of Punjab province was assigned to the newly created Pakistani State, Albert Mayer began planning a new capital for the portion which remained in the possession of India. Le Corbusier had been responsible since the 1950s for general planning and, more particularly, for large-scale buildings typical of the governmental sector. A year after the death of Le Corbusier, Alain Tanner began shooting his film in a city still partially under construction, or even, in certain places, at the planning stage. The inhabitants of the metropolis, however, already numbered some 120,000. Among the most modern of cities architecturally, Chandigarh was archaically constructed by hand. Impressions of this green horizontal city-brick not permitting vertical development-are captured in long static shots and numerous traveling shots. John Berger's commentary inscribes the visual beauty of that reality within a larger reflection: climate did strongly influence the decisions of the planners, whereas the new city did not succeed in breaking the old social rules with a single blow. These rules continue to determine the level of education and income, and it is not even possible for these workers who are in the process of constructing Chandigarh to live in it themselves. However, the film partakes of Le Corbusier's optimism in its appreciation of architecture as an instrument aiding men to clarify their visions, to exercise their powers of discernment and to establish new relations, even if the results will only make themselves felt in the long term.
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Valley of Saints (2012)
Musa Syeed
India
82′
In the valley of Kashmir, a lakeside city convulses with riots and curfews. A young man tries to escape, when he meets a beautiful environmentalist in an abandoned houseboat. Trapped together in his floating village, their blossoming romance threatens to derail his dreams.
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Wolf And Sheep (2016)
Shahrbanoo Sadat
Afghanistan
86′
In rural Afghanistan, people believe in the stories they invent to tell each other, explaining the mysteries of the world, they don’t understand. Shepherd children own the mountains. Even though there are no grown ups around, they know the rules very well; the main one is that boys and girls are not allowed to be together, they have to be separated. The boys practice with their slings to fight the wolves should they attack the flock. The girls smoke dried branches of wheat secretly and play wedding, dreaming of getting a husband soon. They gossip about every one and everything, but mostly about Sediqa, 11, an outsider among the shepherd children. They think she is cursed, as an evil ghost disguised as a snake bewitched her grandmother. Sediqa picks up her sheep and goats every morning and drops them in the owner’s house every evening. She dreams of having a sling and learn to swing it like the boys and hit a wolf. Qodrat, 11, becomes the gossip topic of everyone after his mother remarries with an old man with two wives. He prefers to be alone in the most isolated parts of the mountains. This is where he meets Sediqa and they become friends until Qodrat’s mother has to send him away.
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