Kashmir has been a host to a lot of films, especially from the Indian film industry. Most of the times these films came with orientalist cliches. After the armed uprising in 1989, the themes ranged from Islamophobia to creating state promoted narratives on Kashmir. It becomes important to understand the Kashmiri narratives through the films.
So here’s our list of five films on Kashmir that you must watch.
1. Jashn-e-Azadi: How we celebrate freedom (Sanjay Kak)
Directed by Sanjay Kak, a Kashmiri himself, the film traces the origins of the armed uprising. It goes to the distant corners, in villages and towns of Kashmir. This is an exhaustive two part film that covers Kashmir.
2. The Torture Trail (Jezza Neummann)
Directed by Jezza Neumann, this Channel 4 production was filmed during the 2010 uprising in Kashmir. It profiles a prominent Kashmiri human-rights campaigner Parvez Imroz. In the film, many eyewitnesses and victims of India’s crackdown on Kashmir tell their stories. The most gruesome of them being, Qalander Khatana who says, that he was force-fed his own flesh by Indian armed forces.
3. Kashmir: Born To Fight (Karishma Vyas)
Directed by Karishma Vyas, this documentary by Al Jazeera was filmed post 2016 uprising in Kashmir. It talks about the Kashmiri youngsters who have taken up the mantle of Kashmir’s freedom movement. It meets the stakeholders from the Hurriyat, to the icon of 2016’s uprising Inshah Malik and a blogger who took up arms against the Indian state.
4. Harud (Aamir Bashir)
Directed by Kashmiri filmmaker and actor Aamir Bashir. This feature film portrays a boy who’s struggling to cope with the enforced disappearance of his brother. An unsuccessful attempt to join the armed rebels, turns his life into a journey to find the truth behind his brother’s enforced disappearence. It also has the legendary Iranian actor Reza Naji, who you might have seen in Majid Majidi’s classics.
5. The Valley of Saints (Musa Syeed)
Written and directed by Kashmiri-American Musa Syeed In war-torn Kashmir, a lakeside city is plunged into a military curfew. Stranded together on breathtaking Dal Lake, a working-class boatman and a beautiful young scientist form an unlikely bond. But as violence spills in from the city, their budding romance may not survive. It won an award at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival in America. It’s available on Netflix US.
The New York Times review: This movie focuses on Gulzar (Gulzar Bhat), a man in his 20s who lives with his uncle in a tumbledown shack and ekes out a living as a guide. Gulzar dreams of leaving the area to seek a better life with his best friend, Afzal (Afzal Sofi), but their plans are disrupted when a military curfew is imposed in Srinagar, a city of nearly a million and the regional capital.
A journey through River Vitasta (Pawan Bali and Mohammad Urfi)
Vitasta is the ancient name of the river Jhelum that flows across the two divide parts of Kashmir. This film features the stories of people caught in the conflict and of families separated by the LoC between India and Pakistan.
Tales of Siege (Sheikh Adnan)
Filmed during the 2016 siege by a young Kashmiri filmmaker Sheikh Adnan.
Haider (Vishal Bharadwaj – Basharat Peer)
Haider is loosely based on Basharat Peer’s memoirs, the Curfewed Night, of growing up in Kashmir. He blends in Shakespeare play Hamlet with the story of a family in Kashmir. It’s not a documentary, and has the occasional Bollywoodesque visuals, but it’s a good start to understand 1990s in Kashmir.