HPPUB MOVIE REVIEW

 

Title:  War and Peace (Jang aur Aman)

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: India, Hindi

Running time: 171 minutes

MPAA Rating:  (PG-13)

Distributor and Production Company:  (U Film Society, University of Minnesota)

Director; Writer: Anand Patwardhan

Producer: Anand Patwardhan

Cast:  

Technical: VHS

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Review:

Patwarhan has made documentaries challenging the social caste system in India for three decades. But this film is an epic documentary of the escalation of nuclear tensions between India and Pakistan, with pointers to the fallout on the rest of the world.  India resumed underground testing in 1998, on Buddha’s birthday. The filmmaker travels city streets and countryside in both India and Pakistan like an underground tourist, capturing footage with a realism never seen in a more “manufactured” Hollywood movie. In India, he shows the damage done in the areas surrounding the uranium mines and interviews cancer victims. In Pakistan he displays group hatred not only of India but of the West by Muslim. The United States is shown as a blind and greedy conspirator, trying to make money for its defense industry. There is one scene where Pakistani female students stage a debate and repeat politically correct mantra about nuclear weapons for their country, followed by off-stage discussion in which they call for peace. They claim they say what they are supposed to say for points and grades, just like politicians.

 

The movie has an intermission, and part II begins with an excursion into the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end World War II.  Truman, according to now declassified papers discussed in the film, could easily win the war without the bomb but really wanted to use the bomb to make a statement against the Soviet Union. The political struggle over an honest display of the story over the Enola Gay in the Smithsonian is shown; apparently much controversial material has been removed.

 

The film ends with a silent rendition of footage from the 9/11/2001 attacks on the World Trade Center: both plane hits and the collapse of the North Tower.

 

This film was apparently censored in India and not allowed to be released. A screening at the YB Chavan Centre in Mumbai was canceled by a Mr. Singhla of the Police and Entertainment Tax Board in India. It is not clear how the film was imported.

 

Could this film be professionally edited onto 35 MM, given a digital sound track and then entered into major film festivals like Sundance or Cannes? Let us hope so. (It wouldn’t cost too much, maybe $2 million, to do this.)  Could an American distributor then buy it and create a public market for it and show that a film like this can actually make money? A tempting idea for entrepreneurs.

 

A companion film for this could be Chris Marker’s A Grin Without a Cat (2001, 180 Minutes), a news-footage essay documentary from France in two parts about the demise of the traditional political left. Promoted in art houses in the United States as a Vietnam era documentary, it provides a surprise with so much content about the left in France and, in the second half, in the Eastern European block (especially Czechoslovakia) in the Post World War II period. The footage is in the old 4:3 format and is often blurred, over-exposed and muffled, with a certain monotony that suggests old-fashioned leftist propaganda. Yet much of the footage is shocking (close-up of chest napalm burns on Vietnamese civilians), memorable (Army basic training in 1968, when I was in it), or intellectual (the idea the Left gradually squashed dissent within its own ranks and that this process led to its demise by the end of the 1970s). There is a certain collectiveness to all of this politics that seems to shield the individual from any responsibility for what happens. 

 

 

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