Frank film looks at daily life in troubled Kashmir

Sat Aug 30, 2008 8:53am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

VENICE (Reuters) - A new film set in Indian Kashmir seeks to go beyond stereotypes of the troubled region as either the idyllic backdrop to Bollywood movies or the subject of news reports and documentaries into the violence.

"Zero Bridge," by U.S.-born Tariq Tapa in his directorial debut, is a low-key, partly-improvised drama about a rebellious Kashmiri teenager who turns to petty crime in Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian part of the divided region.

Dilawar, who lives with an illiterate uncle after his mother abandoned him, meets an attractive older woman Bani, and is faced with a dilemma when he realizes that in stealing her passport he has jeopardized her freedom and future happiness.

The film maker, whose father is a Kashmiri Muslim, believes that in portraying the day-to-day challenges and frustrations of people living in Srinagar, his film could prove more political than any documentary or news bulletin.

"If you could come to care about them by the end of the film then I think that that was in a way a more political act than (what) a well-meaning documentary could achieve," Tapa told reporters on Saturday in Venice, where "Zero Bridge" screened outside the main film festival competition.

"You are just humanizing people who for so long have been marginalized to an issue or to an exotic location."

Both India and Pakistan claim Kashmir in full but rule in parts, and two of three wars between them were sparked by the dispute. Tens of thousands have also been killed there since armed revolt against New Delhi's rule broke out in 1989.

India accuses Pakistan of sponsoring militant groups based in Pakistan fighting for Muslim-majority Kashmir's independence or merger with Pakistan. Pakistan denies the charge, but says it provides moral support for groups it sees as "freedom fighters."   Continued...