Monday, September 27, 2010

TIFF10 Review: Autumn (Harud)

Autumn (Harud)

The beauty of TIFF, and cinema in general, is that it exposes the audience to parts of the world that few have access to. It provides another avenue to learn about issues and conflicts that are rarely covered in the local media. Aamir Bashir’s directorial debut, Autumn, is a perfect example of this. Bashir uses his film as a means of providing a rare glimpse into what life is really like in his war-torn homeland of Kashmir.

Haunted by the disappearance of his brother, Rafiq (Shanawaz Bhat) can no longer stand being in Kashmir. After a failed attempt to cross the border into Pakistan, Rafiq is sent back home to live with his parents. Rafiq’s mother Fatima (Shamim Basharat) is optimistic that her missing son will return home one day. His father, Yusuf (Reza Naji), tries to remain strong but the constant violence is starting to take its toll on him and slowly he succumbs to war related post-traumatic stress disorder. As the potential for death is around every corner Rafiq’s friends try to make the best of the situation, but Rafiq walks around in a sleep-walking state consumed with sadness until he comes across his brother’s camera and is presented with an outlet for expressing his feelings. In order for Rafiq to document his world on film, he will have to find a way to overcome the grief that is weighing him down.

Aamir Bashir’s directorial debut is a bleak but powerful film. Autumn’s strength is in the way the film details how the military impacts every aspect of life in Kashmir. Civilians can barely go two feet without encountering soldiers, barbwire, or ominous gun barrels sticking out of bunkers. In regards to the gun barrels, Bashir films it in such a way that they are a practically characters in the film. The audience is never quite sure whether or not a soldier is actually manning the barrel in the darkness of the bunker. The silent and ever present gun barrel invokes a sense of dread amongst both the characters and the audience.

Although Autumn is a good film, it must be noted that the pacing is extremely slow. Bashir wants the audience to feel everything that his characters do. At times it even boarders on being repetitive, as the audience watches Rafiq go through the motions of his paper route more times than we really need to. Yet Bashir is determined to provide a full account of what day-to-day life is like for Rafiq. Life in Kashmir is long and dreary with no end in sight. The citizens must cling to the small joys in life, such as a pick up game of soccer or finally being able to get a cell phone provider in the region. Despite unfolding very slowly, Autumn is a thought provoking meditation on who are really the victims of war.

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