Thursday, April 10, 2008

MOVIE: Water

Water is a movie critical about India's cultural treatment of widows. The opening quote sets the tone:

"A widow should be long suffering until death, self-restrained and chaste.
A virtuous wife who remains chaste when her husband has died goes to heaven.
A woman who is unfaithful to her husband is reborn in the womb of a jackal."
    -- The Laws of Manu Chapter 5, verse 156-161 Dharamshastras (Sacred Hindu texts)
Chuyia is an eight-year old widow who is abandoned at a house of widows. There, she is befriended by a beautiful widow Kalyani, who has an arrangement to be "brought across the river at night" for what the head widow calls 'survival'. This all takes place in 1938, early in Mohandas Ghandi's influence in the battle against Hindu tradition. One of the followers of Ghandi's beliefs is Narayan, an optimistic law scholar who falls in love with Kalyani.

The Canadian-produced movie was nominated for a Best Foreign Language Oscar in 2007 (the same year as The Lives of Others) and is one of the culturally important film to watch. And one of the widows says it well when she poses the question: "what happens when our conscience conflicts with our faith?".

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