Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Forum), Feb. 11, 1995. Running time: 119 MIN.
Anand Patwardhan’simpressive, passionate documentary explores in great detail the roots of sectarian violence in India today, and suggests that religious fanaticism is not the only problem; the cult of machismo in India is, according to Patwardhan, just as deadly. A natural for cutting-edge TV docu slots, the film, which is extremely well researched and assembled, should also be widely seen at upcoming fests.
Pic, divided into two parts (“Trial by Fire” and “Hero Pharmacy”) delves into the causes of the attacks on Muslim storekeepers in Bombay in 1993, when businesses were burned and several Muslims killed while the police stood by. Hindu fanatics, especially those embracing the cult of Sati, are seen to be rabble-rousers comparable, according to the film, to European fascists. Sati (in which a widow is traditionally burned on her husband’s funeral pyre) is strenuously opposed by women’s groups and liberals.
Patwardhan also looks at the development of India’s patriarchal society. Today, to give birth to a girl is, as one woman says, like giving birth to a stone. Bollywood movies with titles like “The Male” and “Man Talk” only enhance to the cult of machismo among young fanatics.
“Father, Son and Holy War” is disturbing because it suggests that before long India will be so divided as to be almost ungovernable. The inhuman remarks of some of the fanatics who speak on camera are indeed tragic, as are gruesome scenes of the bodies of human beings on fire.