Review: ‘The Firm Land’

A quietly effective, simply told parable of resistance to the heartlessness of the state, Chapour Haghighat's "The Firm Land" celebrates traditional community values even as it records their decline.

A quietly effective, simply told parable of resistance to the heartlessness of the state, Chapour Haghighat’s “The Firm Land” celebrates traditional community values even as it records their decline. The helmer’s concern for the dispossessed, last evidenced in 2005’s “The Nightly Song of the Travelers,” is restated here in a warmly human item about villagers adrift in the big city that could find a foothold at the occasional fest.

AIDS, though it is not named as such, has come to an Indian coastal community. Six men are chosen to go to the city to seek medical help, but are met there with indifference, apart from a group of boys, a professor and an elderly, ailing aristocrat — none of whom can help. The pic affectionately smiles at the group’s confusion while reminding that the human spirit can survive state attempts to suppress it, creating an air of gentle affirmation in the face of humiliation. Characterization is slim, with no one figure standing out, but this is presumably part of the pic’s message of brotherhood. Lensing wonderfully foregrounds the telling detail, particularly in the urban scenes.

The Firm Land

India-France

Production

A Perspectives Nomades (France)/Chapour Haghighat (India) production. (International sales: Perspectives Nomades, Paris.) Produced, directed, written by Chapour Haghighat.

Crew

Camera (color), Mrinal Desai; editor, Catherine Quesemand. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi New Directors), Sept. 25, 2008. Hindi dialogue. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Mansoor Seth, Prem Datta, Ravi Rekh Rai, Jindar Walia, Change Li, Abu Lala, Ava Mukherjee, Honey Chaya, Sanatan Modi.

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