Review: ‘Night Of Prophecy’

Wild laments of keening poets and singers persistently egg on Amar Kanwar's torrents of imagery as the artists travel from Maharashtra to Andhra Pradesh to Nagaland to Kashmir, passing from one Indian state mired in suffering and injustice to another. Stirring but almost impossible to follow for those without an intimate knowledge of India's travails, "Night of Prophecy" eliminates exposition, plunging headlong into ongoing social conflict.

Wild laments of keening poets and singers persistently egg on Amar Kanwar’s torrents of imagery as the artists travel from Maharashtra to Andhra Pradesh to Nagaland to Kashmir, passing from one Indian state mired in suffering and injustice to another. Stirring but almost impossible to follow for those without an intimate knowledge of India’s travails, “Night of Prophecy” eliminates exposition, plunging headlong into ongoing social conflict. Lacking the focus of Kanwar’s shorter, more geographically limited and thematically specific works (e.g., “A Season Outside” and its wry treatment of the Indian-Pakistani border), impassioned, quasi-experimental pic appears unlikely to wander far outside fest and college circuits.

Sometimes, Kanwar films the singers: In Maharashtra, one man rhythmically beats a pebble on a rock while intoning endless grievances connected to caste. At other times, he films the song: The acidly powerful poem “Under Dadar Bridge” generates hellish images of disease and despair among prostitutes under a viaduct in Mumbai. School children in neat rows sing of freedom in Nagaland. Meanwhile, in Kashmir, despairing verses recited by a school teacher float over graveyards and bullet-ridden monuments to religious intolerance.

Night Of Prophecy

Docu - India

Production

An AK/Renaissance Society of the U. of Chicago production. Produced, directed by Amar Kanwar.

Crew

Camera (color, video), Ranjan Palit; editor, Saneera Jain; music, A. Pillai. Reviewed at Museum of Modern Art Documentary Fortnight, Dec. 21, 2003. Indian language dialogue. Running time: 77 MIN.
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