Contemporary World Cinema | 2017 | 91 minutes
Stranger Says: Being widowed is hard enough. But imagine if your husband disappeared and not knowing if he is alive or dead, or whether he will ever return. In the Muslim community of Kashmir, Neela and Khalid have a loving relationship, despite having met only once before their wedding. After her husband is taken away during the 1999 conflicts, Neela is left with no answers and the police won’t help: “I am in search of someone whom they say never went missing.” She can’t move on. And not to sound cold-hearted, but the story does drag a bit as Neela wanders around looking sad. But Half Widow is beautifully filmed and the story has an emotional resonance.
SIFF Says:A young Kashmiri woman, Neela is enjoying her new marriage. Her doting husband Khalid has welcomed her little brother Zakir into their home. But outside their walls, the Kargil War of 1999 rages, and suddenly Khalid is kidnapped by paramilitary forces in the middle of the night. So begins Neela’s journey as a half-widow, held in limbo without her husband and unable to start a new life. The search for Khalid consumes her. Times passes, as does the war, and yet still Neela learns nothing. Her sorrow becomes a shackle and apathy for life settles in. Neela’s sense of self is all but lost, consumed with the fact she is without her husband, a man she loved. But after Zakir is arrested defending her from police, a new light of hope flickers as she recognizes the importance of family sacrifice, igniting inside her a new quest for meaning and fulfillment. Director Danish Renzu brings a jarring authenticity to the film, having witnessed stories like Neela’s while growing up in the Kashmir Valley. HALF WIDOW delivers an emotional realism that powers the film as Neela pulls herself from the depths of despair and takes on the challenge of creating a new life.
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