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The Valley of beauty and darkness

September 18, 2008
Four years ago, filmmakers Geeta Patel and Senain Kheshgi boarded a plane to India to shoot a documentary on the situation in Kashmir.

The two friends came from different parts of the Indian subcontinent. Patel was born in the United States to immigrant parents from Gujarat. Kheshgi was born in Karachi to a family that had migrated from India after partition in 1947, and had grown up in the US. The two connected at the Artwallah festival in Los Angeles, thanks to their cultural similarities and love for Bollywood films.

The two trips they took to Kashmir changed them in many ways, and they openly acknowledge that in making their powerful documentary Project Kashmir, they became part of the complicated mosaic of Kashmir, the Hindu-Muslim divide, and the various layers added by decades of mistrust, violation of civil and voting rights, violence and ethnic cleansing.

"It is still raw," Kheshgi said after a recent screening of the film at the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in New York. "It took us two years to edit the film, because we had many, many days of differences. It's still hard for us. We have different political views on things, not necessarily on the stereotypical level. But I think we need to keep talking. If we don't talk, then where is the hope?"

"When we boarded the plane for the first time, we were planning to make a film about the people of Kashmir and their everyday lives," Patel adds. "We didn't want to speak to the politicians and the players. But we didn't expect to be so intertwined emotionally."

Image: Geeta Patel (right) and Senain Kheshgi
Text: Assem Chabra

Also read: Why Kashmir is up in flames

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