Father, Son and Holy War: Trial by Fire
Directed by Anand Patwardhan • Documentary • 1995 • 120 minutes
In a politically polarized world, universal ideals are rare. In India, as elsewhere, the vacuum is filled by religious zeal. Minorities are made scapegoats of every calamity as nations subdivide into religious and ethnic zones, each seemingly eager to annihilate the other or extinguish itself on the altar of martyrdom. FATHER, SON AND HOLY WAR explores in two parts the possibility that the psychology of violence against “the other” may lie in male insecurity, itself an inevitable product of the very construction of “manhood.” Part 1: TRIAL BY FIRE a reference to the ordeal that the Hindu god-king Rama tested his wife’s fidelity with, looks at the communal fires that have consumed India in recent years. “Sati,” a rite by which Roop Kanwar was thrown on her husband’s funeral pyre; the upper castes’ “purifying” fire rituals and the communal fires that ravaged Bombay after the demolition of a mosque in Ayodhya, are set against a small group of fire fighters: a Rajasthani woman who, against the odds, condemns Sati; a Muslim woman who battles gender discriminatory laws; and a band of Hindus and Muslims who march for communal harmony in the riot-torn streets of Bombay. “Rampant machismo is never a pretty sight, and this two-part video contains a lot of excruciating imagery and some brutal truths: these are not pretty pictures… For showing to courses on current Indian politics, on religion and ethnicity, on women’s issues, the sociology of violence, or popular culture, FATHER, SON AND HOLY WAR is powerful stuff, but the faint of heart should be forewarned of its harrowing content.” Gail Minault, Journal of Asian Studies “Anand Patwardhan’s impressive, passionate documentary explores in great detail the roots of sectarian violence in India today....