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Father, Son and Holy War
A Film by Anand Patwardhan
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In the politically polarized world, universal ideals are rare. In India, as in many regions, the vacuum is filled by religious zealousness. Minorities are scapegoats of every calamity as nations subdivide into religious and ethnic zones, each seemingly eager to annihilate the others, or to extinguish itself on the altar of martyrdom.

But why? 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."


TRIAL BY FIRE, a reference to the ordeal Hindu god-king Lord Rama tested his wife Sita's fidelity with, looks at the communal fires which 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 the 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.


HERO PHARMACY examines "manhood" in the context of religious strife. The Hindu majority has been raised on stories of marauding Muslim invaders who raped their women, destroyed their temples, and forced religious conversions. Today, some Hindus demand revenge for crimes committed centuries ago. They reject non-violence as impotence and set out to be "real men."

In this context, the Muslim minority - despite fears of genocide - will not take things lying down. They too are driven by the imperative to be "real men." The result is carnage.

Is violence inherent in the human condition? Historically, people have co-existed for over 50,000 years in relative harmony. Wars began less than 5,000 years ago. But today the "macho" man rules in every land. Where do we go from here?

"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

"FATHER, SON AND HOLY WAR, through a careful layering of images, views and counter-views takes you far beyond the generally superficial vision of Indian politics that the standard television documentary delivers."—Pervaiz Khan, London Film Festival

Spirit of Freedom Prize Winner, 1995 Jerusalem Film Festival
Best Investigative Documentary, 1995 National Awards (India)
Special Jury Prize Winner, 1995 Bombay Film Festival
Special Jury Prize Winner, 1995 Yamagata Documentary Film Festival
1995 Human Rights Watch Film Festival
Special Jury Prize Winner, 1994 Vancouver Film Festival

133 minutes / color
Copyright: 1994
Sale: $398

Subject areas:
Asia, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Anthropology, Human Rights, India, Islam, Men's Studies, Religion, Sociology, South Asia

Related Links:
The Films of Anand Patwardhan

Related Titles:
War and Peace: From India's leading documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan. Filmed over 3 years in India, Pakistan, Japan and the US. An epic journey of peace activism in the face of religious fanaticism, militarism and war.

In the Name Of God: The violent campaign waged by the militant Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) to destroy the 16th century Ayodhya mosque.

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