Director: Deepa Mehta (India)
An inspiring tale of a group of Indian widows, some very young, who are forced into poverty at a temple in Varanasi in the 1930s. How can they survive and gain dignity and a new life in a society that shuns them? The film is scenically captivating, also culturally challenging, and beautifully filmed.
It is a triumph that this film was made at all. When filming for Water started in India, Hindu chauvinist mobs destroyed the set and threw it into the Ganges. Due to the sheer determination of director Deepa Mehta, the film was eventually completed. It was worth her perseverance because she has made an absorbing, visually stunning and emotionally gripping film. Water is indeed damning of the attitudes and practices of some Hindus towards widows, but also hints at more complex debates about the nature of tradition, religious practices and economic compulsion.
Written and directed by Deepa Mehta, Water is an exquisite film about the institutionalized oppression of an entire class of women and the way patriarchal imperatives inform religious belief. Shifting between romantic melodrama and spiritual inquiry, Water flows with the simplicity of a fairy tale. The lovers’ struggle may be the heart of the film, but Shakuntula’s awakening is its soul. In the triumphant and moving final scene, her selfless act of bravery offers hope to Chuyia and India alike.
(The New York Times)