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Sundance Winner 'Valley of Saints' to Open Hamburg Film Festival

Valley of Saints

The debut feature from director Musa Syeed is set in the turbulent Indian province of Kashmir.

COLOGNE, Germany - Musa Syeed's debut drama Valley of Saints, which won the audience award and the Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance this year, will open the Hamburg International Film Festival on Sept. 27.Syeed will attend the premiere, along with producer Nicholas Bruckman. Members of the film's cast are also expected to attend.

The U.S./Indian co-production is a romance set in the turbulent Indian state of Kashmir, a disputed territory which Pakistan also claims as its own. The story follows Gulzar (Gulzar Bhat), a boatman on the idyllic Dal Lake, whose plans to run away to the city with his best friend Afzal (Afzal Sofi) are thwarted when the authorities put the region under military curfew. Gulzar meets and falls in love with Asifa (Neelofar Hamid), a scientist who is studying pollution levels in the lake.

Hamburg festival director Albert Wiederspeil said Valley of Saints provided a rare glimpse into a culture few outsiders ever see.

“Kashmir is a blank spot on the cinematic map. There are hardly any theaters and even the leading actor, an amateur, has not seen Valley of Saints' on the big screen," said Hamburg Film festival director Albert Wiederspiel. "In this way we want to present Kashmir to our audience; the impressive nature and the myths of the ancestors on the one hand and the political instability of the region that we often forget about on the other."

Kairos Filmverleih has picked up German rights to Valley of Saints and will bow the film in Germany in January.

The 20th Hamburg Film Festival runs Sept. 27 - Oct. 6, 2012.