Zero Bridge



Additional Venice Film Festival reviews

Venice Film Festival, Orizzonti.

VENICE - Tariq Tapa’s “Zero Bridge”, shot in India’s trouble-torn Kashmir, is disappointingly thin on plot. Often random images are strung together to flesh out the narrative but with little success. Repetitive and aimless, the film meanders along the lives of three people, made mostly in the Dogma style with a handheld camera and in natural light. The film may travel to festivals merely on the strength of it curiosity value. Movies are hardly shot in Kashmir now, the years of militancy having discouraged and driven away producers from a wonderfully scenic Indian state often called the Switzerland of the east.

But Tapa is not concerned with the exotica. Fed up, as he says, with the usual Western documentaries on Kashmir or the Bollywood cinema that uses the region as a mere backdrop, he attempts to capture the hopes and fears of three citizens. Dilawar (Mohamad Emran Tapa) is a rebellious 17-year-old boy living with his mason uncle, Ali (Ali Muhammed Dar). A school dropout, Dilawar becomes a pickpocket, eventually befriending one of his victims, an older woman, Dilawar Bani Sheikh (Taniya Khan), who works for a shipping firm.

Enlisting rank novices – Dar is actually a mason – Tapa’s work fails to get any deeper into their lives. His script appears happy being on the periphery of it all. Several questions remain unanswered in the end. We are never convincingly told why a much older Bani grows fond of a mere riff-raff like Dilawar, and why indeed a woman who has studied and worked in America gives in so tamely to familial threats and coercion. Somehow her background does not match up to the way her character has been written.

Dilawar’s hope and ambition, that take birth on Srinagar’s Zero Bridge and die there as well, have not been dealt with any great conviction either. His dream is to go to Delhi, but why? Is it because the adoptive mother who had actually abandoned him as a child lives there? Poor production values add to the dissatisfaction, though performances seem natural enough, especially that of Dar.

Production companies: Joyless Films and Artists Public Domain
Cast: Mohamad Emran Tapa (Dilawar), Taniya Khan (Bani Sheikh), Ali Muhammed Dar (Uncle Ali). Director/screenwriter/cinematographer: Tariq Tapa. Producers: Hilal Ahmed Langoo,Josee Lajoie. Executive producers: Tyler Brodie, Hunter Gray, Paul Mezey, Calvin Preese, Ed Branstetter. Music: Niyaz Ahmed Patloo, Abdul Hamid, Majid Ahmed Malik, Zahoo Ahmad, Danish Ali-Rather, Shervin Motaharian. Costume designers: Hilal Ahmed Langoo, Tariq Tapa. Editors:  Josee Lajoie, Tariq Tapa. No rating, 96 minutes.