The Indian film Final Solution by Rakesh Sharma is a long, slow trudge through the politics of hate in the state of Gujarat and the violence that it spawned in such deadly fashion in 2002.
Sharma, a Hindu, travels throughout the state, interviewing Muslim victims of sectarian violence that broke out in the state after mobs, egged on by ultra-nationalist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) politicians, sought revenge for an attack on Hindu pilgrims that left 58 people dead. Over 10,000 Muslims are said to have been killed by rampaging Hindus, while police reportedly looked on helpless or unwilling to stop the killing.
The film, which screens today in the Taiwan International Documentary Festival, attempts to make a case that what took place in Gujarat amounts to genocide. From the first-person accounts of the victims and the footage of hate-spewing VHP politicians, the facts seem to be on Sharma's side.
One of the charismatic VHP leaders in a stump speech says to raucous laughter: "It's true that not all muslims are terrorists, but it's true that all terrorists in the world are muslims." He then goes on to disparage Muslims for a litany of problems and openly uses the word "purge" when demanding that Muslims be removed from the state.
By covering the shocking activities of the VHP in a reportorial style and relying on the stories of the terrorized victims, the film provides thorough context to the situation in the state as it tells the story of the degeneration of the political situation in Gujarat that eventually set loose murderous crowds of machete-wielding young men hunting for Muslims.
This year's festival has contained a large number of films that look at the issue of sectarian strife, mostly between Palestinians and Israelis, but this film stands out for the starkness of the images and the harrowing story of what looks a lot like state-sanctioned murder. Most of the violence is insinuated instead of displayed in graphic pictures, but the accounts of the victims, who seem overwhelmingly to be women and children perhaps because the men were killed off, send chills down the spine.
Opening and closing the film are interviews with a wide-eyed young Muslim boy whose family and relatives were attacked and some of them killed in the riots. In the fidgety, hyper fashion of a young boy, he wriggles and laughs his way through the story of the riot and ends by saying that his sole ambition in life is to kill Hindus when he grows up. It's not a very hopeful message, but Gujarat isn't a place that radiates hope, especially given its recent past.
Running time: 148 minutes
Screening times and location:
Today, 10:50am, Showtime Cinema
Film festival notes:
What: The 4th Taiwan International Documentary Festival.
When: Ends today.
Where: Showtime Cinema (欣欣晶華影城),
247 Linsen N Rd, Taipei (台北市林森北路247號).
Spot-Taipei Film House (光點台北),
18 Zhongshan N Rd, Sec 2, Taipei
Shih-ming Hall of Taiwan Cement
Building (台泥大樓士敏廳)113 Zhongshan N Rd, Sec 2, Taipei (台北市中山北路二段113號).
Huashan Creative Arts and Industry Center (華山文化園區), for outdoor screenings only, 1 Bade Rd, Sec 1, Taipei (台北市八德路一段號)