Pakistani film about religion and family

August 2004 -

The film Silent Waters by the Pakistani filmmaker Sabiha Sumar takes place in Pakistan in 1979. Aïcha is a widow and lives with her almost adult son Salim in a small village.

The historical events of 1947, when Pakistan was created as a place to relocate the Muslims from India, have completely dictated Aïcha's life. While she gives Koran lessons to the children from the village, no one knows that she was originally a Sikh and that when the Sikhs were moved to make place for the Muslims, she stayed behind in the village. Salim is the last one to suspect that his own mother is the daughter of 'non-believers'.


As Salim gets more and more involved with a group of Muslim fundamentalists, the viewer slowly unravels Aïcha's secret through a series of flashbacks. This makes the film exciting: the viewer is given time to speculate. What exactly are the real facts behind Aïcha's story? Will Salim discover the truth and what will happen between the fanatic he has become and his gentle mother who in reality is not a Muslim? But at the moment that the truth dawns on Salim, the tension collapses. The revelation has far-reaching consequences for Aïcha, but the scenes that show this are rather flat.

Silent Waters, which was awarded the Golden Leopard at the Locarno film festival, portrays a subject from Pakistan's history in a beautiful, subtle method by telling one woman's life story. But the drama suggested by the story line could have been exploited further. With more strongly detailed characters, the film could have been both more shocking and more moving.

Silent Waters will be shown starting 29 July 2004 in the Rialto in Amsterdam.