The film “Water,” a period piece about mistreated widows in India, will be shown this weekend at the Smith Opera House in downtown Geneva.
Moviegoers may appreciate knowing that director Deepa Mehta risked her life in making it, that her production was shut down after sets were burned, and that she had to finish the film in neighboring Sri Lanka.
Hindu fundamentalists didn't like the airing of Mehta's subject matter: a long-held Indian practice of shunning widows and forcing them into group home to scrounge for survival. Ancient tradition holds that Indian women are a part of their husbands and prohibits them from remarrying after their spouses' deaths.
A widow of the 1930s had three choices: throw herself on her husband's pyre, marry her husband's brother if he had one, or live the rest of her life in seclusion and self-denial.
Set in 1938 in the twilight of colonial India,”Water” focuses on a group of women condemned by Hindu law to spend the rest of their lives in an institution, or ashram, on the banks of the Ganges because they are widows.
Written and directed by Mehta, “Water” is an exquisite film about the institutionalized oppression of an entire class of women and the way patriarchal imperatives inform religious belief. Serene on the surface yet roiling underneath, the film neatly parallels the plight of widows under Hindu fundamentalism to that of India under British colonialism.
“Water” will be shown at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 8 through Tuesday the 12th and at 2 p.m. on Sunday the 10th. It's in Hindi with English subtitles, runs 117 minutes and is not rated. Tickets are $5 general admission and $3 for students and senior citizens.