SAIFF 2011: ALMS OF THE BLIND HORSE Review

Dustin Chang, Contributing Writer
Alms of the Blind Horse, tells a day in the lives of people in a small Punjabi village. With the cast of mostly non-professional locals, the film is the first Punjabi feature to be shown in international film festivals. Based on a Dalit (Untouchables) themed novel of the same name by Gurdial Singh, the film reflects on the daily struggles of the underprivileged.

The whole village is awakened by the sound of bulldozers. A house on the outskirts of the village is demolished by a landlord. Father, a stoic old man, joins other village elders to demand justice. But they can't quite agree on what the next step should be. Mother feels powerless and humiliated, working in the field she doesn't own. Their son, Melu, a rickshaw driver, gets injured during a workers' strike. He spends the day drinking with his friends and they lament about their helpless lives. Feeling lost and uncertain about what to do, Melu drives around the town aimlessly at night. He is later joined by his sister who is just as restless, wandering on foot with a flashlight in her hand under the lunar eclipse.

With the ominous nuclear power reactors in the background and the sound of random gunfire at night, director Gurvinder Singh creates an uneasy sense of doom and gloom. But he avoids the film from slipping into the typical melodrama of the working class.

Alms of the Blind Horse isn't quite lyrical or poetic as it wants to be with its many long tracking shots and quiet moments. But with its subtly affecting scenes that hint a sense of brewing tension and directionless antipathy of its characters, it's a good effort by the first time director Singh.


Alms of the Blind Horse screens on Sunday, November 13th at 7:30 pm at the NYIT Auditorium on Broadway


Dustin Chang is a freelance writer. His musings and opinions of the world can be found at www.dustinchang.com

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