India, 1993, 84 min
Shown in 1994
COMMENTSShown with Comfort Women.
While the oppression of women in India has become a truism among human-rights activists, Pankaj Butalia’s Salvation brings such individuality and clarity to its portrayal of the lives of Bengali widows that it achieves that all-too-rare balance between advocacy and cinema. Through a series of candid interviews, generous observational footage and a lush, poetic narration, the film makes the point that Indian society, right or wrong, simply does not have a place for these women. Some of the widows have been pressed into servitude by their in-laws; others have been abandoned by their sons or ostracized because of physical handicaps. Followers of Krishna, they all find peace and acceptance at the Vrindavan ashram where they go twice a day to sing prayers and receive a small allowance and rations of food. Richly photographed and redolent of the paired grief of widowhood and exile, Salvation does not interpret or seek meaning in tragedies; Butalia plainly relies on the humanity of her subjects. Each woman’s story adds a layer of sadness and rage.as they perform rituals of solitude or ceremonies of the group, often with a hauntingly rhythmic detachment. Salvation is a testament to the power of human will and human dignity. It reminds us what the word “community” really means.