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The story of six young Indians who assist an English woman to film a documentary on the extremist freedom fighters from their past, and the events that lead them to relive the long-forgotten saga of freedom.
Based in Simla, the McNallys are an Anglo-Indian family consisting of Paul and his wife, Catherine. Both are full of joy when Catherine gives birth to a baby girl, Michelle, but their joy is short-lived when they are told that Michellle cannot see nor hear. Both attempt to bring up Michelle in their own protective way, as a result Michelle is not exposed to the real world, and becomes increasingly violent and volatile. Things only get worse when Catherine gives birth to Sara, and Paul considers admitting Michelle in an asylum. It is here that Debraj Sahai enters their lives. Through his eager involvement, Michelle blossoms, grows, gives up her violence, even gets admitted in school with normal children. The years pass by, Michelle does not succeed in getting her graduation, and it is time for Debraj to bid adieu as he is having his own health problems. 12 years later, at the age of 40, Michelle does succeed in graduating in Arts, and it is shortly thereafter she will be re-united with...Written by
An unending darkness... A world of shadows... A ray of light that found its way... A teacher's dream... A student's miracle... A valiant journey... From ignorance to knowledge... From darkness to light... An extraordinary story of an ordinary life
First things first. On Easter Sunday I pondered whether I should go see the film "Black" -- a film about which I had heard nothing in the popular press, until I saw its title on the cinema's Marquee. Not surprising really, since the film appears at this point to have only been released in the specialty Hindi-language Bollywood film circuit in Canada. Which is a real pity because if I had not made an accidental point of presenting myself at a movie-house that was actually screening the picture, as a Euro-heritage native-born Canadian I would likely still be walking around in a typically North American ethno-centric film fog about this excellent picture.
When I initially asked the theatre's ticket clerk what "Black" was about, his description hardly got me excited. It's the story of a teacher who helps a disabled woman. It didn't sound terribly engaging to me. But boy, was I wrong! While I am not a complete stranger to a number of Bollywood-type films, I'm lucky if I see one or two in a year, and at that, it's usually been because someone else has suggested it. While few of these "B" class movies "deserve" screen time in mainstream North American theatres, this is hardly the case for "Black". It is not a "B" class flic.
If only because the film's Director Sanjay Bhansali co-wrote the script, this obviously allowed him to imagine how he might want to capture the story with beautiful emotionally-charged cinematography. And what a sophisticated symbolically packed feast it was at that! Yet backing up the impeccable imagery was an equally top-drawer story. One dimension tells the story of a once well-regarded teacher who has come to the end of his financial, if not his existentially-justified rope, a man whose talents are neither fully recognized or completely appreciated. Then during this 11th hour turmoil, he receives a letter asking for help from the parents of a young deaf and blind girl. Her story is of course equally gripping, a girl effectively trapped in an internal prison in which language, a vital connector within herself as well as to the outside world, is missing. In this sense, both characters need one another, for both are on the common and all too true brink of being "disposable people" - people ripe relegated to become out-of-sight out-of-mind statistics in a faceless institution.
This feature of the story speaks to a possibility few of us care to contemplate, namely: "Who would care for me if everything fell to pieces?". It is a possibility reminiscent of and anchored in a time when as children we depended entirely on our parents for nurturance and love. This I think is what gives this story its privileged access to the inner-recesses of our deep emotional need for interconnection. And because it is a story told as much with emotionally poignant visuals as it is with emotionally gripping dialogue, these have a way of by-passing the usual intellectual filters we erect to both define and "protect" ourselves from one another. This film will have none of that. And the emotionally-forceful performances offered by the male and female leads simply seal our fates, leading us to co-journey with them in their heroic quest to find the light that will illumine us as much as them.
Few are the number of viewers who could experience this film and not leave better people, if only because it succeeds in allowing us to recognize the value of caring for one another as the greatest triumph, if not the most important ingredient in all of our other successes as a species. In short, this film strives to restore one's faith in the value of life and love, and does very well in that task. And what more can anyone ask from any motion picture? It is a work of genius, well executed, and a triumph of film-making, regardless the culture. Which is why I believe it deserves a lofty 10.
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