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INDEPENDENT LENS: Project Kashmir

Airs Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Filmmakers Senain Kheshgi and Geeta V. Patel at Dal Lake.

Credit: Dishoom Pictures

Above: Filmmakers Senain Kheshgi and Geeta V. Patel at Dal Lake.

Though more alike than they are different, Kashmiri Muslims and Kashmiri Hindus remain divided by religious allegiances in the global diaspora. Little information exists to support dialogue between the two groups, and many members of the community have given up hope for peace. The hatred has already begun to trickle down into the minds of the next generation.

"Project Kashmir" was created out of a desire for dialogue between these two divided communities. Filmmakers Senain Kheshgi, a Pakistani American, and Geeta V. Patel, an Indian American, investigate the war in Kashmir and find their friendship tested over deeply rooted political, cultural, and religious biases they never had to face in the U.S.

Guided by an anonymous telephone informer and three brave Kashmiris, the filmmakers navigate the treacherous maze of occupation, insurgency, unrest, censorship, and religious animosity, slowly finding themselves pulled apart by their own identification with opposing factions.

Beautifully shot by Academy Award-winner Ross Kauffman, the film captures the stunning beauty of Kashmir, while expertly interweaving deeply moving personal stories of Kashmiris with those of the two American women who strive to reconcile their ethnic and religious heritage with the violence that haunts their homeland.

"Project Kashmir" explores war between countries and war within oneself, while juxtaposing moving personal stories of Kashmiris who have never known a world without war. For some questions, the film reveals, there is never just one truth.

Directors/producers/writers Senain Kheshgi and Geeta Patel talk about opening up with their own stories to gain the trust of their film subjects, trying to understand the role of religion in conflict, and “the scent of Kashmir.” Read the interview and share your thoughts on the film.

Video Excerpt: Independent Lens: Project Kashmir

This is a journey to one of the most beautiful, yet dangerous places on Earth. Two American women, one Muslim and the other Hindu, sneak cameras into Kashmir—a place where different faiths mean ongoing war between India and Pakistan. Their mission: find out what makes their peers choose homeland over preserving their own lives. As pressures rise, emotions run high and their friendship is tested.

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