They render me uninclined to find anything of value in my social theory reading, which is a problem since I'm presenting in class on Wednesday and should try to find something worthwhile to say. But it all seems so useless and pointless. Blah blah blah nation-state and military power and modernity yadda yadda.
The film that has done this to me is Deepa Mehta's Water, which centers on a widow house in India in 1938. The widow house was an institution for women whose families did not want to support them. Widows were social outcasts, and in order to support themselves often turned to begging and prostitution. Chuyia enters a widow house at the age of seven, a child bride whose husband dies unexpectedly. She is taken in by Kalyani and Shakuntala, two very different women who draw on their faith to cope with the difficulties their widowhood presents. At the time, Gandhi is challenging British rule in India and a range of oppressive religious and cultural traditions. The question of whether the increasing current of change will make a new life possible for the widows runs through the film. Mehta holds out hope and provides beauty and humor, but doesn't shy away from cruelty and tragedy. Water is a powerful movie, and while its not exactly uplifting, neither is it mired in despair. There is a strong theme about the merits and risks of following the dictates of conscience that I found inspiring.
Unfortunately for me, I must now follow the dictates of my class work and get back to social theory.
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