Silent Waters

Director: Sabiha Sumar
Screenwriters: Paromita Vohra

Institute History

  • 2004 Sundance Film Festival


A woman's fragile destiny provides a rare window on a tumultuous period in Pakistani history in Silent Waters, a drama that sheds light on the country's political evolution and ongoing conflict with India.

In 1947, India was partitioned into two states. In newly formed Pakistan, Sikhs and Muslims who had coexisted harmoniously for centuries began brutally slaughtering each other. As in many battles, women became the currency of this hatred as thousands on each side were abducted or murdered.

This terrible legacy is the backdrop for a story set in 1979, when General Zia-ul-Haq declared martial law. In a picturesque, though claustrophobic, village, Ayesha, a single mother, lives contentedly with her son, Saleem, who is swept up in extremist ideology when Islamic revolutionaries come to town. Ayesha resists as her beloved son rejects the liberal values she has taught him. But as Sikh pilgrims pour into a local shrine, tensions tighten, and Ayesha's past painfully floods in to haunt her.

Silent Waters was shot entirely in Pakistan, where film culture was virtually eliminated during years of Islamization. Using a cast of local nonactors, Sabiha Sumar, a documentary veteran, infuses a sense of gritty truth into this tale of a woman, a village, and a country in the throes of cataclysmic change.

— Caroline Libresco

Screening Details

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