'Valley of Saints' actors to visit Hamburg Film Festival | chandigarh | Hindustan Times
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'Valley of Saints' actors to visit Hamburg Film Festival

chandigarh Updated: Sep 25, 2012 00:44 IST
Peerzada Ashiq

Muhammad Afzal Sofi (31), a resident of Sopore district in north Kashmir, and Gulzar Ahmad Bhat (28), a resident of Srinagar, are all set to travel to Hamburg in Germany.

The duo, who featured in a short-film 'Valley of Saints', are now busy shopping to participate in the upcoming 20th Hamburg Film Festival in Germany.

Both have never been to a cinema hall or have travelled outside the valley.

"It's my first trip outside the state and since Hamburg is cold so I am buying proper clothes and shoes for the event," Sofi told HT, who is leaving on September 25 for Hamburg.

Sofi is a journalist and a part-time stage actor, and Bhat, a boatman who rowed tourists in his shikara on Dal lake till 2010, shot to limelight when US-based independent filmmaker Musa Syeed noticed them in 2010 and offered them lead roles in his environment-based film 'Valley of Saints' shot in the backdrop of conflict using the prism of romantic drama.

"I would ferry Syeed sahib from the banks of the lake to the houseboat and inbetween would share tales and explain him things about the lake. After 4-5 rounds of shikara, one day he offered me a role," said Bhat, who has no acting background.

The film's story line reflects the grim reality of the valley. In the film, the duo plans to flee the valley to escape the wrath of the conflict. They decide to leave for Delhi and meet at an island on the Dal lake to proceed. But sudden and prolonged curfew thwarts their plan and, in between, Gulzar, the protagonist, meets a female American environment researcher, who becomes a force for him to stay back and share responsibility of the place.

The 82-minute film had to change its script in 2010 due to five-month long curfew. "We were scheduled to shot in the old city but it was out of bounds due to curfew. So the entire film was shot on the lake with curfew imposed outside," recalled Sofi.

After being screened at 30 film festivals since 2010, the film won the audience award and the Alfred P Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance this year. The film is all set to screen at the Hamburg International Film Festival on September 27.

"This is a moment in our lives to escape the uncertain situation of Kashmir and have a whiff of peace, though for a short period. We are told European countries have porous borders. We want to see how people live in peace," said Sofi, brought up in violent-years of 1990s.

Glamour seems to have little impact on Bhat. "It will be a life time experience in Germany. But I do not want to pursue acting as my career. I am happy rowing my boat," said Bhat.