‘Fire in the Mountains’ Review ⭐︎⭐︎⭐︎: Sundance 2021

“Fire in the Mountains” is a sensitive film about one woman’s struggle within the confines of sexism in a small Himalayan village. The fire is both metaphorical and literal. 

Chandra (Vinamrata Rai) labors under the tyranny of men. She, along with her husband Dharam, run an inn, Swizerland Homestay, that is off of the only road in a small Himalayan village. She’s determined to get a road built near her inn. Her daughter is attempting to get social media fame and, by our standards, modestly displaying herself to attract attention online. The son, Prakash, is mysteriously wheelchair-bound.

A thin boy with deep scares down both legs, Prakash must be carried up and down the mountain path. The small amount of money Chandra raises from the tourists she hides from her husband. She saves it to spend on Prakash’s medical doctor who continues to do tests and consult with them. Dharam doesn’t believe modern medicine is getting them anywhere and wants to have a shamanic ritual, jagar. He believes Prakash is cursed and the shaman browbeats him, asking him if he is a man at all. 

For the ritual, blood must be spilt. An animal must be sacrificed. A large fire must be built on the mountain and people will, as if possessed, dance around it. This is a harrowing look at a woman fighting for her child, betrayed by superstition and enduring sexual harassment and domestic violence. In her debut feature, writer-director Ajitpal Singh reveals the beauty of the rugged landscape and the betrayal and hardships within a family where both the wife and husband disagree on how to do the same thing: Cure Prakash. 

“Fire in the Mountains” was the only Indian film in the Sundance 2021 World Cinema Dramatic Competition and it is the debut feature of writer-director Ajitpal Singh. The film was released in India on 30 December 2019. It made its US premiere at Sundance on 31 January 2021. In Hindi with English subtitles. 

 

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