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Silent Discontent: A Portrait of the Jihadist as a Young Man

Islamabad girls: Silent Waters
photo: First Run Features

Measuring the human impact of Pakistan's late-'70s turn toward Islamization, Silent Waters charts the disintegrating bond between a widowed mother (Kiron Kher) and her only son (Aamir Malik), who gets peer-pressured into joining a radical fundamentalist group. The movie's steadily darkening tone mirrors the boy's frightening transformation from mild-mannered teenager to committed jihadist; what begins as a seemingly aimless, leisurely paced comedy soon turns into a multidimensional family tragedy. When a state-sanctioned visit by Sikh pilgrims digs up secrets about the village's history, the true subject of Silent Waters (as well as the monstrous meaning of its title) comes into horrifying focus. Attentive to the sociocultural roots of fundamentalism's appeal to young men—limited economic opportunity, lack of respect for women—Sabiha Sumar's debut feature could scarcely be more relevant to Pakistan's present, or, given this country's history of backing such repressive regimes, to ours.


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