LIGHT IN STONES

Synopsis

The imagined contemplations of a Muslim pilgrim in contemporary India. This cine-poem follows their steps and sees their thoughts through verse on-screen. Using travel footage of everyday scenes in India, Light In Stones, traverses the fears, joys, trepidations and hopes of the pilgrim. Light In Stones is constructed from my personal travel footage acquired in various parts of India. Every which way I turned my camera, I saw religion in all its manifestations. I saw Islam written into its geography. I also saw that what appears as apparent is now an impediment to a nationalist project to set Islam and Muslims as foreign. The result is a collective denial maintained through violence, destruction and erasure. The film is made in the darkness of the worsening persecution of Muslims in India. It is also in its own way a cry for the loss of what is good and beautiful in religious faith; for the potential of the ineffable to connect us with something beyond power and money. I grew up in Singapore, once a part of the Malay Archipelago with Malaysia and Indonesia. The Islam here was brought by Indian textile merchants in the 12th and 13th centuries CE wielding sarees and scarfs. It was a syncretic, particularly Indian version of the faith that melded with local practices. Pilgrims still travel to India to gain benediction from the shrines of the ‘friends of god’. When the great Indian poet-activist, Tagore, journeyed to these parts in the late 1920s, he apparently said, ‘I see India everywhere, but I do not recognise it’. Tagore here was both embracing the far-reaching influence of his beloved India as well as the creativity of the communities he was visiting. He understood the sheer bewilderment of the pilgrim. In his famous verse from which India’s national anthem is based, he wrote: “The way of life is sombre as it moves through ups and downs, / But we, the pilgrims, have followed it through ages. / Oh! Eternal Charioteer, the wheels of your chariot / Echo day and night in the path / In the midst of fierce revolution, / Your conch shell sounds. / You save us from fear and misery.” Tagore proclaimed the universal promise of India; a promise now echoed by the brave people protesting its loss across the nation. In Gitanjali, he asks them, “Do you not feel a thrill passing through the air with the notes of the far-away song floating from the other shore?” and they answer in the affirmative. 

Artist Profile

Iqbal Barkat

Iqbal is a digital artist, filmmaker and a proponent and practitioner of community and participatory arts. His works are often hybrid as they emanate from real settings but include fictional elementsand involve the intersection of digital media with other art forms. His project, Terrorist/Apostate, a hybrid theatre/digital media work that explores the outsider and Islam, was performed at Parramatta Riverside Theatres and Blacktown Arts Centre in Western Sydney, Australia. His most recent film is an observational documentary on a primary school in Western Sydney, This Is Our School. Iqbal was born in Singapore where he founded the now disbanded political theatre company, Gung-ho Theatre Ensemble. He teaches screen practice at Macquarie University, Sydney. Stories driven by his memories fueled his passion for creating movies. The moving frames allowed him to preserve the amazing life stills captured by his eyes and artistically express them to the audience. In 2019, Sohil presented his first student film at 24 International awards, winning the bronze in Digital filmmaking. Later, in 2020, he was awarded the Viewer choice award for the best compositor, and he also won Silver with his team in the VFX challenge. Sohil Chhabra is an Indie filmmaker graduating from York University, Toronto. So far, he has directed several commercials and worked on various projects as an Editor, colorist and VFX artist.

Credits

Written, produced, directed and filmed by Iqbal Barkat

Sound design: Steve J DeSouza