Reflecting the undulating political climate of Pakistan then and even now, THE BLOOD OF HUSSAIN is Dehlavi’s spectacular subversive and savage indictment of political corruption during Zia Ul Haq’s reign. Opening at the annual mourning procession for the murdered Hussain, grandson of the prophet Muhammad. When two brothers are pushed to take sides after a military coup removed the democratically elected government. One is forced to side with the government and the other is siding with the peasantry, who are being forced off of their land and not resettled. An allegorical tale of revolutionary struggle offsets ideology and reality. Banned by successive military regimes in Pakistan, its potency is not reduced after time. Also included here is TOWERS OF SILENCE, where Dehlavi’s fuses Zoroastrian funerary rituals with radical images of armed insurrection and revolt.
Having never seen either films, I have to say I do no a lot about the political space the film is set in. General Zia Ul Haq has left a deep and unpleasant legacy with both the collapse of Afghanistan, Pakistan and even 9/11 being able to be linked to his regimes political decision making. Director Jamil Dehlavi THE BLOOD OF HUSSAIN slowly unravels the horror of the period, within a very familiar narrative that many Muslims will connect with. He sets out to use parallels, in the brothers, in the story, in the upheaval, to transform what could have been a subtle story. Into a visually hypnotic and emotionally charged piece. One side bold, the other savage in its bloodletting. TOWERS OF SILENCE is a different and similar beast. It cleverly encapsulates another comparison, between faith, decay and violence. It then fuses surreal images and real images. Strokes of painful truths are handled without tenderness.
The disc extras
The transfer starts us off. Having nothing to compare I can only really compare between the DVD and Blu Ray. The Blu ray comes alive with the desert images, the rich reds of the wedding and that lovely fire light shimmer. Although there would have been age related issues with the transfer, it has been rectified. It has none of the fuss in the DVD, which only appears in the interior scenes. Between the Sacred and the Profane is a feature length piece that explores the TOWERS OF SILENCE film from its artistic perspective, in the visual depictions of violence. From its political perspective, in the relationship between Huq and his people.
• Brand new masters of both films presented in High Definition and Standard Definition
• Between the Sacred and the Profane (2018, 66 mins): Dr Ali Nobil Ahmad explores the cultural, artistic and political background of Jamil Dehlavi’s films
• Jamil Dehlavi in Conversation (2018, 76 mins): an on-stage conversation between the director and curator Timothy Cooper
• Illustrated booklet with a new essay by Raficq Abdulla, writing by MJ Fischer and full film credits