On Jan. 14, University Libraries and the Office of Global Engagement kicked off this semester’s Global Film Series by showing the Indian film “Hotel Salvation” in the Witherspoon Student Center Campus Cinema. The event was put on with the collaboration of the MAITRI Indian Graduate Student Association.
The screening started with an introduction from South Asian History Professor David Gilmartin.
“Part of the whole point of the film is to frame religion in a way where it’s really related to personal life, family relations,” Gilmartin said.
The film starts out with an older man, Daya, dreaming of his younger self in his old village, but the village is completely abandoned. From there, Daya tells his family he believes it is time for him to die. He and his son Rajiv journey to the Hotel Salvation in the city of Varanasi, where people either stay to live out the rest of their lives or return home after 15 days. Throughout the film, the audience gets to watch the relationship between father and son develop as Daya’s life comes to an end.
The film also focuses on the lives of others in the hotel and the rest of Daya’s family, in particular a woman named Vimla, who has lived in the hotel for 18 years, and Rajiv's daughter Sunita.
The cinematography of the film was beautiful, featuring fantastic shots of the Indian landscape. It was easy to tell that each scene was carefully thought out and planned for each shot. This resulted in many impactful moments throughout the film becoming even more so.
“Hotel Salvation” moved at a quick pace and managed to provide perspectives on how death affects people in different ways. The film has many emotional moments focused on family and reconciliation. Despite the focus of death , it doesn’t have a morbid feeling and instead maintains a humorous tone.
After the film concluded, Gilmartin held a Q&A with the audience, where he elaborated on the current state of Varanasi and things about the city the film left out.
“One thing that you did not get any hint of in the movie is that the Ganges in [Varanasi] is a terribly polluted river,” Gilmartin said.
Gilmartin said the river is polluted because people dump the ashes of loved ones into the river, since the Ganges is a holy symbol in India.
David Hawley, manager of global programing for the Office of Global Engagement/, spoke on some of the reasons the film was chosen.
“When a lot of students hear Indian films, they think Bollywood, and so when we were looking, we purposely tried to look outside of the theme of Bollywood to show that India also does produce a lot of really great amazing films that aren’t Bollywood films,” Hawley said.
Hawley also touched on what he hoped people would take away from the film.
“The importance of honoring your family's traditions, while also forging your own path; I saw that a lot, and I think that’s something a lot of students go through,” Hawley said. “I hope that students would see a connection in that.”
The Global Film Series has more films showing in the coming semester. The next film will be “L’échange Des Princesses” (The Royal Exchange), showing Feb. 18, in the Witherspoon cinema. For more information and a complete list of upcoming films, visit their website.