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Film Documents Ritual Closing of India-Pakistan Border

This week on the NewsHour, we’re featuring an excerpt of the film ‘Wagah,’ which looks at the ritualistic closing of the Wagah border between Pakistan and India. It’s part of our series in partnership with The Economist magazine that showcases the art of filmmaking.

On August 14, 1947, India gained its independence from Britain. The next day, Pakistan also became its own nation. The border that was chosen cut through the populous provinces of Punjab and Bengal. Thousands of Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus who were once neighbors became citizens of separate nations.

The only road crossing on the 2,000 mile border is at Wagah, a village divided between India and Pakistan at independence.

Starting in 1959, thousands of Pakistanis, Indians, and foreign tourists gathered each night at Wagah for a 45-minute ceremony as the gates between the two nations are closed. The ritual is marked by the lowering of the flags and a parade by soldiers of both the Pakistan Rangers and the Border Security Force.

Next week there will be a celebration at Wagah to mark the 64th anniversary of the partition.

The documentary ‘Wagah’ is the first collaboration between an Indian and a Pakistani filmmaker. During the production, Indian filmmaker and director Supriyo Sen only communicated with his Pakistani co-director Najaf Bilgrami via email. They met for the first time in person on the day of the premiere of the documentary at the Berlinale Film Festival in 2009.

Here’s what Sen said about the making of ‘Wagah’:

I am coming from a refugee family that has suffered immensely during the partition of India in 1947. Massacres, rapes and abductions followed in the wake of partition, leading to the migration of 15 million people. I could never accept borders that prevented me from going back to my homeland, my roots. I wanted to give voice to the silent sufferings of the refugees. I wanted to talk about the ongoing conflicts that still bleed their hearts. My previous films ‘Way Back Home’ and ‘Hope Dies Last in War’ deal with ongoing conflict. Now ‘Wagah’ tries to blur the border through cinema — the wildest dream I always cherished.

Find more from The Economist Film Project.

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