Zero Bridge, the first narrative film to emerge from the devastated state of Kashmir in forty years, had its theatrical release earlier this year at the Film Forum in New York City. It is the first feature film from Tariq Tapa, who made it more or less on his own: he wrote it, shot it, cast it, even gaff-taped the microphones for it, with only the equipment he could fit into a backpack and for less than what some filmmakers pay for a single camera. The New York Times called the film “a moving slice of life from a corner of the world usually seen only in news reports or as a mountainous backdrop for Bollywood musicals.”
The movie subverts expectations a viewer is likely to have for a story set in Kashmir. The region has long been a place of violence and has been a primary cause of conflict between India and Pakistan since the 1947 partition. An indigenous movement for independence exploded there in 1989, leading to India’s military occupation and a period of vicious guerrilla combat. Violent uprisings against the Indian army have occurred regularly since the end of the 1990s, and thousands—some say tens or hundreds of thousands—of Kashmiris have been killed or disappeared since the start of the insurgency. Fighting, poor infrastructure, poverty, and unregulated pollution have eroded the region’s stunning natural beauty.