Jul 31 - Aug 06, 2015

(Chaitanya Tamhane, India, DCP, 116 min)

Seattle Premiere
Co-presented with Tasveer

Director Chaitanya Tamhane makes the leap from a lauded stage career to the silver screen with this debut feature. Court won prizes at Venice and Mumbai, but notably, the Indian film board would only permit the release of a censored cut at home. 

Fittingly, freedom of expression is among the basic rights at stake for Court’s protagonist, an elderly activist folk singer, portrayed by a non-actor. Facing an absurd charge for “abetment of suicide,” he undergoes a grueling court case riddled by arcanely inhuman protocols. His lawyer, an ambitious, meticulous, and sensitive young man from a wealthy upper caste family, strives to navigate choppy legal waters in defense of his client.
Tamhane comes from a decorated background in theater, but has no trouble with the transition to a new medium. Court is intelligent and even-handed, never descending into melodrama or simplistic condemnation. Instead, a soft-spoken script drives the story with impressive realism, and elegantly composed long-takes corral multiple, massive ecosystems of people and excruciating legal protocol: the banality of evil. 
Critically, two of the lead roles – the mistreated activist/musician and a young woman made a widow by workplace negligence – are filled by non-actors who actually endured sufferings similar to what they portray here.
Court is a complex portrait of a country divided, visibly riven by caste and class differences that are accepted and perpetuated through behavior that is both intrinsically human and artificially imposed through the registers of postcolonialism. The characters themselves are both helpless witnesses and witless participants to the quiet, relentless injustices of their surroundings. This is a devastatingly accurate--and at times blackly humorous--depiction of equality and justice perishing from a thousand pinpricks.

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