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Sundance Film Festival 2019: “The Dispossessed” Review

The 2019 Sundance Film Festival began on January 24 and runs through February 3, 2019. “The Dispossessed” is part of the Shorts Program at Sundance Film Festival screening along with “Midnight Family.” The World Premiere was held on Sunday, January 27 at 3:30 p.m. at The Ray Theatre in Park City, Utah. 

Still from “The Dispossessed” | Photo courtesy of Musa Syeed

“The Dispossessed” is a short film from India and is directed by Musa Syeed. His two feature films, “Valley of Saints” (Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for World Cinema: Dramatic) and “A Stray” (2016 SXSW Official Film Festival Selection), were both New York Times “Critics’ Picks.” His short films include “The Big House,” “Bronx Princess,” and “A Son’s Sacrifice” (Best Documentary Short at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Audience Award for Short Film at the AFI/Discovery Channel Festival). Syeed is currently a lecturer for screenwriting at Harvard University.

Whoever heard of a demonic possession film for skeptics?

“The Dispossessed” is about a faith healer named Hazari exorcising jinn-possessed patients in Kashmir, which is at the center of the world’s longest-running violent conflict. In actuality, Hazari is doing much more than confronting supernatural forces of evil but is helping his patients in a much more concrete and meaningful sense.

One that is firmly grounded in reality.

Syeed offers a minimalist but provoking portrait of the true meaning of healing. The Sundance Film Festival, per the vision of founder Robert Redford, has traditionally been precisely the platform for thought-provoking documentaries that authentically showcase this kind of intimate look into humanity.

This idea of demonic (or in this case, jinn) possession has been explored in documentaries before. It’s the same old song and dance of super sensationalized and disturbing images with the looming question of whether or not this evil that we are witnessing is real. “The Dispossessed” is doing something a little different.

The Dispossessed
Still from “The Dispossessed” | Photo courtesy of Musa Syeed

In “The Dispossessed,” no one is trying to sensationalize or exploit for shock value. In fact, the whole film is quite mundane and very minimalist. Our faith healer, Hazari, is a simple man – a Xerox technician by day – and simply wants to help people. The film is not led by frightening imagery, but rather a simple conversation.

Hazari says at one point that of all the people he sees, only 3 to 5 percent exhibit any signs of jinn possession. Yet he also claims that every person who visits his clinic is cured.

How is this possible?

Because the real demon that Hazari faces is the inner demons. The root of people’s problems. Depression.

In a war-torn place, people are hopeless and depressed and, as far as Hazari is concerned, his healing is more than just expelling a supernatural force but it’s an injection of hope that allows people to kill their own demon.

This is such a fascinating idea and an approach that has long been missing from the discussion. “The Dispossessed” is somber, but simultaneously refreshing.

It’s a quick little ditty that speaks volumes in its brief run time of eight minutes.

“The Dispossessed”  is available to view at the New York Times.

If you are attending the Sundance Film Festival you can catch “The Dispossessed” on the following days and times. Get tickets here. 

  • Monday, January 28th at 3:30 PM at Redstone Cinema
  • Wednesday, January 30th at 12:00 PM at Sundance Resort
  • Thursday, January 31st at 9:45 PM at Broadway Cinema in SLC
  • Friday, February 1st at 2:30 PM at Egyptian
  • Saturday, February 2nd at 8:30 AM at Prospector

Stay tuned for more Sundance Film Festival 2019 coverage! 

Featured image credit: Still from “The Dispossessed”/ Photo courtesy of Musa Syeed

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