Unfreedom is Indian director Raj Amit Kumar’s attempt to deal with the violence he sees as inherent in religious fundamentalism. The film is made up of two separate stories, in two cities, with people of different religious backgrounds. Although the stories never connect to one another, the connection is to be found in the ways that when people understand themselves as having the only truth, the use of violence becomes more likely. It should be noted that the film has been banned in India after a dispute with censors.
One story takes place in New York. Mohammed Husain comes to America from Pakistan to kidnap liberal Muslim scholar, Fareed Rahmani. Rahmani has spoken out against terrorism. Husain sees such statements as undermining the faith. Rahmani refuses to recant or even to defend himself, even when he and others are tortured by Husain.
The other story is of Leela Singh, a woman in New Delhi, who in order to avoid an arranged marriage, kidnaps her bisexual lover, Shaki Taylor, in order to marry her. As their relationship plays out, Singh’s policeman father is seeking her and will not offer kindness for such an affront to all he believes.
What made the film interesting for me was Rahami’s steadfast refusal, even under torture, to give any credence to the choice of violence. He would not resort to any sort of violence to save himself, or to save others who were being tortured as a means of pressuring him. It brought to mind the debate between brothers Reinhold and H. Richard Niebuhr before and during World War II about Just War theory and Christian participation in the war and resisting evil. H. Richard Niebuhr argued for a radical obedience to God that called for nonviolence. The kinds of violence we often see done in the name of religion (and it is not always fundamentalist religion such as seen in this film) always find justification for that violence in purifying the world, stopping evil, or destroying God’s enemies. I think those articles that were published in Christian Century so many decades ago, might be a good starting point to think about what we see in this film.