“If we do not share our stories, who will?” proclaims Surjakkanta, an experienced filmmaker living in the borderlands of India. Set in the shadows of barbed wire and armed guards, Borderlands follows the lives of people most affected by an age-old conflict. Writer-director Samarth Mahajan highlights the personal struggles of life in the borderlands. But, rather than focusing on the origins of the disputes or politics of the borders, the film invites you into a world defined by fences.
In the documentary, the affected individuals are always the primary focus. The film dives deep into the lives of six individuals, each on a different border of India and all impacted by the surrounding cultures. Despite the sixty-five-minute runtime, Mahajan offers excellent insight into each person focused on. Kavita speaks about stopping human trafficking on the border of Nepal; Noor talks about life in slavery; Dhauli longs for her family on the other side of the wall. Each story is moving and framed in a way that will resonate with those living outside of India.
“…dives deep into the lives of six individuals, each on a different border of India…”
The director has created a poignant and inclusive film in Borderlands. He prioritizes the perspective of those living on the border, so you get swept up in what they are feeling at every turn. You cannot help but become emotional when Dhauli visits her family… who are peering through razor wire. When Kavita is questioning people at the border, you feel the tension in every word.
The music and cinematography only expand on the emotions within each and every story. Both aspects promote familiarity with the environment and place the audience in borderlands. You feel like you genuinely know Surjakanta, Noor, Kavita, Rekha, Dhauli, and Deepa by the end of the film; you hear their struggles, empathize with their stories, and hope for their futures.
From the production to the stories featured, Borderlands is a beautiful film about creating life within the backdrop of deep conflict. Mahajan takes a nuanced approach in introducing each subject, creating a bond between the people on screen and the viewer at home. There is a drawback, though: audiences will wish for more. Clocking in at just over an hour, we feel like we know these people; we hear their stories but do not get enough of a conclusion or a call to action. But, beyond the time constraints, the film is an excellent and relevant documentary about how borders can shape a world.
"…a poignant and inclusive film..."