Film Review: The Land of Ahimsa

by Director Aryeman RamsayKARUNA FILMS
reviewed by Eric Hillis

The ancient Indian concept of ahimsa is central to many of the region’s religions. The core idea of ahimsa is that all living things are connected by a spiritual energy. As such, they all deserve respect and should never be subjected to cruelty, violence, or exploitation.

Director Aryeman Ramsay’s The Land of Ahimsa stars Indian-American activist Dolly Vyas-Ahuja, the granddaughter of freedom fighter Chhaganlal Joshi, who worked alongside Mahatma Gandhi. Vyas-Ahuja leaves the US to travel to her birthplace of India to see if ahimsa is still in practice. What she finds is a country that has strayed far from the concept, chiefly through its inhumane treatment of animals.

The documentary may initially be off-putting to some viewers. Footage of animal cruelty is difficult to watch, and Vyas-Ahuja adopts an angry tone in reaction to the horrors she finds in India. Viewers may worry that this is a case of a Westerner scolding a developing nation, and in some ways that’s a valid critique. Many of the criticisms leveled at India here could easily be directed at Western nations. But as the film unfolds, experts from both India and the US take over.

If you’ve been considering veganism, this film could motivate you to take that step. We’re treated to the full horrors of how our meat and milk is obtained. The idea that cows give us milk is dismissed. “We steal their milk,” says Vyas-Ahuja.

The Land of Ahimsa leaves us in no doubt that India is failing to live up to its ideals, but at least it has those ideals in the first place. You can’t help but feel that the filmmakers could have thrown a dart at a world map and made the same movie about whichever country it happened to land on.

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