SXSW 2022: ‘Crows Are White’ Explores The Weight of Faith

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Crows Are White - But Why Tho

Crows Are White is a documentary film directed by Ahsen Nadeem. Taking place over the span of five years, the film finds Nadeem traveling to Mt. Hiei in Japan in order to speak with the monks there. In particular, he wants to meet with a monk named Kamihori who is undergoing the tradition known as Kaihōgyō where he walks a marathon each night for a thousand days. However, Kamihori has taken a vow of silence, making it difficult to communicate. Matters aren’t helped when Nadeem and his crew are kicked out of the temple for a minor infraction. Nadeem ends up befriending a monk named Ryushin who works at the front of the temple, and has his own ideas about faith.

Faith is a subject that’s always interested me. I studied theology in college and had plenty of lengthy discussions about the similarities and differences between certain faiths. I also tend to enjoy films that explore matters of faith, from indie fare like The Spine of Night (which premiered at last year’s SXSW) to big blockbusters like Eternals. So to say Crows Are White is right up my alley isn’t too much of a stretch. Nadeem tackles how rigid faith can be and the toll it can take, especially when it comes to his own life.

This conflict ends up being the reason why he traveled to Mt. Hiei. When he was younger, Nadeem felt constricted by the traditions of his parents’ Muslim faith and found escape when he went to college. However, that binary roars back in full force over the course of the film as he struggles with telling his parents he’s married to a non-Muslim. Thanks to some clever editing, Nadeem’s struggles are represented via a series of old black and white cartoons, as a cat is trapped behind a series of doors. He also splices in various Zoom and Skype calls, which adds a sense of realism to the otherwise glossy shots of Japan.

The duality between faith is best represented in Nadeem’s interactions with Kamihori and Ryushin, respectively. Kamihori is dedicated to his work, he doesn’t utter a word, and Nadeem and crew even follow him through the forest when he begins his nightly walks. Ryushin, on the other hand, is about as far from the picture of a monk as you can imagine. He and Nadeem bond over their love of ice cream, their struggles with their families and faith, and even music as Ryushin happens to be a huge fan of metal bands, especially Slayer. Ryushin also reveals that he still believes in the Buddhist way, but he doesn’t feel comfortable with some of the traditions. This approach showcases how different people approach religion, and that you don’t have to be bound by a certain set of rules to believe in something.

Crows Are White is a profound exploration of the nature of faith, especially how it can have an impact on one’s life for good or ill. It’s rare to find a film that strikes this much of a personal chord, but I’m glad I watched it. And it will definitely resonate with others, especially those struggling with their own matters of faith.

Crows Are White had its world premiere at the SXSW 2022 film festival.


Crows Are White
  • 9.5/10
    Rating - 9.5/10
9.5/10

TL;DR

Crows Are White is a profound exploration of the nature of faith, especially how it can have an impact on one’s life for good or ill. It’s rare to find a film that strikes this much of a personal chord, but I’m glad I watched it. And it will definitely resonate with others, especially those struggling with their own matters of faith.