Exorcism or Placebo? This Kashmiri Faith Healer Treats a Community Traumatized by Conflict | Op-Docs

Musa Syeed’s evocative short film “The Dispossessed,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. The film shows how Mohammed Shafi Hazari, a traditional faith healer, exorcises patients who’ve been possessed. But in Kashmir, amidst the world’s longest running conflict, nothing is as it seems. A xerox technician by day, Hazari has a faith healing practice, looking for signs his patients might be possessed by a jinn. Bu more often than not, he finds what his patients call possession may actually be depression, triggered by a conflict that has dragged on for decades.

Syeed writes that, “As I filmed Mr. Hazari, I initially wanted to know after each treatment: exorcism or placebo? I wanted him to confirm something spectacular was happening. But as I watched patients eager to feel the healing in his breath, his hand, his dull knife, I bit my tongue. Here was a man who amid conflict and violence invites strangers to sit with him, to listen to their problems, to offer some hope that, together, they might solve them. And what do you call that, other than a miracle?”

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