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The New York Times

Eating Grass (Film Still)

Alia Syed

''Eating Grass,'' the title of the short film that constitutes Alia Syed's second New York solo show, carries a specific political reference. It comes from a promise made in 1974 by President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan that his country would have nuclear weapons like those of India, even if Pakistanis had to eat grass to finance it. The film itself, however, with its pellucid colors and constantly shifting images of everyday life, seems in mood worlds away from such tensions.

Shot in Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan, and in London, it seems to take place within a single day, with the setting alernating between a domestic interior and the street. Sunlight falls on courtyard furniture and potted flowers; two women are busy in the house, preparing, perhaps, for a journey. In the market, activity and noise ebb and flow.

Throughout, voices speak disjointedly in Urdu and English, using phrases from stories written by Ms. Syed, who is of Welsh and Indian descent. The stories refer to the five times of day prescribed for Muslim prayer, the words as impressionistic as the images themselves.

The end of the film seems to be set in rainy London at night. Drops of water swell into abstract forms that increase in luminosity, until pure white light floods the screen. It may or may not be the equivalent of a blinding nuclear blast, but it is a logical and striking resolution to a film that filters a richly colored history through a visionary prism.

-Holland Cotter