The New York Times – 9 August, 2018
“The centerpiece here is a dreamy film by the two-person London-based Otolith Group (Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun). Titled “O Horizon,” it might be described as a species of creative nonfiction, an interpretive documentary. It was shot at Santiniketan, in rural West Bengal, India, where the poet Rabindranath Tagore established a utopian school in 1921. It gave equal weight to the arts and sciences and promoted the notion that all learning should take place outdoors, in parklike settings.
In the century since, Tagore’s “tree-schooling” project, intended as a departure from British colonial education, has been criticized as elitist and nationalist, a retreat from progressive political action in India. Although the school continues to be a training ground for traditional art, music and dance, it functions, some say, strictly as a museum.
The filmmakers don’t say that. They suspend judgment. They find beauty and let it be.
The confluence of past and present is detailed clearly in a spinoff series of digital prints that overlay color photographs of the present-day school with black-and-white images from a century ago. But the single most gripping demonstration of the school’s continuing relevance is in the film, which opens with a hellish explosion of fire and smoke generated by trucks working near the campus. The clamor subsides but later returns to punctuate scenes of dancing, singing and teaching under the trees.
Santiniketan is about 100 miles north of Kolkata. It can take a while to get there and that was part of Tagore’s plan, to simultaneously slow down and stimulate travelers as they approach what they know will be a life-altering place. Relax and excite: This is how pilgrimage works, and it has a timeless history in India. To Buddhists, the subcontinent is a geographic mandala defined by sacred sites. To visit them is to clock up frequent flier points for a final trip to the afterlife…”