The title of “Invisible Demons,” a patiently observed documentary, refers to the tiny toxic particles polluting the air in the Indian capital of New Delhi. But the name may also denote another culprit: the leadership officials removed from the crisis who fail to find a solution for city residents.
Through a series of arresting images, the director Rahul Jain presents a city on the verge of apocalypse. Hazardous foam coats the murky Yamuna River, which teems with sewage and industrial waste. Towering garbage heaps speckle the streets. And, on a particularly polluted day, Jain manages to record individual flecks of hazardous haze, the microscopic matter whizzing across the screen in golden streaks. Breaking up the soaring cinematography are a series of casual interviews with residents.
Implicit within these pictures — and explicit in the testimonies — is a striking demarcation of the effects of the crisis based on wealth and access. Only some can afford air-conditioning and air purifiers, and families without running water must take time out of their days to fetch it from tankers.
Intermittently, Jain, a native of Delhi, offers additional information through voice-over; at one point, he even acknowledges his own position in the society, recalling how he “grew up as an air-conditioned child who couldn’t even imagine the natural world outside the city.” One wishes for more of such narration, to contextualize the devastating panoramas he has assembled. But, for the most part, Jain lets the images speak for themselves.
Not rated. In Hindi and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 10 minutes. In theaters.