Missing in the Land of the Gods (Davor Dirlic, 2012, India/Australia)

Missing in the Land of the Gods is a 2012 documentary by Davor Dirlic. The film concerns Ryan Chambers, a young Australian man who went missing in Australia in 2005. Chambers, who as of last year was pronounced officially deceased by the Australian government, left nothing but a cryptic message behind to his family. As is often the case, Ryan may have intentionally gone missing. Nevertheless, his family wants to find him. The documentary follows Ryan's parents Jock and Di as they travel around India looking for Ryan. In the process, they become initiated into a world very unlike their own.

Perhaps one of the biggest weaknesses of Missing is that it provides very little on Ryan's backstory. We get very little sense of Ryan's early life or his motivations in wanting to go on a journey of self-exploration in India. Instead, the majority of the film is focused from the perspective of Ryan's parents. While there are moments of occasional insight (for example, Jock reflects on a history of suicidal feelings in his family history), there is little given about the backstory of the Chambers family.

As a result, Missing feels like a travelogue of modern India. It captures the chaos, but also the religiosity of the country. Jock and Di are sympathetic protagonists, but we can't help but feel that their efforts - speaking with very ineffectual police departments, handing out flyers - will not come to much. The documentary seems to acknowledge this, and the film ultimately becomes more about Jock and Di's spiritual journey, than the actual search for Ryan. Missing in the Land of the Gods is a flawed but intriguing documentary that fuses a missing person case with a travelogue of a vast country. Sadly, Jock and Di's efforts were not successful in the end.



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