January 31 — Underground Labor
Evil Stalks the Land
Director: Gauhar Raza
Evil Stalks the Land is a dedication to all those who were killed in the devastating events of Hindus attacking Muslims in Gujarat in early 2002. The documentary touches upon the involvement of politics, police, government machinery, control of the local media, which ensured the successful orchestration of this carnage. Gauhar Raza communicates a deeper message through his film: The message that ethnic and religious divide is complete and if the saner sections of the society do not rise to the occasion then the country’s integrity is threatened.
An electrical engineer by qualification, Gauhar Raza has produced ten video documentary films (using various video formats) on numerous socially relevant subjects during the past 15 years.
Life on the Margin
Director: Arun Kumar
Bihar, a State of eastern India, has for the past 30 years been witness to massacres in the name of caste. A total violation of socio-cultural dignity to entire communities, inequitable land holdings, increasing landlessness among the “lower” castes, a systematic denial of minimum wages are some of the factors, which have contributed to incessant violence in the state. The endemic caste oppression did not allow democratic forms of struggle. As a result, violence emerged as a language of protest and justice and over a period of time metamorphosed into the only language of politics. In the 1990s alone, 445 persons have been killed in massacres (in government terms, a massacre is an incident during which 5 or more people are killed). If we include the people killed in “non-massacres”, the number approaches the 1500 mark.
In 1994 the “upper” caste militias coalesced to form the highly armed Ranvir Sena under the leadership of the Bhumihar caste and masterminded nearly a dozen massacres to quell the emerging movement of the poor and the landless. A section of the Left, known as the People’s War and Maoist Communist Centre, parallely killed upper caste landlords in championing its cause for the lowly and the deprived.
Hashiye Par Zindagi – Life on the Margin documents the voices of widows of these massacres in the State. The women filmed represent both the “lower” and the “upper” castes of Bihar. The film tries to bring out what women think of killings; how they cope with loneliness, hunger and insecurity after the incident. They also tell us what they see as a possible way out from the current quagmire of violence.
The film has been made by the Violence Mitigation and Amelioration Project (VMAP). It is central to a State-wide campaign against violence, initiated in Bihar a year ago. It has to date, been watched by over 50,000 people. It is hoped that the Campaign will start a debate on the futility of violence.
Arun Kumar is a graduate of History from Hindu College, University of Delhi. He obtained a PhD in Sociology from State University of New York, Binghamton. He has authored, Rewriting the Language of Politics: Kisans in Colonial Bihar, Manohar Publishers (India), 2001. He is currently coordinating the Campaign against Violence in Bihar, as a consultant with the Oxfam (India) Trust. Some of his previous films are Land Struggles in Bihar (2000) and Land of Memories (2001), which tells the story of 19th century migration from Bihar to Mauritius through folk song.
The Killing Terraces
Director: Dhurba Basnet
Since February 1996, the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) has been waging a violent struggle in a bid to capture state power in Nepal. From its humble beginnings in five districts, the insurgency has spread all over the country and has now become the foremost challenge facing the state. In early 2001, the filmmaker accompanied a group of journalists on a journey to Rolpa, Rukum and Jajarkot, three districts in far-western Nepal that make up the stronghold of the Maoists. Using footage shot over 26 days in the tough mountainous terrain of the region, the film attempts to understand the causes underlying the rise of the Maoists, and its effect on the local population.
Dhurba Basnet began filmmaking as a cameraman with Nepal Television (NTV) in June 1985, and began freelancing from 1993. He has served as a cameraman for various international broadcasting agencies. The Killing Terraces is his first independent documentary.
Director: Meera Dewan
Backstage Boys illustrates the impact of globalization on the century old trend of immigration from Punjab in north-western India to Europe and North America. Despite tough immigration laws and the inherent risks involved in illegal international travel, there is a constant stream of brave, adventurous, and perhaps foolhardy, young men willing to take chances lured by the promise of plenty in the west. This documentary follows the hopes and compulsions of some of these men.
As Film Director of South View Productions and recipient of 16 film awards in international festivals, Meera Dewan collaborates with TV stations around the world to produce films on human rights particularly issues around women, children, indigenous people and traditional Indian knowledge systems.
In the Flesh
Director: Bishakha Datta
Through its cinematic quest to represent the lived experiences of men, women and trans-genders in prostitution, this 53-minute documentary provides an intimate insider’s account of what it is really like to be a prostitute – by following the lives of three real life characters: Shabana, Uma and Bhaskar. As camerawoman Ranu Ghosh’s lens moves deftly from one character to another, we begin to witness and understand the day-to-day lives of women, men and trans-genders in prostitution. We see their workplaces, hear their stories, see them pick up customers, persuade clients to wear condoms, fight HIV/AIDS in their communities, and battle violence through simple homemade weapons and collective action on the streets. Director, Bishakha Datta provides us with a more nuanced view of prostitution – one in which violence and victimhood sit side by side with a relentless drive to survive.
Datta, who is the program director of the non-profit organization, Point of View in Mumbai, has directed and produced documentary videos on numerous social issues.
February 7 — Kashmir
Paradise on a River of Hell
Director: Abir Bazaz and Meenu Gaur
A culture of tolerance in Kashmir had been turned by Nund Rishi – the fifteenth century Sufi believed to be an incarnation of the Buddha – into a morality of the Other. The morality that refused to understand the schizophrenia of India’s Partition, the language of rejection of the Other. Abir Bazaz and Meenu Gaur’s -‘Paradise on a River of Hell’, is a film on Kashmir’s catastrophic desolation. The film weaves itself out of the knots of memory, the tapestry of truths and the cruel calligraphy of fate Kashmir witnessed in the 1990s. It seeks to reflect and refract the multiple experiences of tortured subjectivity in Kashmir. Not attempting to situate the 1990s in this or that event, person, space or time,
the film’s mappings of personal and collective memories bears witness to Kashmir’s historical solitude.
Abir Bazaz, a writer and filmmaker from Kashmir, has been the recipient of BBC fellowships for 1998-2000, as well as the United Mass Media Fellowship. Meenu Gaur is actively engaged in the issues of media, gender and politics. She is involved in theatre and has won awards for acting and debating.
Tell them the Tree They had Planted has now Grown
Director: Ajay Raina
A glimpse into a cinematic diary of a Kashmiri revisiting Kashmir to witness the scars of a ‘Paradise’, now lost. Ajay Raina looks at the lives of the Kashmiris who have stayed behind and their struggles. He examines the changing scenario – the ideology, the history and the cause of militancy in Kashmir. The film is replete with nostalgia and memoirs of people and places. It also delves into the psychological scars, the despair and the hopes for a better future, a better “Kashmir”.
Ajay Raina, a writer and director, has scripted and directed a docu-fiction film, several documentaries, corporate films, soap for Sony Entertainment Network and a number of training and children’s films.
February 14 — Organ Trafficking
Director: Govind Nihalani
Set in 2022, Deham captures the Mephistophelean contract between the First and Third Worlds. Om Prakash is a jobless young man, living with his wife Jaya, mother MA and younger brother Jeetu in a one-room tenement. Unable to endure poverty anymore, Om responds to an enticing deal from a multinational corporation, Interplanta: a life of luxury in exchange for signing as an organ-donor to a wealthy foreign client. The story revolves around the changes Om and his family go through in exchange for a better lifestyle. Govind Nihalani explores the shifting dependence between the buyer and the bought, the seller and sold and the complexities of relationship between the rapidly advancing technology and human beings. Human emotions and values are the true currency in this exploration of love, betrayal, freedom and dignity in a world just around the next technological corner.
Nihalani, who began his career as a cinematographer in 1962, has worked on several award winning films as the director of photography. He has also the National Award for Best Color Cinematography for “Junoon” in 1979.
February 21 — Children
Fiddlers on the Thatch
Director: Trisha Das
Fiddlers on the Thatch is a heartwarming story of the triumph of the human spirit.
Father Edward McGuire, a missionary, comes to India and starts a little school, ‘The Gandhi Ashram School’ on a patch of land in Kalimpong. Hoping to attract the children of the local inhabitants, mostly coolies and road construction laborers, Father wisely offers three square meals and the services of an inspired music teacher. After years of hard work, three talented children from the school, from 4 – 14 years of age, bring to life symphonies of Mozart, Vivaldi and Strauss amongst others through a 70 strong western classical music orchestra. Under the expert direction of Trisha Das, the film follows the lives of four individuals whose lives are entwined by a common factor – music and The Gandhi Ashram School.
Trisha Das has studied film making at New York University. She has also recently conceived, directed and scripted a series of ten short films and a documentary film titled, “Steps and Strides” on India’s march into the new millennium.
The Children We Sacrifice
Director: Grace Poore
Grace Poore’s personal experience drives the focus of her documentaries and the passion for her work as an activist who produces and uses videos to advocate an end to violence against women and girls. The Children We Sacrifice, winner of the 2000 Rosebud Award and the 2001 Creating a Voice Award, explores the universal crime of incestuous sexual abuse through the prism of South Asian experience and highlights its culture of silence. Shot in India, Sri Lanka, Canada and the U.S., the film has interviews, statistics and images of childhood innocence alternating with paintings, music and poetry by incest survivors to visually juxtapose the harsh reality of home as source of refuge and violation. At the heart of it, this video is a moving validation of women who confront different levels of shaming and secrecy around a deeply camouflaged issue and a celebration of the survivors of incest who defy social pressure and make visible the horrors they have experienced.
A graduate from Syracuse University, Grace has worked for the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women in Sri Lanka as well as the US-based National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.