Voices from India’s margins that go unheard in the mainstream inform an upcoming curated film package comprising documentaries and discussions that will play out on the sidelines of the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB).
Titled ‘Democracy & Film: Multiple Gazes, Diverse Vantage Points’, the package – part of the Kochi Biennale Foundation’s ‘Artists’ Cinema’ programme – has been curated by award-winning documentary filmmaker Rakesh Sharma. The package will run at the Pavilion in Cabral Yard from March 17-19. Screenings, with English subtitles, start at 6.30 pm daily.
The package will screen ground-level reportage from the hinterlands in works by independent filmmakers and activist collectives, stories on violence from Kashmir and Palestine as seen from a woman’s perspective as well as the violence of intolerance and its impact on the underclass.
“What I am trying to present here is a subaltern gaze by examining a series of conflicts that are affecting India. If you look at the broader picture – stripped of electoral politics and activist rhetoric, you realise that there is a conflict for resources – both minerals and mindsets – where the state is pitted in an adversarial role against the people in the margins,” Sharma said.
Noting that “the version peddled by the state” is what dominates headlines and talking points, Sharma said he is looking to present a counter-narrative. In the section ‘Voices from India’s Heart – the Tribal lands’ that opens the package, he presents films that examine Operation Green Hunt and other “quasi-military actions” against the tribals of the heartland followed by a discussion with Biju Toppo, Malini Subramaniam, Rinchin and Maheen Mirza.
There is Toppo’s award-winning documentary The Hunt (2015), which looks at the “all-out military offensive” and its impact. This section also features A Short Term Memory of Atrocity (2015), a photo-essay by video artist and photojournalist Javed Iqbal set in the Bastar hotzone. Other stories directed by the Bastar Collective include Encountering Injustice: The Case of Meena Khalko and Meanwhile the Killings Continue: The Encounter at Rewali.
“In the latter two cases, I’m looking at the Bastar Solidarity Network, which is producing remarkable ground-level reports. These are straight, simple reports on specific cases. Both the videos are specific, factual cases, not activist jargon or rhetoric,” Sharma said.
The second section ‘Women on Violence and Peace’ on March 18 looks at the life of women in the conflict zones to emphasise the personal nature of that happens in situations where there is “sustained systematic violence” and uses a series of stories to bring out narratives of loss ignored by mainstream cinema and media.
Following the screenings of Khoon Diy Baarav (Blood Leaves Its Trail, 2015) by independent Kashmiri filmmaker Iffat Fatima and Fida Qishta’s Where Should The Birds Fly (2013), there will be a discussion with Fatima that will be moderated by noted film scholar Dr. C.S. Venkiteswaran.
The final day will see a number of works in a section titled ‘The Violence of Intolerance’ that examines the “anatomy of violence”. These include Falah Faisal’s Going Gonzo: Independence Day (2016) that documents last year’s mobilisation in Una, Gujarat, after the public flogging of Dalits there, to Kairana: After the Headlines (2016) by Nakul Sawhney on the situation in Muzaffarnagar after the communal riots of 2013-14, and shorts by the Dalit Camera group.
This section will also screen excerpts from Sharma’s upcoming production Final Solution Revisited, the follow-up to his explosive 2004 documentary Final Solution on the 20
02 Gujarat riots. “It is the underclass that suffers most, whether as perpetrators or victims of violence. I could not study in-depth for the first film on how violence occurs on the border: between territories and communities that are mostly underclass living cheek by jowl. I spend time over the past decade probing this border, where most of the pitched battles occurred,” he said.
Sharma will also participate in a discussion with Sawhney, Venkat Ravichander and Mriduladevi Sasidharan of Dalit Camera that will be moderated by Venkiteswaran.
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