A brief review
The festival of South-Asian documentaries was held at Kathmandu from 17th September 2009 for 3 days. Altogether 35 documentaries were screened in two halls within Kumari hall at Kamalpokhari. Stories from seven of the SAARC countries participated whereas Maldives was missing in the line. I got opportunity to watch 15 of the films and found each of the films were very strong and sensitizing. Through these films, context, problems and issues of south-Asian world has been clearly portrayed. Three day’s rigorous watching films have opened the multiple avenues for further learning about South-Asia. The more curiosities that have been planted by these films were the assets I earned here. I tried to classify these 15 films as follows and have presented a commentary on 6 films.:
On conflict and disaster consequences – 4
The lightning testimonies (India 2007, Amar Kanwar)
Exploration of South Asia’s conflict through sexual violence, most them were just remained as the scary stories having no physical remains, hence the director took the challenge of portraying those stories in symbolic picture – so it is named ‘Lightening testimonies’. During the hindu-muslim conflict, Nagaland revolt, Manipur conflict, the sex violence had become a consequence. Hundreds of civil women from community, who have nothing to do with the conflict, were suffered from rape and murder by armies or rebels. As a culmination of the protest against these sex violence, the desolate family members and community neighbor in Manipur took out a nude rally with obscene slogans ‘Rape us’, ‘Eat our flesh’ etc.
Mayomi (Srilanka, 2008, Carol Salter)
A story of a Sri Lankan woman who had to face the great disaster tsunami in 2004 was resettled in the government’s colony. The scene of disaster and process of resettlement from the perspective of the victim has shown clearly in this movie. Besides, it also presented her hardship to hold family together and to bear the intimidation of her drunkard husband. The story climaxed in scene of quarrel and violence, scene of playing her son kicking the chair imitating the drunkard father and scene of handing over her husband to police.
The forgotten refugees (Bhutan, 2009, Amanda Burrel)
It’s a story of pseudo-Nepali tenants living in Eastern Nepal as political refugees since 1991. When bitter debates arose in Bhutan's National Assembly over the status and rights of the Nepali community, hard-line Drukpas (Buddhist Bhutanese) demanded that Nepalis be removed from "sensitive" government posts or even that all Nepalis are expelled from Bhutan in order to preserve the traditional Buddhist culture. This ethnic-based conflict force the Nepali Hindu community inhabited in southern Bhutan to flee away from the homeland.
The film portrayed the hardship of life being in refugee status. When the entire door for opportunity of livelihood is closed, they had to live under humanitarian aid and had to live in temporary camp housing for some seventeen years. This is not less than life sentenced prison.
These some 100000 people became a subject of international interest but nobody could resolve it simply. An interview with minister of foreign affair blatantly express that all of those are not the Bhutanese nationals, all are illegal inhabitants whereas in refugee camp septuagenarian, octogenarians were waiting for repatriation holding the original Bhutanese citizenship card, land ownership card and other legal document.
This length of time has resulted in many consequences. Some 60000 people were accepted to taken to third countries (USA, Canada, Australia) whereas some have extreme dissatisfaction to this act and still expecting for repatriation.
The issue seems so simple that the citizens has right to live in own country. But, at the same time it became so complicated which lead to seventeen years of hard life.
The battle for Pakistan (Pakistan 2009, Maheen Zia)
Muslim’s name come at the first whenever there is the issue of international terrorism. After September 11, its reputation degraded even more. US forces hit the madrassas of Afghanistan and pull down the Taliban regime. Then Saddam Hussain became next target and later executed. The suicide attackers of September 11 attack were reported the people from Pakistani Madrassas. President of Pakistan Mr. Musarraf got tired for defending the accusation and in response he laid the law for formalizing Madrassas in Pakistan. This led to different debates and questions. Madrassas are the seat for Islam learning where most of the Muslims devote their academic life in substitute of modern schooling. Some of the extremist’s Madrassas became the school for military training and had become the mother of armed rebel. But can this reputation be generalized for all the madrassas ? This question was raised in this film. The voices were shown in the film that though there is much room for reform in Madrassas, these institutions are the living heritage of the Isam. Some voices were also screened stating that terror and war is not the Islam and nothing to do with genuine Madrassas however some Madrassas unfortunately submitted themselves to the misdeed.
The promised land, (Bangladesh 2008 - Tanvir Mokammel)
This film portrays the heart touching story of ‘biharis’. The Biharis are non-Bengali Indians (urdu-speaking muslims) who settled in East Pakistan after the partition of India, 1947; many of them supported West Pakistan during Bangladesh's struggle for independence and have been unwelcome in Bangladesh ever since. In earlier episode of the film, the dread violence between Bangalese and Biharis was put forward. Thousands of civilian succumb to genocide during this conflict. The family members of victims told the scene of that terror was frightening.
The long-standing problem of Bangladesh's Biharis was seemed to be alleviated in the year 1980, as Pakistan repatriated the last of a large group of Biharis it had agreed to accept, in a 1979 pact with Bangladesh. Nearly 113,000 Biharis were repatriated to Pakistan under an earlier, 1973 agreement; since then, numerous would-be emigrants have been turned away.
Now the rest of more than hundred thousand Biharis remained in Bangladesh for some six decades expecting their repatriation. Some are still struggling for it calling themselves as ‘stranded pakistanis’. The hardship of living without any identity and legal citizenship status, limiting whole family in inhabitable small rooms of 8’ X 8’ room devoid of any privacy and comfort, is hard to imagine. Now the new generation who have born there and grown up they don’t have feeling of going to Pakistan. For them Bangladesh is their mother land. They call them self urdu-speaking Bangladeshi and also those have taken their formal education in Bengali.
The researcher reported in the Q & A session that recently they were given the citizenship status by government. So they have new avenues in the way forward. Wish them for their good life further.
On Development critics – 1
Delhi : work in progress (India 2008, Krishnendu Bose)
The film was a critical overview of the ongoing development works in Delhi as the quest of making it Mega city. Huge investment on road, flyovers, metrolines and other infrastructure were justified as a step for managing traffic congestion, providing better city facilities. But in the other hand it was criticized as it only meant for the well off population whereas around 50% of population living slums were ignored. It is good of the film that it attempted to sensitize the authorities to look up their policies for the betterment of disadvantaged group too.
Biographies – 2
People’s leader – Last 72 days (Pakistan 2008 Nargis Hasmi)
Flying on One engine (India/USA 2008, Joshua Weinstein)
Informative features – 6
The last rites (Bangladesh, 2008 dir-Yasmine kabir)
Out of thin air ( India, 2009 Samroon Farooqui and Shabani Hassanwalia)
All the world’s stage (India 2008, Nirmal Chandar)
Shores far away (India 2007, Savyasaachi jain)
Salt stories (India 2008 Lalit Vachani)
In the market stands Kabir : Journeys with sacred and secular Kabir (India, 2008 Sabnam Virmani)
On disadvantaged caste group and children issues – 1
Childrens of the pyre ( India 2008, Rajesh S Jala)