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Illuminating lives and firing determination

Dec 12, 2012

A two-day film festival organised by the Delhi-based The Kriti Team and the YWCA to commemorate the latter's centenary had the audience lapping up documentaries on climate change, culture and identities, but those on gender and women-related themes had the maximum impact.

The Kriti Team film festival

Two days of watching movies continuously can be an arduous task. Even then, hundreds of students, a majority of them girls, patiently sat and watched scores of movies for two consecutive days. Not an easy job if the movies being screened are documentary and on subjects as varied as climate change and culture; identity and activism; women’s rights and civic amenities.

Still, the two-day ‘Illuminating Lives’ film festival held to commemorate the centenary celebrations of the YWCA at Delhi achieved its purpose—people laughed, learnt and took back lessons for life. Even as many a young woman came out inspired, several had witnessed a film festival for the first time and yet others confronted the fact that being a woman is not easy in today’s world despite its trappings of technology, empowerment and fast-paced change.

A group of students doing BSc in Medical Lab Technology were discussing movies that left an indelible mark on their thoughts. More than any thing else, they were all debating movies made on women issues. Commenting on ‘Much Ado About Knotting’, a movie that brought up the issue of match making in the Indian context, Nikita, the most vocal of this group said: “To look around for a groom through the various swamyars or match-making through public events seems very embarrassing. I am sure I do not want to get married in the same fashion. The movie was good because it was light-hearted and funny.”

Divya, Nikita’s classmate was touched by the movies, ‘The Saroj Khan Story’ and ‘On My Own’. “We know about Saroj Khan and her work but did not know about her private life and her struggles. I like her focus and her determination. Despite her personal tragedies, Saroj Khan moved on in her professional life and excelled.”

Organised and curated by the Delhi-based NGO, The Kriti Team, the film festival had film makers who shared secrets of their work with the audience. Well known photographer and filmmaker Vijay Jodha as well as Nitin Das, known for his work with communities interacted with the audiences.

Das presented a number of short films that put the spotlight on issues like environment, climate change and aspirations of people. Demystifying film-making, Das said: “Movie-making is not difficult. If you have an idea, that will do. My work is with the community. They are the actors in my films.” Das also spoke about the Elf Project in which he is making serious films on environment. He said: “Not many people want to view a serious film being made on environment. I want to make interesting films that people would want to watch. My films, therefore, do not have dialogue so that these can be watched and understood by global audiences.” Moreover, his website Elf Project is open for all to see his movies.

Das’ short productions were a hit with the young crowd and the auditorium echoed with peels of laughter. ‘Monks and Mosquitoes’ was one such movie that invited applause from the crowd despite the fact that the movie was about an issue as serious and debatable as climate change. With hardly any serious undertones or sermonising, the small film built a rapport with the audience and brought home the devastating impacts that a few degrees of change can bring about in the current comfortable scenario.

But not all fare at the festival went well with the audiences. A documentary from the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) ‘Stir Fry Simmer’ that unravelled complex issues of identity, region, alienation and their links with food and cuisine evoked a dry response. ‘Stir Fry Simmer’ wove not only the different parts of India but also touched upon issues as diverse as, writing on sex by women; the Irom Sharmila struggle; issues of untouchability; the mushahar community; migration and stereotypes—a potpourri that understandably was not easily comprehensible.

Besides documentary screenings and interactions with film-makers, the two-day fest had stalls dishing out food, handicrafts and curios. Talking about the festival, organiser and curator, Aanchal Kapur said: “This was the first time we had interacted and associated with the YWCA and it was a remarkable experience. Everything went smoothly, there was a lot of space for people to move around and for the organisers to exhibit their stuff. We hope to collaborate with them again to highlight similar issues.”

The films showed impact. Kiran Gill, working as an intern with a Member of Parliament and one who has seen film festivals earlier also, came out more determined. She said: “These movies showed how women’s lives are full of struggle. Indian women have a lot of patience. My father wanted me to get married when I was in class XII but I convinced him for an education. I learnt that I have to move forward in life and for that I will have to fight and struggle.”

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