India’s indigenous cinema is going places

Four films on Indian communities are showing at the ongoing International Indigenous Film Festival of Kuching, Malaysia
Niranjan Kujur’s Dibi Durga is a unique short film about a day in the life of an indigenous woman. In its duration of a mere six minutes, it manages to encapsulate the sheer range and amount of work the woman (from the Santhal tribe in the Purulia district of West Bengal) manages to carry out — be it at home, in the fields, or the forests. “It’s true of any society, anywhere in the world but we remain blind to women’s labour,” says Mr. Kujur, a graduate of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, who was born in Jharkhand’s Lohardaga district and grew up in Ranchi.
Dibi Durga is one of the four films on indigenous Indian communities made by native filmmakers, or in collaboration with the communities, that are showing at the ongoing International Indigenous Film Festival of Kuching, Malaysia.
The other three are Niyamgiri-The Mountain of Law by Surya Shankar Dash (Odisha), Shot Awake by Anungla Zoe (Nagaland), and Strength in Diversity by Chentei (Nagaland). On various issues involving the indigenous communities — from State and corporate oppression to environmental degradation, and from gender to lifestyle and culture — these films are an attempt to give indigenous people a voice to raise their concerns and create awareness in the world about themselves.
Giving a voice
“The films are on a gamut of issues and subjects,” said filmmaker-activist Mr. Dash, also the founder of the International Indigenous Film Festival of Bhubaneswar. Strength in Diversity is about an indigenous variety of millet in Nagaland, a stress resistant crop that can withstand extreme drought as well as heavy rains. Shot Awake is on the making of a traditional drum carved out of the bark of a huge tree and used in many community rituals. Niyamgiri – The Mountain of Law focuses on the fight of the Dongria Kondh community to save the environment and their sacred lands from being taken over by bauxite mining companies. The film has previously been screened at venues such as the Bali Indigenous Film Festival, Ubud; the Kalimantan Indigenous Film Festival, Palangka Raya, Indonesia; and the Maoriland Film Festival in Otaki, New Zealand. All the four films were screened at the 1st International Indigenous Film Festival of Bhubaneswar in February earlier this year, which is where they were picked up by the Kuching festival. He hopes that the Bhubaneswar festival will become the one stop shop for global indigenous film festivals to source Indian films.

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