Himalaya Watch

People, issues. Debates, perspectives. Details, nuances. A crisp view from the top.

Visit the new professional website of Jiwan Kshetry

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Raw human emotions at display in film festival

Some reflections after watching 7 films/documentaries at 3rd Nepal Human Rights Int'l Film Festival in Kathmandu. 

Ever since I watched the first documentary 5 or 6 years back about the rapidly disappearing species of elephants in Traveling Film Southasia, I have been endlessly mesmerized by this particular mode of storytelling. As a result I have tried my best not to miss any documentary that is screened in my town, mostly in the film festivals.

This was the second time I could watch films (most of them documentaries but some of them relevant feature films also) in the Nepal Human Rights International Film Festival held in Kathmandu. Given the grim state of human rights in Nepal and beyond, it was natural for traumatic stories to dominate the picture.

Given the sorry state of affairs at our own home, two documentaries about the victims of conflict in Nepal were among the most poignant depiction of horror with which people are forced to survive. The relatives of the nearly 1500 persons who are still with 'disappeared' status had been documented in one of these. While the whims of Baidya or Prachanda get a thunderous applause and a wide coverage in the media, the victims of the conflict they engendered remain in the dark, with agonizing pain and suffering that results from having to wait endlessly for those who are supposed to be dead, for all practical purposes, yet have no proof thereof. From the story of a teenager girl who undergoes nervous breakdown after disappearance of her father to an elderly couple who have lost the earning son to be thrown into misery, the expression of the agony in the documentary 'The Last Message' was overwhelming. While both the state and the rebels had engaged in arbitrarily forcing people into disappearance, the suffering was same in both sides and the struggle the families have gone through in an attempt to trace their loved ones remains essentially similar.

The wait now continues for more than 6 years even after the formal end of the insurgency. The former rivals army and the by-now-disarmed Maoists have patched up so badly that the collusion to ensure impunity for perpetrators of egregious crimes on either side during the conflict seems to be a foregone conclusion. While the irrecoverable loss of the family member has taken its toll on the families over the decade, the mundane affairs like property transfer have thrown people into insurmountable difficulties now that the former rebels have jettisoned the issue of disappeared people from their priority.

The other documentaries caught the trauma of people in many geographical regions in the world. Of particular merit was the one from Pakistan named 'Saving face' about the victims of acid attack in Pakistan. In most disturbing instance, a mother of small children, after being disfigured by acid attack by her husband, makes peace with the family hoping to give a better future to the children. The family however keeps her in a room isolated from her children and she cannot even see them. In more encouraging side of the story, one woman assembles courage to seek justice from the courts. While the arrogant husband, nabbed by the police, plans the revenge on her for putting him into jail, his lawyer keeps postponing the hearing of the case. The result: by the time the verdict is given, as a result of intense campaign by the activists, the parliament has passed a stringent bill handing life imprisonment to the culprits and the man gets two life sentences in the landmark case!

The others included 'The Dead Sea', a hybrid film about the fate of fishermen in Rameshwaram in face of the Srilankan army's attempt to cleanse Srilanka of the LTTE rebels.

One feature film with magnanimous display of human emotions was also shown in the festival: Gei Oni by veteran Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman. Based on a novel about the struggles of Jews who were hunted across Europe and were moving to Ottoman-ruled Palestine more than a century ago, this film pursues a character named Fanya who after losing her entire family in a pogrom in Russia and giving birth to a baby fathered by a Russian army-man builds her new future after arrival in Palestine. The story proceeds delicately with her attempts to reconcile the trauma of the past and hardship of the present and ends with the cathartic revelation of the real details of the pogrom to her husband. My own preoccupations about today's Israel as the brazen occupying force in the region did not prevent me from enjoying the subtle portrayal of the lives of people in those days.

My plans to ask Wolman if he had similar empathy to today's sufferers in Palestine, however, did not materialize.

Even though I could not watch all the movies in the festival, the weekend became highly eventful as there were so many things to learn from the movies I could manage to watch.

Besides giving crucial insights about the space and time we are living in, the other advantage of watching films about difficulties and agony in people's lives is that, when in trouble, it strikes to you that "see, there were people, surviving with so many difficulties and so much of pain; what is this after all". That is one aspect I love about watching diverse movies: they somehow impact the way you think and understand the world.

No comments:

विजय कुमारको खुशी पढेपछि

जीवन, खुशी अहंकार

जीवनमा अफ्ठ्यारा घुम्तीहरुमा हिंडिरहँदा मैले कुनै क्षणमा पलायनलाई एउटा विकल्पको रुपमा कल्पना गरेको थिएँ, त्यसलाई यथार्थमा बदल्ने आँट गरिनँ, त्यो बेग्लै कुरा हो त्यसबेला लाग्थ्योः मेरा समग्र दुखहरुको कारण मेरो वरपरको वातावरण हो, यसबाट साहसपूर्वक बाहिरिएँ भने नयाँ दुख आउलान् तर तत्क्षणका दुरुह दुखहरु गायब भएर जानेछन् कति गलत थिएँ !

Read more from Dashain Issue

Debating partition of India: culpability and consequences

Read the whole story here

Why I write...

I do not know why I often tend to view people rather grimly: they usually are not as benevolent, well-intentioned and capable or strong as they appear to be. This assumption is founded on my own self-assessment, though I don’t have a clue as to whether it is justifiable to generalize an observation made in one individual. This being the fact, my views of writers as ‘capable’ people are not that encouraging: I tend to see them as people who intend to create really great and world-changing writings but most of the times end up producing parochial pieces. Also, given the fact that the society where we grow and learn is full of dishonesty, treachery, deceit and above else, mundanity, it is rather unrealistic to expect an entirely reinvigorating work of writing from every other person who scribbles words in paper.

On life's challenges

Somebody has said: “I was born intelligent but education ruined me”. I was born a mere child, as everyone is, and grew up as an ordinary teenager eventually landing up in youth and then adulthood. The extent to which formal education helped me to learn about the world may be debatable but it definitely did not ruin me. There were, however, things that nearly ruined me. There came moments when I contemplated some difficult choices. And there came and passed periods when I underwent through an apparently everlasting spell of agony. There came bends in life from which it was very tempting to move straight ahead instead of following the zigzag course.

Read more