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While you were at IFFI

The annual gathering of filmi folks began in Goa yesterday. According to the local rags, Rekha was the chief guest at a ceremony compered by Amrita Rao at the Kala Academy. The press coverage of IFFI tends to be, well, iffy. Rehashes of press releases make it to all the newspapers as if it were gospel truth. Whatever happened to reporting?

So, until this morning, one had no idea of the screening schedule or what the day held for film buffs. Over 6000 ‘delegates’ hopefully got some sort of schedule before-hand, but the aam junta is still clueless. Today’s papers have an ad listing a few films being screened around Goa, including Taare Zameen Par.

If you really want value for money (or free, in this case), head over instead to Institute Piedade in Panjim (opp Bread & More, round the corner from the Mandovi Hotel). The ‘Goan People’s Film Festival: Celebrating lives and livelihoods’, a parallel film festival began yesterday (22-29 November). Screening films from India and Bangladesh, this little festival packs a big punch.

I was at the inaugural film screening yesterday evening, and I was so glad to have gone. The festival began with Stalin K’s film ‘India Untouched: Stories of a People Apart’. This was a hard-hitting, and disturbing account of India’s Dalits, the 260 million people living on the fringes of mainstream Indian society. Stalin’s film was flawless, a seamless narrative of untouchability and the caste divide in urban and rural India. We talk of India being a super-power, a world leader in the 21st century. How will we get there when we still have millions who cannot draw water from a village well or walk through their town with dignity because they are from a ‘lower-caste’?

This film puts several pieces of the puzzle into place. You suddenly understand how the Mayawatis and Yadavs of this country (whether in North or South India) manage to come to power and stay there. For the people they supposedly claim to represent, these politicians are their only ray of hope. After being ignored and kicked aside for centuries, it is only natural that they cling to the one person who promises (again and again) to help them. The help may never come, but if they give this up, what’s left?

The issue is relevant even in Goa, this most liberal of Indian states. Here,caste is swept under the carpet or brought out surreptitiously. In Goa, “Where are you from?” has a lot more behind it than simple curiosity, I’ve learnt. It’s a way to identify not just your village, but your caste and pedigree.

The screening was followed with a discussion where viewers had the opportunity to interact with the director and Dadu Mandrekar, noted Goan Dalit rights activist.

Stalin’s film deserves a much bigger audience. This is the kind of movie that IFFI should be screening. This is the film that should go to International film festivals including Cannes and the Oscars. Against this, TZP has no chance – it’s just fluff.

If our Film Board has guts, it will look at independent film makers for next years entries. But we know this will not happen.

If you’re up to some strong movies and want to give your braincells a workout, drop in for a screening or two at this innovative festival. The schedule is here and here.

Pictures of Day one here.
About ‘India Untouched’ and the director.

Here’s a glimpse of the film. Go,watch it.

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