Fifth Tri Continental Film Festival


Yamini Vijayan attends the Fifth Tri Continental Film Festival in Bangalore to catch a line-up of powerful and relevant films on human rights issues. There was an unsettling silence that hung heavily in the air. It was one thing to hear politicians bickering over the Kashmir issue on television or international communities debate ‘what would be right for the Kashmiris’. But to listen to the people who have lived in Kashmir for years talk about having to walk through the streets fearing the army and the militants, dealing with violence everyday, is an experience that could leave one feeing queasy within, and rightfully so.There Was A Queen, takes us into the lives of Kashmiri women, who have realised over time, that the only people they can rely on is themselves. ‘Kashmir is now filled with orphans and widows’, states a woman in the film, who is convinced of the futility of war that has brought on nothing but loss of lives and misery.

The Fifth Tri Continental Film Festival, organised by human rights organisation ‘Breakthrough’ with the Bangalore Film Society at Alliance France, Bangalore, last week was centred around human rights violation, in its broadest sense. The 28 films that were handpicked from a collection of 150 films from Asia, Africa and Latin America were part of a travelling film festival that passes through five Indian metros. “We use popular culture to mainstream human rights issues,” says Alika Khosla, director of the film festival in India. Flying Inside My Body is a poignant film that opens out into the personal and professional life of well known photographer Sunil Gupta, who returns to India after years of living abroad. Directed by a bunch of young graduates from Jamia Milia Islamia, this is an unusually honest film that delves into issues of physical appearances, sexuality and photography.

Gupta, an interesting storyteller himself, narrates his experiences of being tested positive for HIV and his life as a gay individual in India. The film received much applause, but it was hard not to have observed how people rushed out of the hall urgently, leaving behind only a handful of people and almost no scope for an interaction session. Why does this happen? “Well, the films are quite intense, some are very disturbing. Some people prefer to discuss the issues later. Some of them like to engage with the film individually, in their own spaces. Others may like to discuss the film with people who are familiar to them,” explains Alika.

Narrated through the life of protagonist Carmen who worked out of New York to send money back to her daughter in Bolivia, 24-year-old Nicholas Bruckman’s film The American addressed the issue of illegal immigrants entering the USA. Nicholas, who was present at the festival interacted comfortably with an audience which was exploding with responses and questions pertaining to the film. Nicholas broke through the stereotypical notion of today’s young American — indifferent to politics and somewhat self-indulgent. Or is that just being too presumptuous? “Well, that’s not entirely untrue. But then, with the whole Obama campaign, there are more young people getting involved. But what’s important is to continue putting pressure on the government, demanding for reforms. We can’t just be like ‘Oh now that Obama has been elected, let’s go back and watch MTV,” replied this activist filmmaker.

Films like Pray The Devil Back to Hell in which women in Liberia spark off a massive peace movement to put a halt to meaningless violence and The Choir which is about how music united fellow inmates in South Africa’s biggest prison acted as visual evidences of the power of the collective over the individual. Undercover in Tibet exposed the ‘cultural genocide’ that was carried out by the Chinese government in Tibet. A regular at the film festival this year, Bharat feels that interactive sessions between film screenings are absolutely essential. “It brings out what you’ve seen,” he says. Attending the festival has given him an opportunity to interact with like-minded people and find out their specific interests. People stood around after the film screenings, buying coffee and tea, talking to each other — some people they knew from before and some that they had just met. There was a general sense of camaraderie. It makes you wonder if it was born out of the mood that the films set, of respecting human dignity and choices, or had it always been there? Out of the collection of films screened, some of the films were heart wrenching, some were inspiring, some harsh — but what made them so powerfully relevant was that these were true stories, of real people and that’s what made all the difference. Although the films addressed a wide range of diverse issues, the underlying message that echoed throughout seemed to urge to learn to respect — choices, human sentiments and life.

Courtesy: Deccan Herald


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