For the love of water

For the love of water

Film festival

Film festival on water

A few seconds later, as she was marvelling at the sound of the water gushing down, she saw something that made her cringe. A few rotten tomatoes and a filthy blue polythene cover were making its way downstream, carried by the water. ‘I should have known better’, she thought smugly. A tragic irony, that’s now become a perpetual reality.  
Veneet Raj Bagga’s film Deeply Superficial, which is to be screened at ‘Voices From The Waters 2009’, the fourth International Film Festival on Water in Bangalore, echoes similar concerns. It’s the story of the river Ganga, which is considered divine and sacred despite being filled with hazardous chemicals, domestic garbage and floating carcasses. Bagga traces out the route through which the river makes its journey, pausing at various points to examine the causes for Ganga’s contamination and its grave consequences. 

The film begins almost poetically, with images of snow-capped mountains, waterfalls, sunsets and millions of devotees who flee to Ganga to worship her, who consider her as a mother and goddess. But just as you begin to get stirred within, Bagga throws in images of leather tanneries that dump its waste into the Ganga, sewage mixing with the water and people suffering from various ailments that are caused from consuming the contaminated water — chronic respiratory problems, skin diseases, hair fall, rotting feet — to name a few.

River Ganga, considered a lifeline to almost 350 million people, suddenly changes shades, turning into the root cause of all their misery. This is truly “a story of love and betrayal,” as Bagga puts it. But apart from highlighting these disturbing realities, what he also does is offer possible solutions to these problems by stringing together a few success stories that prove that even small efforts can produce tremendous results.
Anitha Balachandran’s Flood of Memory takes us to Barmer (Rajasthan) where, during the monsoons of 2006, the occurrence of a flood left the villagers in a state of devastation. The flood had washed away many of their family members, homes, livestock and material belongings. Anitha has used live footage, charcoal and sand animation to evoke the desert landscape and narrate the stories of those who live within it, haunted by memories of the flood. Although the villagers seemed to have resigned to their fate, their despair and helplessness is evident. An evocative film with imaginative artwork, Flood of Memory gives us a peek into the lives of a few victims of natural disasters.

People often tend to remain slightly indifferent to documentary films that are centred on social and environmental issues, dismissing them as ‘grim and boring’. What’s compelling about the films that are being screened this year is that not only are they visually stimulating and technically sound, but they also have enormous emotional impact. Georgekutty A L of the Bangalore Film Society is optimistic about the film festival which is being held at Alliance France (Bangalore) on September 4, 5 and 6. “Internationally, there is a water crisis. There is no fish in the sea anymore. Rivers are polluted, they are dying. The water crisis is unimaginable. We are here for the film festival to understand these issues and to seek solutions.”

Intermediate, a short film made by Mikeal Prey, takes us through a series of visuals that we often come across, but never really take the time to pause and gaze at, maybe because it’s all much too familiar. Images change slowly, simultaneously (in two different frames), the transitions smooth and enigmatic. To heighten one’s senses, different sounds from the natural environment are played along with the changing visuals. Joanna Hoffman’s film, Secret Life refers to the contemporary quest for life and its meaning. In an artistic way, it combines micro and macro-scales, scientific images with everyday surroundings, appearing a bit surreal. It deals with the subject of water as a source of life. 

Sujan Bandhu (The Journey of a Boatman) is the poignant story of Nirapada Sarkar, a boatman who ferries people across the river. Instead of restricting Sarkar’s identity to that of a boatman, the filmmaker Viplab Majumder has chosen to reveal other sides to him. Sarkar talks about his daily routine, what he enjoys doing aside from his job, his views on modernisation, memories of childhood... and other things that matter to him. The background score, a mixture of poetry and Bengali songs add to the melancholic mood of the film.

Needless to say, there are many ways in which water is intimately linked to our lives. To say that we wouldn’t be able to survive without it is putting it mildly. Let’s not wait around for a large-scale calamity to strike and then worry about what to do. Let’s push ourselves to think beyond our short-term requirements and attempt to understand the larger issues that are intricately related to our own lives. This film festival is one amongst such efforts for people to come together, learn, discuss and start thinking collectively. The festival will screen a total of 36 films.
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