Framing a true image

Life on the reel

At first glance, Tiainla Jamir can easily be mistaken for just another youngster from northeastern India. 

But she is a woman on a mission. As a filmmaker from Nagaland, who already has over 15 hard-hitting documentaries to her credit, she feels that she needs to tell stories that reflect the ground realities of the people of the region. 

The recent spate of hostile incidents against people from the Northeast has been making headlines regularly and forcing widespread protests on the streets across India. 

“The Northeast is an integral part of India and as a filmmaker, I want to continue to base my work on the region and its people. I think films are the best way to understand a society and get a feel for its customs. They can play their part in bridging the divide,” observes Jamir. 

Subaltern in focus

Quite early in life, Jamir had decided that she wanted to master the visual medium in order to fulfill her creative yearning to tell stories. 
 
But, as she recalls with a smile, her parents were not quite thrilled with her decision, “They were not confident about my choice as they felt that for a person from the Northeast, there was no scope to build a career in cinema. 

Nonetheless, my mother understood my point of view and stuck by me. Even today she encourages me to follow my heart.” 
 
Jamir came to Delhi to work in a production house. 
 
“Film schools are a good place to learn the basic techniques. But beyond that one has to do all the hard work. In the Northeast, particularly, the competition is quite fierce as there are few opportunities available. So working with an established outfit was valuable experience, one that enabled me to start my own independent venture which I set up after coming back to Nagaland. My aim has always been to highlight the regional issues we have been facing for years now. I believe it can help link us to the mainstream,” she explains.

Jamir’s camera brings to life the real stories of real people, and she likes to challenge the sensibilities of her audience by capturing powerful and emotional subjects. 
 
Her 20-plus minute documentary, Going the Distance, presents the realities of a woman living with HIV/AIDS and traces her complex journey that begins with her trying to come to terms with the disease and the numerous ways in which it affects her life and relationships. 

“It’s based on a true story. Initially, the woman, Nukshinaro, was hesitant to come on camera, but as time went by, she decided to take charge of the situation and find her own way in the world. 

She not only declared her positive status, but also began campaigning for other persons living with HIV/AIDS, encouraging them to open up as well. The issue of HIV is important in the Northeast, as its spread has been rapid, affecting women in every way — whether as patients or as caregivers,” reveals Jamir. 

Projecting reality

To make Going the Distance, the talented filmmaker had to undergo the tough drill of following the protagonist for nearly three months. 

“I wanted to get to know her and make her comfortable in my presence,” said the young filmmaker. 

Despite the many challenges, she decided to continue filming, “Through this short film, I want to tell people that those among us who are fighting HIV/AIDS are regular people, and should be treated with respect.” 

This inspiring film has certainly had the desired impact and even attracted high praise, especially on the festival circuit. 
 
It was shown at the first film festival held in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and became the first documentary from Nagaland to be selected for the Indian Panorama at the India International Film Festival (IIFI) 2013. 

“It’s been a beautiful journey and getting selected for the IIFI was an exceptional moment for me,” she remarks. 
 
Today, Jamir is looking to explore newer territories and ideas. 
 
She signs off by observing, “One can say that filmmaking is a 24x7 profession, as one’s mind is continuously processing the different things that are happening in society and taking in all these varied experiences. But my ultimate goal is to reach out to people with messages of integration and tolerance.”


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