JASHN-E-AZADI (How we celebrate freedom)
Written and Directed by Sanjay Kak
Dur: 138 mins / Digital Video / Kashmiri/Urdu/English / 2007
on Friday, 13th July 2007 at 6.30 pm
Sanjay Kak will be present for the screening.
Directed by Haobam Paban Kumar
Duration: 77 min / 2006 / English and Manipuri
on Saturday, 14th July 2007 at 6.30 pm
A SEASON OUTSIDE
Directed by Amar Kanwar
Duration: 30 minutes / 1997
on Sunday, 15th July 2007 at 6.30 pm
More about JASHN-E-AZADI
It’s 15th August, India’s Independence day, and the Indian flag ritually goes up at Lal Chowk in the heart of Srinagar, Kashmir. The normally bustling square is eerily empty- a handful of soldiers on parade, some more guarding them, and except for the attendant media crews, no Kashmiris. For more than a decade, such sullen acts of protest have marked 15th August in Kashmir, and this is the point from where Jashn-e-Azadi begins to explore the many meanings of Freedom-of Azadi-in Kashmir. In India, the real contours of the conflict in Kashmir are invariably buried under the facile depiction of an Innocent Population, trapped between the Terrorist’s Gun and the Army’s Boot. But after 18 years of a bloody armed struggle, after 60,000 civilians dead (and almost 7,000 enforced disappearances), what really is contained in the sentiment for Azadi-for freedom?
Amidst the everyday violence and ever-present fear in Kashmir, there are no easy answers to such questions. Where truth has been an early victim, all language-speech, poetry, even cinema-becomes inadequate to describe what we know and feel here. So we reshape our curiosity, and point ourselves at what we can see, what we are allowed to see. The film then combines several forms and modes of expression to evoke the past as well as unravel the present: We are witness to an ageing father in the Martyr’s Graveyard; we are with a group of men as they survey the dead in the mountain villages of Bandipora; we sit quietly in the Out Patients Ward of the Govt Psychiatric Hospital in Srinagar. But we look elsewhere too, in the satirical farce of Bhand folk performers as they play in a village square; in the tense undercurrents of an Army Sadhbhavna (Goodwill) camp in north Kashmir; and in the images conjured up by the work of contemporary Kashmiri poets. Shot and edited between August 2004-2006 Jashn-e-Azadi engages us with the idea of Azadi in Kashmir. In 2007, as India celebrates it’s 60th anniversary of Independence, this is also a conversation about Freedom in India.
Do take a look at www.jashneazadifilm.com
More about AFSPA, 1958
At the beginning, there is a “simple” event: The Manorama Devi, a 32-year-old woman is arrested by soldiers of the “17 th Assam Rifles” Regiment from her home. Later she is found dead under suspicious circumstances, her body raped and shot. In the region of Manipur, one of the “seven sisters”, seven smaller federal states in the very northeast of India, events like this are usual. But the desperate fate of The Manorama Devi was the last straw. It provoked protests throughout the state against the excesses of the so-called “security forces”. This people’s movement was very strong and spontaneous. There was no leader, no political party behind the protestors, nobody forced them to do what they did. After a few days, and after the indifferent reaction of the federal government, as well as after new army excesses, the protest grew into riots and the aim of the demonstrations was not just the case of The Manorama Devi, it was the general conditions in Manipur and the “Armed Forces Special Powers Act” which had been in effect since 1958, and which gave special rights to the army.
The young filmmaker Haobam Paban Kumar, born and raised in Manipur, and studying film-direction in his final semester at the SRFTI-film school of Calcutta, immediately went to Manipur, when he heard the news of the riots. From the first days, he followed the protests with his digital camera. His fabulous documentary AFSPA, 1958 is the first exciting result of this journey; with astonishing footage, this promising director shows a part of Indian reality, which has been hidden for years. Kumar gives a voice to the mute, to the ordinary people of his home region.
- Rudiger Suchsland (C FIPRESCI 2006)
More about A SEASON OUTSIDE
Amar Kanwar’s documentary-style film ”A Season Outside” (1997) — a hit at Documenta XI — opens with the nightly closing of gates at a busy checkpoint on the border of India and Pakistan. Passage between the two countries, strictly monitored by day, is now forbidden. The gate-shutting is occasion for a preening ritual display of mutual hostility by Indian and Pakistani soldiers. The performance is met with applause by crowds on both sides.
Mr. Kanwar follows the shots of choreographed machismo with others that give a sense of the grinding personal toll such antagonism takes. A man on one side of the border seems to be anxiously trying to communicate to someone on the other side, and finally wanders away. In a long sequence that begins with a close-up of moving feet, men approach each other from either side of a painted white strip on the ground and meet in what look like push-and-shove encounters. In fact, they are workmen passing staggeringly heavy bundles to each other over a line they cannot cross.
The border was established with the partition of India and Pakistan more than half a century ago, in a tactical maneuver that Mohandas Gandhi correctly feared would lead to carnage.
Gandhi, although he never appears, is the real protagonist in a film that is less about specific politics than about the omnipresence of aggression in nature and culture. Images of it flash across Mr. Kanwar’s camera lens: police beat protesters; men cheer on two head-butting rams; a child pushes a younger child down in the street; birds nip at a stray puppy.
All of this is accompanied by a ruminative voice-over — which I found hard to hear clearly at Blum — spoken by Mr. Kanwar. In it he traces the psychological effects of violence on his own family, and he records his own evolving attitude toward Gandhi’s conviction that pacifism is not passivity, but intervention; that peace is not something you hope for, but something you make.
- Holland Cotter