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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

1st Kolkata People's Film Festival By Sanjay Joshi

1st Kolkata People's Film Festival
By Sanjay Joshi
Cinema of Resistance: 1st People's Film Festival Kolkata

In memory of Zainul Abedin
Celebrating 'Resistance and People's Movements'

20 Jan, 2014 Kolkata...See More

Cinema of Resistance: 1st People's Film Festival Kolkata

In memory of Zainul Abedin
Celebrating 'Resistance and People's Movements'

20 Jan, 2014 Kolkata

The 1st People's film Festival of Kolkata, organized by Jan Sanskriti Manch & People's Film Collective, was inaugurated today at Triguna Sen Auditorium, Kolkata today and is scheduled to run till 22nd January. The film festival celebrates 'Resistance & People's Movements' in the memory of Zainul Abedin, the revolutionary artist, in the year of his birth centenary. Within the next two days, the film festival will present several films & documentaries focusing upon people's struggle across the world and country. These films are testimonies of the valiant resistance of people against corporate fascism and communalism. Filmmakers like Sanjay Kak, Moinak Biswas, Ranu Ghosh, Suryashankar Dash, Nakul Singh Shawney, Bikramjit Gupta, Moshumi Bhowmick and Sukant Majumdar were present at the film festival for discussions.

At the inauguration of the festival the renowned film critic Shamik Bandopadhyay stated that the arts & culture are under an 'undeclared censorship'. The state does not allow for the people to be informed about people's struggle, democratic voices are being silenced. In such times the use of new technology by this initiative to disseminate the voices of resistance marks the beginning of a new chapter. The birth of Cinema of Resistance in Gorakhpur, infamous as a laboratory of communalism, has immense significance. He compared mainstream cinema to what the poet Mayakovsky's referred to as 'sick cinema', and expressed hope that the Cinema of Resistance would effectively counter it and further the cause of people's struggle far and wide. 

Poet Sabyasachi Dev wished the festival would meet success and emphasized upon the power of cinema. Such initiatives would strengthen the resistance of the people. Nakul Singh Shawney, who has made a film on the recent pogrom in Muzzafarnagar, claimed that he was not a guest but a comrade of the festival. He said such festivals brought forth an unseen world to audiences as well as enable filmmakers like him to engage and learn from audiences. He emphasized that making and screening documentaries was extremely important today; and there should be many more such initiatives. 

The national convener of Cinema of Resistance, Sanjay Joshi, in his welcome speech narrated the story of the festival and how it began in a small town of Uttar Pradesh, Gorakhpur, and has since travelled to various parts of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, and other places. He claimed that the real strength of the festival were common people who have been marginalized by the propaganda of the state, corporate media and mainstream cinema. This festival has not sought patronage from any Govt. organization or multi-national corporations, rather has thrived upon people's participation and financial contributions. He stressed that this was the 'Cinema of Resistant and not Cinema of Revenge'. In a time where corporate and communal fascism is marching ahead rapidly, people's cinema can be torchbearer of people's struggle. Also present on the dais were filmmaker Surya Shankar Dash, film critic Vidyarthi Chatterjee and Amit Dasgupta, Jt. Secy Gana Sanskruti Parishad (West Bengal). 

A souvenir featuring summaries of the films featured in the festival as well as articles by filmmakers like Sanjay Kak, Surya Shankar Dash, Nakul Singh Shawney, Bikramjit Gupta, Moinak Biswas and film critics like Biren Dasgupta and Sanjay Mukhopadhyay was released at the inauguration. Along with, a fact finding report by CPI-ML Liberation on the communal violence in Muzzafarnagar titled 'Ek Rajnitik-Apradhik Sazish' was released. Also to celeberate the birth centenary year of Zainul Abedin four posters designed by renowned artist Ashok Bhowmick were released. The session was conducted by Kasturi, the Convener of People's Film Collective Kolkata. 

In the following session, 'Anhey Ghore Da Daan' by Gurvinder Singh was screened. The film not only depicts the trials & tribulations of Dalits with a sharp class critique in the rural milieu of Punjab, but also merges questions of land & dignity very effectively. The film also addresses the tragic consequences of displacement of Dalits in urban areas. Noted film critic Vidyarthi Chatterji appreciated the 'minimalist style' of the film and its effectiveness in presenting ground realities. The second film to be screened was 'Voices from Baliapal' by Ranjan Palit and Basudha Joshi. Made in 1989 this acclaimed film won the National Award for Best Documentary and captures the spirited non-violent resistance of more than 70,000 peasants & fishing communities in coastal Odisha resisting land grab for a missile testing center.

After tea break the festival resumed with a presentation by filmmaker Surya Shankar Dash, titled 'Repression Diary: The Case of Odisha'. It included an evocative montage of short videos which narrate unheard tales of the ongoing loot of mineral resources and brutal state repression. The presentation portrayed the valiant struggle of Adivasis and peasants for 'jal, jangal, jameen' and weaved together the necessity and perseverance of ordinary people to fight against the humiliation & repression of the corporate ruling class. In the discussion with the audience, the filmmaker claimed that big media houses & newspapers had become agents for corporates and in such times the Cinema of Resistance initiative is an ideal platform for people like him. He emphasized on the importance of videos emerging from people's struggles and said wherever there was repression and resistance we all need to participate in these struggles with our cameras. 

In the next session acclaimed filmmaker Sanjay Kak, whose earlier work Jashn-e-Azadi remains to be one of the finest documentaries on the issues of Kashmir, presented his latest documentary 'Red Ant Dreams'. The film interweaves stories of people's struggle from Punjab, Chattisgarh & Odisha into one narrative while exploring different forms of resistance in these areas. The film exposes the brutal reality of Indian democracy, presents a nuanced analysis of the war being waged against the people by the state and underlines the dreams of the people for change. While answering questions from the audience, Sanjay Kak said that the Govt. and the ruling class was waging a war against Adivasis, workers and peasants. He said that the forms of resistance would be decided by the people themselves. 

The last film of the day, 'Muzzafarnagar Testimonies', by young filmmaker Nakul Singh Shawney is a reportage of the pogrom against Muslims in Uttar Pradesh that erupted on 7th Sep 2013 and claimed several lives and displaced thousands from their villages. The displaced were further removed from relief camps by the Govt. to cater to vote banks in the upcoming Parliamentary elections. Nakul Singh's camera shows us the harsh & cruel realities that the mainstream media has totally censored. While more than 95% of the victims were Muslims the media portrayed it as a two-sided riot. The film exposed campaigns by the Sangh parivar like 'Bahu Bachao Beti Bachao' to fuel communal strife while revealing the real face of the Samjwadi Party Govt and its police. In the discussion following the screening, Nakul Singh elaborated upon the experiments in communalism in Muzzafarnagar and across Uttar Pradesh.

The festival also included an exhibition of sketches and artworks by revolutionary artists Chittoprasad and Zainul Abedin. These artworks depict the everyday struggle of peasants and workers as well as the horrors of the Bengal famine, and left a deep impact on the viewers. Another attraction for the audience was an exhibition of photographs by young photographers of Kolkata. 

1st Kolkata People's Film Festival
By Kasturi, Convener, Cinema of Resistance, Kolkata
Tel: +91-9163736863 Mail:

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