Indian film ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’ gets FSA 2011 Best Film Award

New Delhi,: ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’, a film by the renowned and often controversial Anand Patwardhan, was awarded the Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film at the Film South Asia 2011 festival of documentaries.

In the Festival which concluded yesterday in Kathmandu, Nepal, the festival jury highlighted “the depth of personal involvement in one film, a contact firmly anchored in political commitment”.

The ‘Bhim’ in the film refers to the Indian constitutionalist and thinker Bhimrao Ambedkar. Filmmaker Patwardhan, who has been making political documentaries for nearly three decades, was present to receive the Ram Bahadur Trophy from the chief guest, eminent Bangladeshi filmmaker Catherine Masud.

The three hours and 20 minute long film explores the history of Dalit activism in Maharashtra in the aftermath of the killing of 10 activists in Mumbai in 1997 and has been in the making for 14 years.

‘The Truth That Wasn’t There”, directed by Guy Guneratne, was recognised by the jury for Second Best Film. It is about three student journalists who cross into the north of Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the war in 2009. The film was recognised “for having pushed the debate around the very idea of documentary as truth-telling, in a new digital age where the boundaries of newer documenting mediums are increasingly blurred.”

The Tareque Masud Debut Film Award was given to ‘Journey to Yarsa’ by Dipendra Bhandari, recording the fight for economic survival by a family in Rukum District of Nepal, searching for the yarsagumba larvae-caterpillar. The jury noted the film’s “determination to record a story of a subject little known to the world, a powerful tale of people’s endeavours and relationships in a remote community.”

A documentary from Burma, ‘Nargis: When Time Stopped Breathing’, was recognised for Special Mention, “for its poetic yet strong visual craft celebrating the human spirit in the aftermath of the devastating cyclone in a closed society.” The film records the tragedy of the Cyclone Nargis, which killed 140,000 people in the Irrawaddy Delta in May 2008.

It is made by two Burmese directors who prefer not to be known by their real names. The Jury of the FSA 2011 festival was made up of Satish Sharma, photographer, curator and cultural critic; Manesh Shrestha, educator, journalist and former director of Film Southasia; and Igor Blazevic, the founder of the One World Film Festival with its base in Prague. According to Upasana Shrestha, co-director of Film Southasia, 15 of the films selected from the 36 shown at FSA ’11 will tour the Subcontinent and the world as ‘Travelling Film Southasia” over the next two years. The next Film Southasia festival is scheduled for September 2013.

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