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A festival of South Asian documentaries will feature 4 Indian films

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NEW DELHI: A festival of 12 non-fiction films from South Asia covering a wide range of subjects from piracy and copyright issues to India’s agrarian crises, labour migrants and natural disasters will be screened in a four-day ‘Travelling Films South Asia 2010” festival here this week.

The festival encapsulates a flavour of the subcontinent with films from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Tibet Autonomous Region.

Organised by India International Centre here in collaboration with Himal Southasian (a magazine published from Nepal) of Kathmandu, the Festival will be held from 29 August to 1 September. All the films are subtitled in English.

The Festival will open with an introduction by FSA Director NayanTara Gurung Kakshapati. The opening film is Kerosene (Sri Lanka; 16 min; 2011; English & with subtitles) by Kannan Arunasalam on how taxi drivers and newspapermen had to deal with shortage of kerosene following embargoes during the war with Tamil Tigers.

The festival includes three award winners at Film South Asia Festival 2011, Kathmandu, as well as other films selected to showcase the variety, treatment and intensity that marks the world of South Asian documentaries.

The winners of the Film South Asia Festival 2011 include Nargis: When Time Stopped Breathing (Myanmar; 90 min; 2010; English subtitles) by Kyaw Kyaw Oo and Muang Myint Aung is about Cyclone Nargis which raged for hours in May 2008 in Myanmar’s Ayeyarwaddy Delta, killing 140,000 people. The filmmakers recorded scenes that touched them such as rain-drenched survivors searching for wood and nails in the mud to build a roof over their heads.

According to the directors, “Our images reflect our own feelings as much as those of the people we met; we have carefully woven these emotions into an intimate and poetic film.” The film won the Special Jury mention.

The Truth That Wasn’t There (Sri Lanka/UK; 84 min; 2011; English with subtitles) by Guy Gunaratne won the Second Best Film Award. It is about three student journalists who crossed the frontlines in the wake of Sri Lanka’s civil war in 2009, becoming the only independent journalists to have done so. They witnessed the trail of destruction and documented everything they saw on 30 hours of tape and over 4000 photographs.

The Festival will also screen Journey to Yarsa (Nepal; 65 min; 2011; English subtitles) by Dipendra Bhandari which is winner of the Tareque Masud Best Debut Film Award. It is the story of a man in search of yarsagumba, a fungus that grows out of caterpillars in the high Himalaya, and is much prized for its medicinal properties

The Indian films include Nero’s Guests (56 min; 2009; English) by Deepa Bhatia which won the top award of the Indian Documentary Producers Association. It is a very dark picture of the government’s failure in the face suicides by nearly 200, 000 farmers over the last 10 years and the daunting task undertaken by one journalist, the rural-affairs editor of The Hindu newspaper P Sainath, to awaken the government to this.

Another Indian film is Dharavi, Slum for Sale (79 min; 2010; English) by Lutz Konermann about arguably the world’s largest slum, Dharavi, in Mumbai, where thousands are facing eviction.

Cowboys in India (India; 76 min; 2009; English) by Simon Chambers is about the evils perpetrated by the London-based mining company Vedanta Resources in rural India through a story.

Partners in Crime (India; 94 min; 2011; English) by Paromita Vohra is about video and music piracy and violation of copyright. When more than three fourths of those with an Internet connection download all sorts of material for free, are they living out a brand new cultural freedom, but are they criminals?

The Pakistani film is The Search for Justice (28 min; 2011) by Tehmina Ahmed and investigates the state of labour laws and courts in Pakistan, exposing flaws in the system and recommending possible solutions.

Tres Triste Tigres (Three Sad Tigers) from Bangladesh (15 min; 2010) by David Munoz is the story of middlemen exploiting those who seek to travel abroad to escape poverty.

The Afghan film I Was Worth 50 Sheep (72 min; 2010) by Nima Sarvestani is the story of a girl who had been sold to a man 40 years her senior but escaped.

The Nepalese film is Saving Dolma (62 min; 2010) by Kesang Tseten which, through the story of a Nepali maid Dolma convicted for murder, provides a rare glimpse into the fractured lives of ill-prepared women migrant workers in the Gulf States.

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