Thursday, November 19, 2009
Interview with Goergekutty A.L. of Voices from the Waters Film Festival, Bangalore, India
by Kashish Das Shrestha
Kashish: Why a film festival on water? What was happening around you at the time you decided to start this festival?
Georgekutty: By 2004, the biggest anti-dam movement in India –if not across the world – had reached its climax. Also the period witnessed the biggest anti Coco Cola movement in Plachimada, Kerala because of the water pollution and scarcity the Coco Cola bottling plant created there. There was strong opposition to the privatization of water by the government of India.
These movements received further impetus with the findings of Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi that the soft drinks produced by Coco Cola Company contained chemicals far beyond permissible limits. Many state governments and educational institutions banned the sale of soft drinks on health grounds.
At this point, the Bangalore Film Society, along with a few NGO’s, started a Forum for public action against privatization of water titled “Water Journeys-Forum for the Fundamental Right to Water”. The Forum used films as a medium to propagate its message which resulted in a huge procession by college students in December 10th 2004 against the multinational water bottling companies.
After that the Forum became inactive due to financial constraints and lack of volunteers. This inaction gave me enough time to read and reflect on water issues. Droughts, floods, polluted rivers and lakes, dried up rivers are all part of our everyday experience of nature. I felt a great need to broaden our understanding of the very many ways through which water affects our lives.
Since I am working with the medium of films and been involved in thematically organizing film festivals on contemporary issues such as women’s movements, human rights, and housing livelihood issues, I thought of organizing a film festival on water , which has proved very effective. It has been a learning experience for me to learn that across the world citizen’s and community initiatives are taking shape to save our water and our planet. The festival brings these initiatives to the public not just once a year but throughout the year, using these films to organize interactive discussions on water issues in schools and colleges and public institutions.
Kashish: What does water mean to you?
Georgekutty: Like every living organisms on earth, I love water. A lot of films in our collection has at least one shot of children playing or swimming or jumping into the water emphasizing the inexplicable intimacy people and animals have towards water. Watch the trees and plants around you before the rain and after the rain. The plants and the trees express an amazing vitality after a rain. The bonding is all too pervasive.
Kashish: Films are being shown in Nepal from the Voices From The Waters 2008 festival. But your festival is in its 4th year now. What kind of response have you received from film makers?
Georgekutty: The response to this festival from the film makers has been tremendous. Most of the film makers across the world have given me permission for non-commercial screening of their films which surely is a conscious attempt on their part to spread the message to save our waters and save our plannet.
Kashish: You have a lot of collaborators making the event possible. Has it been difficult finding the resources to keep the festival alive?
Georgekutty: We at the Bangalore Film Society make deliberate efforts to collaborate with groups working on water and environmental issues, which is working well. The collaboration also reduces the burden of financial resources while the programme becomes better, bigger and reaches a wider audience.
For the 2nd and 3rd Film festivals we did get small grants which made it possible for us to invite film directors and grass root level water activists from India. In 2007, we invited Kesang Tseten from Nepal with his film We Corner People. Many foreign film directors expressed their desire to attend the festival but we really did not have the money for their air tickets.
This year we did not get any grants due to the economic crisis which means we will not be inviting any film directors and grass root level activists from outside Bangalore. From the public response we are getting, let me assure you the festival this year will have far greater impact than last year. As more and more people coming forward to organize this festival, I hope donor agencies and corporate too will come forward to support it.
Kashish: The festival is also described as a 'movement in concept.' Could you elaborate?
Georgekutty: We call this film festival a movement simply because of the growing number of groups and institutions who are interested to organize this festival in their area involving the local activists and leaders.
Karnataka Chalanachitra Academy is planning to take this festival to all the major cities and towns of Karnataka. There is already a plan to organize this festival across all major cities in India. Financial constraint is the only reason it is getting delayed. Many film societies in South India have already organized this festival with many more being planned.
The forthcoming edition of the festival is organized at six centers in Bangalore. While Alliance Francaise de Bangalore will be the main venue the festival is organized at Badami House, Suchitra Film Society, YWCA, Bangalore, MES College and Balbhavan for high school students. The festival will have painting and photo exhibitions from 4th September to 7th September. Water songs will be sung at all the screening venues at different intervels. There will be a collage of news clippings on climate change, water scarcity and food security.
On 7th September there is a conference on ‘Critical link between Climate change and food, water, livelihood and ecosystem security’. On 29th August, the festival will flag off a cycle rally of 600 college students from 3 points at the city and converge at the Government Arts and Science College where they will be addressed by eminent water and environment activists. This for us is phenomenal! It will generate a movement to protect our waters and to conserve it for posterity