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Posted by Patricia Zimmermann at 4:37PM   |  35 comments
Georgekutty A.L. from Voices from the Waters Film Festival, Bangalore, India

Interview with Goergekutty A.L. of Voices from the Waters Film Festival, Bangalore, India 
by Kashish Das Shrestha
Y! Magazine,
Kathmandu, Nepal.

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 

 
 


35 Comments

Thanks, Kashish, for this really interesting interview! I am encouraged by the ways that Georgekutty and his colleagues have transformed the global economic crisis into a way to make the Voices from the Waters Film Festival even more dynamic than past years when funding was more readily available.

It's the first for me to hear about a film festival that centers upon waters. It is an interesting concept and theme. Our waters is some of our most precious resource on earth and what better to celebrate it through films and their participation in a film festival dedicated to it. Water can bring people together, like how a river cuts through a continent and shared by the diverse nationalities and cultures living on both sides, up streams and down streams. Yet often, it is also the bone of contention between nations and tribes fighting over it. An interesting story can develop from here. Even political too, considering how the sale of water from Malaysia to Singapore is often seen as a political chessboard game.

All the best to the festival and keep it going!

What an inspiring interview Kashish. The greed of privatization, I believe, will be much worse than climate change and everything else that has left us with the water crisis. The world is running out of its most precious resource. I feel like making the human necessity of water privatized is unjust.

Most of my friends don’t really know or care about where the water they are drinking comes from or who owns the water bottles they drink, as long as they have it. Also, since they have the money to purchase bottled water, they are not yet effected by what almost half the world is facing , because the finite supply of drinking water in the world is almost completely privatized and will only allowed to be purchased, therefore excluding people without money.

Personally, I do not purchase bottled water anymore, and am totally against the privatization of water, especially when a bulk of the companies privatize an area of water and use it to make Coca-Cola products. That is just immoral.

I am again, like my last post on a different blog, blaming the system of capitalism.

Your festival is truly making an impact on the world and I want to thank you.

I have never before heard of a film festival taking place on water, so this article both surprised and enlightened me. It is an incredibly interesting concept to establish a setting that underscores a current political issue. Water, as Georgecutty stresses, is a basic necessity for life - maybe the most basic external necessity (besides air). People can not survive without it, and, like the poster above me explains, modern people typically take water for granted. There is privatization of water and pollution caused by companies who acts are driven by greed and profit, not by the good of mankind.

Thus, I think locating the film festival on water is both effective and influential. Viewers are constantly reminded of the importance of the water surrounding them - a concept which is highlighted by the images of water in the films. Water becomes a familiar theme within the viewers' own lives and makes them more informed and attentive to current issues.

It is common knowledge that setting within a film is extremely important, and this article has brought to my attention that setting for viewing films can also be influential and impactful upon the audience.

I find the idea of a film festival about water to be fascinating. Water is such a simple object, and yet it carries with it a great amount of ideas and weight. Water is the very foundation of life. All living things need it to survive. In a few decades, water may be the most fought after resource. In some places in the world, it already is. Water, a basic concept and compound, has a profound impact on nature and human culture.

I am interested to see how these ideas translate to the world of cinema. I also wonder what effect the type of culture the films come from, namely, Indian culture, will affect what the messages of the films are about. How will they use water? As a main character, as a prop, as a backdrop for a large story, or a catalyst for major events? What role will water play in a cinematic narrative, or will the film have any narrative at all? Will it explore water in all it beauty, its power, or its destructiveness? I wonder what different films would come up if these films were not made in India, but somewhere else, like the United States, Germany, Russia, China, or Japan. All of these places must have different views and beliefs about water that would structure thier cinema about water.

It must be difficult organizing such a grassroots film festival in an atmosphere where film festivals are quickly becoming buying venues for distributors to find bankable independent films. This must especially be a concern for the organizers of the Waters Film Festival since it is an essentially anti-commercial festival.

Do festivals like these find it hard drawing attention when so many film festivals are seen as simply commercial and not social or activist interests?

I know that people in the world definitely take advantage of water today. It’s so easy for some to obtain clean water that no one thinks twice about these things. However other countries do not have the resources that some do and it’s more difficult to find clean water. Bring the importance of water to the public’s attention by having a film festival about it, is a genius way of proving a point. However, it is sad that there are other film festivals occurring and being planned. How will this effect the turn out of this festival itself? Is the festival itself big enough to get the outcome that it’s trying to achieve?

"Water's precious. Sometimes may be more precious than gold." That's a line from Treasure of the Sierra Madre and it seemed fitting. Water is the substance of life so there's nothing more fundamental and nothing more valued. It's a wonderful thing to use the medium of film to raise awareness and remind people that there are places in the world that don't have water magically splashing out of faucets and fountains, because people forget. After all our barometer of newsworthiness is that if it bleeds, it leads.

It's wonderful to see the power of film applied not to commercial use or to create elaborate million-dollar dream sequences but for something that is important and to something that could actually make a difference.

I must commend Mr. Georgekutty and the rest of the Bangalore Film Society for creating a film festival on such an important and intriguing topic. I grew up on the shore of Lake Ontario in upstate New York and have spent my entire life around water. The waters of Lake Ontario were at one point horribly polluted leading to a missive clean up effort in the 1970s and 1980s. After growing up with the Lake and it's pristine beauty (not to mention the economic support it provides for my city) I am incredibly thankful to not only the environmentalists in my home town but those everywhere. Water is a wonderful resource for a community to have. The lake is present in my childhood memories nearly as much as my family and friends. Water supplies endless opportunities for entertainment as well as beauty and economic opportunities.

I am curious how much press this film festival has received in India. I'm glad that the festival is growing and it's wonderful that the public support has been so positive. I hope that the local press in India is spreading word of such an important "movement in concept." Also, have any other film festivals with a specific focus on water taken inspiration from this and sprung up at other places around the world? I think this festival has an incredibly important message and I hope word of it spreads.

Well, I must say that I also have never heard of a film festival centered around water. What an incredible idea! Water is something that is a necessity and a part of our everyday lives (especially here in Ithaca). The trouble India is having with droughts and water shortages is hard to understand. I drink at least 6 bottles of water a day and a cup with every meal. I can't imagine how I would feel if I couldn't drink water all the time, if it wasn't so easily accessible. I am very interested in the festival and would like to know if there is any way to access the films shown at the festival online. Are you hoping to make the festival available to a world wide audience? I think the films are something everyone needs to see.

I guess it really is true "experimental exposes"--when filmmakers (or distributors) choose to show a their work outside a conventional theater, it takes on a new meaning. At the very least, the environment provides a lens for critics to use during analysis.

If you have the chance to show your film somewhere as inventive as on the water, why wouldn't you take that extra step? What are the advantages of sending a film directly to theaters? Money, I guess, and maybe the potential of increased visibility? (People don't generally go to the beach when the want to see a movie...)

I guess it really is true "experimental exposes"--when filmmakers (or distributors) choose to show a their work outside a conventional theater, it takes on a new meaning. At the very least, the environment provides a lens for critics to use during analysis.

If you have the chance to show your film somewhere as inventive as on the water, why wouldn't you take that extra step? What are the advantages of sending a film directly to theaters? Money, I guess, and maybe the potential of increased visibility? (People don't generally go to the beach when the want to see a movie...)

I like the idea of a Water Film Festival. It's a great start to showing people that although they may have the luxury to clean water, many millions of people in the world do not. Like every person I know, I enjoy and love water. Everything in nature depends on water to survive and thrive. I have very high hopes for the Voices from the Water Film Festival and I hope more, I hear more good things to come!

The Waters Film Festival is true testament to the power of film and, thereby, the power of people. It seems that when capitalism negatively impacts a region and a population it can truly stifle it. Not only has a capitalistic society imposed the burden of water pollution on Bangalore but it also has threatened the success of the film festival. It is beyond encouraging to know that the Water Film Festival is successful, that it is receiving notice, and the concerned people of world have the opportunity to contribute to its success. Are you committed to remaining a non-profit festival? If you can, then I believe there would be few things more powerful than your success.

The concept of Voices from the Waters is a really great direction for not only cinema but for the environment. Being able to use film as a pioneer for awareness on a certain issue is a wonderful thing. One of the greatest things about cinema is how many people it can speak to and how many different aspects of life it can effect. Water is something most of us take for granted despite the extreme impact on everyone’s lives it has. I think that using water as a theme in film provides a great combination of an art form and an environmental wonder. Locating the festival on water really drives the message the festival is attempting to portray. It is a refreshing take on how an audience typically views films. By submerging the audience in the message, a longer lasting, more significant impact will occur. As well, by making the festival non profit, it really shows the passion Georgekutty is offering.

What Georgekutty says about the intimacy that people and plants have towards water is really inspiring. The location of this festival on the water must create an added connection to the issue that wouldn't be there in a different setting. I also admire how this festival incorporates other forms of expression like art and music, rather than just film. This allows people other than film artists to share their views and help fully uncover the issue. It also supports the idea that this festival is a movement in concept rather than just 'film appreciation'. I believe this festival can even be used as a model of how approach issues in other cultures and spaces.

As a student hailing from Louisville, Kentucky, I come from a place where the issue of availability of clean drinking water is highly important. Louisville tap water is the third cleanest tap water in the United States. The city is very concerned with providing its people with healthy water as to support the basis for any human life. I therefore firmly support any effort to de-privatize water. Water truly is the most basic necessity to sustain life, and I find it absurd that companies make profit off of this fundamental substance. The idea for a film festival on the topic of clean water is an odd one, but in many ways an intelligent one. Film festivals really draw interest to a cause, and the suffering of people in the absence of water can be a good means for inspiration. I hope that festivals such as these gain popularity here in the U.S., despite the fact that clean water availability isn't generally a serious problem here.

Fucking bourgeoisie capitalist ruining the waters of the world!

Fucking bourgeoisie capitalist ruining the waters of the world!

I absolutely love the idea of a film festival based on water and its essential role in our lives. Not only is film an art form, but it is also a method of communication to send a message to the world and promote change. For instance, the Grand Illusion was a social commentary on the true definitions of friend and enemy. It revealed that each person, even if they are on the opposite side of a war, is human and capable of human emotion. With this lesson, the audience can apply these concepts to their daily lives and perhaps think twice about fighting with other people. In the same way, showing the necessity and beauty of the Earth's water that we take for granted so often, the films at this festival can change the way we think about the environment and the careless way we pour pollutants into it.

This festival is extremely innovative. Like many other commenters, I too realized just how much I take advantage of water. Goergekutty’s take on the relationship between water and life challenged my previous point of view. The Q and A format of the blog also helped me to understand the process and challenges of creating and sustaining a film festival.

The theme of intimacy ran strong through this post. Not only did the comment about the relationship among humans, plants, animals and rain get me thinking, I also was intrigued Goergekutty’s comment that even though filmmakers are not being flown in from around the world, this year’s festival will have a greater affect than in years past.

Do gatherings like film festivals have a greater impact when the audience is concentrated from one particular area or when its members are far-flung?

This is so wonderful. It just goes to show the power of film to affect public opinions and politics. Film is a great way to entertain, but it can entertain and educate/inspire as well. This film festival reminds me a lot of Enrico Aditjondro and his Engage Media website. Both the festival and the website seek to inspire people to care about certain issues and take action to make a difference. Both have a focus on environmental issues, which is encouraging because we need all the help we can get in spreading the word about how much our environment needs help. I wonder if this film festival would be interested in putting any of its work online? Perhaps it would help to spread interest even more, and maybe help with getting funding.

This is so wonderful. It just goes to show the power of film to affect public opinions and politics. Film is a great way to entertain, but it can entertain and educate/inspire as well. This film festival reminds me a lot of Enrico Aditjondro and his Engage Media website. Both the festival and the website seek to inspire people to care about certain issues and take action to make a difference. Both have a focus on environmental issues, which is encouraging because we need all the help we can get in spreading the word about how much our environment needs help. I wonder if this film festival would be interested in putting any of its work online? Perhaps it would help to spread interest even more, and maybe help with getting funding.

I think this interview shows just how vital film can be in empowering society. You can look at not only film festivals but also film movements throughout the generations as key statements about the sentiments and feelings of that time period. For example Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising made conscious the homosexual movement in the minds of many americans during the mid 1960's.This is just another example of how films can bring social, and in this case, environmental issues to the forefront.

I think this interview shows just how vital film can be in empowering society. You can look at not only film festivals but also film movements throughout the generations as key statements about the sentiments and feelings of that time period. For example Kenneth Anger's Scorpio Rising made conscious the homosexual movement in the minds of many americans during the mid 1960's.This is just another example of how films can bring social, and in this case, environmental issues to the forefront.

It is excellent to see an attempt to raise awareness for this environmental issue. The festival seems to have a double entendre, raising awareness through the actual films being presented and through the surrounding setting. Much like a film’s mise-en-scene, the Water Film Festival is symbolically placed to prove a point. As a film student, it would be a terrific honor to be involved in something of this moral value.

I think that one of the marks of a successful film is that it can be educational, but in a subtle way. The fact that this entire film festival is dedicated to changing opinions and attitudes about a specific environmental issue is amazing. Many people do not even realize problems affecting them in their direct environment. We certainly do not pay attention to everything happening in our own backyards. The Water Film Festival counteracts this problem by very literally showing people the problem in person as well as on film.

It is mentioned in the article that the Bangalore Film Society is working with environmental groups dealing with issues about water. Which groups specifically? Do they contribute to your efforts on fundraising, or are they non-profit as well?

I would love to see a list of the film makers contributing to your event, especially since you seem to have attracted a wide variety stemming from all over the globe. Thanks so much for posting!

This idea is very unique and i love it. The fact that you have a festival that opens your eyes to such a great social issue, and allows you to see how much things, like water, can be taken for granted. I love the creative atmosphere in which the festival takes place. I guess next would be to do an air festival, maybe viewed on plans or hot air balloons.

This is great. It is impowering to see that film can affect the public and influence their choices. It shows how the people have power too. This festival reminds me of activist groups and organizations such as Engage Media. This website is like a youtube for political activists and filmmakers. It is inspriing to see others stand for themselves. It is good to see people opening up to social issues that were once hidden and kept quiet.

Great idea for a festival. Water's something so many people take for granted and through the power of film you can see its importance come to life. I grew up on a shore of a great lake which helped my home town's economy expand. Water is, and always will be, a building block of life. All elements are important to our world and should be recognized to the highest and most creative extent.

Before reading this article, I thought, "What is the point of a film festival on water?" I was intrigued, regardless of whether there was a point or not, just because it is so unique, but I am so glad I read this interview to realize why having this film festival on water was so important. Film impacts people, and can be used as a vehicle for a movement--like in this case drawing attention to the significance of water, and the fight against privatization of water, amongst other relevant things. I think this festival is drawing attention to a very prominent current topic not only in India, but in the world. Water is vital to our survival--no one needs a film festival to tell them that--but I think people forget to pay attention to where they are getting their water from and who has access to it. The privatization of water creates a hierarchy, because only people with enough surplus money are able to afford privatized water. If these big businesses, like the Coca Cola Company, continue to increase their span of power, the majority of earths fresh water supply could be privatized, thus the water would become a luxury only the rich would be able to afford. This festival seems to reiterate the importance of water, and makes water issues more relevant to the public. Film festivals drawing attention to meaningful issues in our world serve a great purpose in general, but a film festival specifically on water is something I think is more necessary than others, because our dependency on water. Hopefully it teaches its' audience to not abuse the accessibility of water, and try to preserve the natural resources we get it from, whilst preventing big businesses from gaining control of the supply.

Out of all the ideas of film festivals water seems to be the simplest topic, however probably one of the most vital. Being a natural resource and living in America, many of us take the idea of running water for granted but around the world clean water, and the access to water, is a necessity that some countries do not share. As we have seen in many documentary films in class, whether they are about immigration into the United States or different cultures throughout the world, film can be a powerful and moving medium that can make a strong political statement. And what better way show films then through a festival.

I thought it was a great idea to focus a film festival on the issue of our water supply. I don't think that enough people realize how important clean water is to the world. Many of us tend to take it for granted that we will always have an ample supply. The festival was a interesting way to place focus on an important issue. I hope they continue to support such a worthy cause.

I appreciate the idea of relating environmental issue to film as film is also a way of promoting the importance of certain issue like water. However, only several established shots of children playing with water is not enough to convey this message. I would expect a documentary or fiction film about how coca cola bottling plant pollute and water, which threaten local people's lives. This can visually show how people suffer without water. Hope that they would this genre next year.

I recently watch a great indian film called Dabangg. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aO6t9p1HoWI. I would say it is less of a story than it is a character study. That's not to say that it's got a bad narrative, it's just that that pretty much anything would pale in comparison to the main character Chulbul Pandey. He's a deeply flawed but lovable character. He might be a thief, and he won't think twice to injure one of his men, but he's also a dancing cop, which I figure should count for something. You'll finish Dabangg with is a deep love and appreciation for Chulbul Pandey. Somehow the film makes it very easy to take a crotch-pumping Indian seriously. The story traps him in a life or death situation somewhere in between a sort-of corrupt government and a kind-of shitty family. The ensuing tug-of-war ends up finishing thrillingly.



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