A still from The First Cry, the remarkable story of a hospital in the mining township of Dalli-Rajhara Chattisgarh

It's August & raining films

By Prutha Bhosle | Mumbai

Updated: 09 August, 2020 08:14 IST

A cultural campaign that marries cinema and activism moves its films to Instagram to reach a wider, younger audience in lockdown

In mid-2000s, India witnessed a sudden rise in documentary filmmaking, taking on both social and political issues plaguing the country. These projects were an alternative to the clichéd commercially driven movies, and the reason why Pratirodh Ka Cinema (Cinema of Resistance) was born in 2006. Sanjay Joshi, an alumnus of Jamia Millia Islamia, recalls, "Jan Sanskriti Manch (JSM) is a cultural group based in Uttar Pradesh; its members wanted to introduce new activities and had invited me for a preparatory meeting in Allahabad in September 2005. I suggested that they start a film festival that wasn't elite, and highlighted people's problems. The first edition of Cinema of Resistance was organised in Gorakhpur on March 23, 2006, coinciding with the 75th anniversary of Bhagat Singh's martyrdom."

The aim was to break structures and hierarchies hitherto set by film festivals. "We decided not to take sponsorship or government support; that would mean screening politically correct cinema. We have been committed to presenting stimulating films by tough-minded independent producers, who challenge our social and political reality," says Joshi, national convenor.

A still from Had Anhad; the film journeys through song and poem into the politics of religion

The first edition was a hit despite Bhojpuri being the common language of communication. "There was no chief guest, no loudspeakers, just wholesome cinematic content. This festival continued for four days and we saw tremendous response. This kind of cinema was very new to the people of Gorakhpur. And yet, they were seen enjoying the 1950 Jidaigeki psychological thriller Rashomon, as well as works by Hungarian film director Zoltán Fábri."

Soon, the initiative grew roots in more than 15 cities. The annual festival has entered its 14th year in 2020. The Coronavirus-led lockdown, however, put a stop to the merriment. "We decided to take our campaign online and launched an Instagram page to reach a wider audience. If the initiative doesn't catch the young viewer, it is bound to die. Instagram seems to be right to keep cinema and activism alive."

Sanjay Joshi

Since the first week of July, a new film has been screened every week, with links to movies made available for free viewing over four days. Every screening is followed by a discussion. "So far, we have screened Shabnam Virmani's Had Unhad, a film that finds a myriad answers on both sides of the hostile border between India and Pakistan. We have also showcased The Advocate based on the life of KG Kannabiran, who was India's foremost champion of civil liberties and human right."

To watch Instagram, @cor.india

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First Published: 09 August, 2020 07:12 IST

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