Kerala Promotes Films Depicting the Fall of Humanity Caused by Political Crises

in 20th International Film Festival of Kerala, Trivandrum

by Ershad Komal Khan

Set against the backdrop of the ongoing political crises in many parts of the world, the International Film Festival of Kerala chose to show films with strong political messages. The eight-day festival (4-11 December, 2015), which concluded on Friday in the Indian state of Kerala, featured a host of films dealing with both past political and social crises  and their repercussions and political dynamics in the present time.

Some of these films depict internal issues of Indian politics while others analyze the revolutionary movements in different countries. Several films also highlight situations in the aftermath of the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“It was pure coincidence that many films assessing the aftermath of the fall of Soviet Union and other communist movements were made this year, and we welcomed those in the festival,” said Shaji N Karun, Chairman of the Festival Advisory Committee.

“A film is not just about entertainment; it is also a tool to raise awareness of pertinent issues among the people. The Communist Party in Kerala has a rich history and most of the independent filmmakers here are inclined toward leftist ideology,” he added.

One of these films is Bopem (Bopem) – meaning sunny – directed and produced by Zhanna Issabayeva. The film shows poverty, corruption and absence of law and order in Kazakhstan after the collapse of the Soviet Union through the emotional story of an ailing boy. Rayan, the boy, is disturbed by the death of his mother who was fatally wounded by a car driven by a police officer who got away scot-free because of his father’s dishonesty.

Rayan kills both his father and the policeman, and in the end, hoists a torn flag of the Soviet period that he has found in an old derelict ship on the Aral Sea, and the background music evokes a sense of decadence pertaining to the state of contemporary Kazakhstan.

The Project of the Century (La Obra del Siglo) – a joint Argentina- Cuba- Germany and-Switzerland venture – also laments the fall of the Soviet Union. Carlos Machado Quintela’s film depicts the plight of three people living in an apartment in a city in the Cuban province of Cienfuegos, that had been built with Soviet support with the aim of installing a nuclear power plant there.

But when the Soviet Union fell, the Project of the Century stopped halfway. As a result, the inhabitants now live a miserable life.

Another joint venture – Nepal-Germany-Switzerland-France – The Black Hen (Kalo Pothi) presents a critical analysis of the Maoist movements in Nepal through the story of two boys belonging to upper and lower castes in a remote village in Northern Nepal.

The Black Hen, directed by Nepalese filmmaker Min Bahadur Bham, not only glorifies the friendship of the two children, Pakash and Kiran, but also criticises the ‘fragile ceasefire’ agreement between the Nepalese government and Maoist revolutionaries since neither of the two parties stopped bloodshed and abduction. The Filipino film Shadow Behind the Moon (Aino Salikod Ng Buwan) also deals with a similar theme through a story that takes place over just one night, involving a soldier and a couple of communist revolutionaries in an insurgency camp in the jungle in the 1990s.

The Indian film No Woman’s Land (Rajkahini) directed by Srijit Mukherjee shows – through the revolt of a few sex workers living in a large house along the Radcliffe Line – how communal riots were instigated following the ‘faulty partition’ of Bengal in 1947 by the Englishman Radcliffe, who had a little idea about the culture and traditions of the people of the region.

Dr Bijukumar’s film Birds with Large Wings (Valiya Chirakulla Pakshikal) hails the green activists and the previous state government, which lost power following the 2011 elections in Kerala, for their bold stance against the central government of India on the question of banning the use of harmful pesticide, Eendosulfan.

With the change of power, however, as the film shows, the state government  changed its policy of imposing a ban on the pesticide and like the central government took the side of the manufacturing companies.

It may be mentioned that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) – CPI(M) – was in power before Congress took over in 2011.

The organizers say the decision to show these films that are replete with explicit and implicit political messages is unlikely to elicit any backlash as the audience, they say, has a real chance here to learn more about the contemporary world and politics.

And in keeping with their words, the viewers were found watching the films with enthusiasm.

Edited by Latika Padgaonkar