Science, hunger and 200 videotapes

  • 30/10/1995

Science, hunger and 200 videotapes THE first International Video Festival, in India, ivrest "95, held at Thiruvananthapuram (September 8-14), clearly reflected the confusion in the video scenario prevalent in India. The festival promised to be one on science, society and development. This is essentially the subject of human survival. The response was overwhelming: 700 entries had been submitted, of which 200 were selected, and classified into 7 different categories. These were environment, science communication, education and population, society and development, animation and spot.

The classification smacked of mindless bureaucratic exercise as these classes are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In a country where bureaucrats become cultural czars, this might be expected. But the price one pays is dear.

Anand Patwardhan and Simantini Dhuru"s A Narmada Diary, the most talked about video of the festival, was just such a victim. Slotted in the "environment" section, it said nothing of environmental impact of the project. Instead, the video documents the high profile anti-dam movement (Narmada Bachao Andolan) over a 4-year period. Despite employing all creative devices of film-making the counter-propaganda sought to be launched against the establislubent failed to convince the rational viewer. The video will only raise the passions of die hard Andolan sympathisers. Nevertheless, Patwardhan has by now created a style of editing that uses all kinds of images to propose a logic on behalf of a "cause". The film eventually bagged the second award in the Environment OK entry, which had ess, been made in 16 mm and transferred on This made its image far superior to the purely video entries.

The 3rd award environment section on another problem festival. This entry, Diary, produ section. Narmada lost out t Ladakh-Desert in the Skies. Bedi"s project belonged more to the wildlife genre, portraying for the first time the unknown areas of eastern Ladakh, its ecology, the Tibetan blacknecked cranes and the Ladakhi wild dogs. It was unfortunate that the festival, officially in the video medium, accepted this 3 different one on dd tion in the vanam proy 2nd,onind t sation in the belt; and tba programme on 3 dying in Thiruvananthapt This television format gramme, with its just i average production i had no reason to com with Bedi"s 16 rnm pn tion for Channel Compared to KeraLa Dialy The Delhi entry, Living On was editorially proficient.

The competition section AMW with such prob- The organisers must t tlant video, being a Illective medium, is swed more and more bmu target audiences urposes. This applied iW of video produc illus in cost input and 6M Joe different appli s mad should not be Id mg I to compete With each other.

A major victim of the moving of the festival W EJaM Death, pro by Perspective Audio IL 5bot in S-VHS on a ft budget, the video unfolds a case of is in an unknown vil a hfidnapore district inexpensive animation style to fit the meagre purse of the makers. Although the inten tions of these producers are undoubtedly honourable, the impact may not be, as today"s Star-V-BBC fed kids are more at ease in a hi-tech media milieu.

Still, operating within these parameters, A Story Inside the Shell by Ashok Mewada and Energy Flow by Varun Narain showed promising animation and videocraft in science communication. On the other hand, Ancient Indian Hydrology by A Saiprasad painfully stressed what hackneyed and linear treatment can do to a bright and promising subject. Saiprasad attempted to explore the text of Brihata Samhita by Varaharnihira, which outlines geological recold., scene from A Narmada Diary dcous and the politbungkowthesitua13 bout of the cam- PNWODatdy made sib idoe in the fesbant the flashing of Am and fauna modistic most. ILI - , heartenmdut a lot of video "at engaged in wedunce and techlanguage i of Doordarshan dw magazine form we mostly and biological indicators of groundwater ecology. The video lost all its visual chum, as the director tried to translate the text directly into a script.

The successful productions in science communication like New Horizons and Turning Point were in the TV magazine format. The later, directed by Neelabh Kaul and Indraneel Kaul, has more matured editorial inputs. As a rule, the TV science programmes are devoid of any political issues hidden behind the science and technology, but independent productions like Pesticide Trap (directed by M Sivakumar) and Banking on Genes (directed by K Bikram Singh) have more political insight into what determines the course of scientific research, technology and environment.

The entries under Education & Literacy, Health & Population and Society & Development could have been clubbed in one category. The most popular video of the festival Tu Jinda Hai, by Shabnara Virmani, was in the Society & Development section and has rightly won the best film award in that category. Shot in Madhya Pradesh, it pre-sented the experiences of women activists in the group called Ekta Parishad. The video consciously explored an age-old feminist dictum that women"s politics, whether public or private, was the same.

One video from the Centre for Science & Environment"s maiden video project was selected in the festival. Titled Harvest of Rain and directed by Sanjay Kak, the video explores the traditional knowledge of water harvesting and its participatory management pro- cedures in the country. In a backdrop of environmental videos predicting gloom and doom, this video talked about a stronger control of people over their resources.

The festival clearly pointed out the explosion that has taken place in audio-visual communication with the advent of a video technology that is cheaper and in one sense, instant. The result has been wholesome indeed: the advancement of democracy in audio-visual expression, and the breaking of the cartel of moneybag filmmakers.