Final Solution

Directed by Rakesh Sharma
India 2004 149 mins

Final Solution is a study of the politics of hate. Set in Gujarat during the period of Feb/March 2002 – July 2003, the film graphically documents the changing face of right-wing politics in Indian through a study of genocidal violence against Moslems. It specifically examines political tendencies reminiscent of the Nazi Germany of early/mid-1930s. Final Solution is anti-hate/violence as “those who forget history are condemned to relive it”. Final Solution has won the Wolfgang Staudte award & Special Jury Award (Netpac), Berlinale (2004) Silver Dhow, Zanzibar International film festival (2004), Best Documentary, Big MiniDV 2004 (USA), among others.

Don’t Ask Why

By Sabiha Sumar
58 min., 1999

Anousheh lives with her strict Muslim parents and two brothers in Karachi, Pakistan. At 17, she is at an age where daughters are usually married off. But Anousheh wants to study and refuses to accept the restrictions her religion and culture have imposed on her personal freedom. It causes conflict with her mother and lengthy discussions with her father. Her desire to be ‘as free as her brothers’ is drawing her close to the Islamic political party, Jamaat-i-Islami which, although dominated by men, promises the liberating power of Islam for both men and women. The film, by Sabiha Sumar, one of the few independent filmmakers in Pakistan, follows Anousheh as she struggles to realize her dreams and cope with her share of disappointment. It is a beautifully realized and rare portrait of girls in South Asia and their relationship to Islam at the beginning of the 21st century.

Division of Hearts

By Satti Khanna and Peter Chappell
57 min., 1987

The 1947 British subdivision of colonial India into Pakistan and the independent Indian nation caused the loss of 500,000 lives and the relocation of millions—one of the most extensive movement of peoples ever. After centuries of coexistence, Hindus, Sikhs, and Muslims became victims of mutual suspicion as violence swept through the countryside. The resulting mass relocations of these groups transformed village populations overnight. In DIVISION OF HEARTS ordinary people from Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh — cartdrivers, laborers, tradespeople, farmers — tell this history and recount their own tumultuous experiences. Their memories, combined with archival news film, bear witness to the traumatic birth of two independent nations.

Creating Buddhas

By Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost
60 min., 2008

Creating Buddhas is a documentary about a woman who makes Buddhas out of silk. Trained in Dharamsala, India for nine years, Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is one of the few female fabric thangka makers in the world. Fabric thangka is a silk embroidered and appliquéd art form in Tibetan Buddhism that is so rare that in some places it is only seen once a year, and then only for a few hours. This film explores Leslie’s life changing journey from her initial discovery of fabric thangka through her mastery of the art, and reveals the history and spiritual significance of fabric thangka in Buddhism. Throughout this film, we see Leslie produce a thangka of the female Buddha Tara. In a sense, Leslie is like Tara. Leslie mastered a male tradition and we see fabric thangka through feminine eyes.

Bundelkhand Express

By Saba Dewan
72 min.,1999, India (NTSC)

Bundelkhand Express is a labour train, which winds through the rocky, arid plains of southern Uttar Pradesh. From districts like Shahuji Maharaj Nagar, it picks up hundreds of children and adults deserting a neglected and impoverished land in search of work. Some of these people are heading towards Mirzapur – the capital of carpet production in India. Liluah, a little tribal girl from a village in Shahuji Maharaj Nagar has not yet taken the train. Ram Sajivan and Bachcha, two young boys in the district town, make a living ferrying the passengers of Bundelkhand Express on a rickshaw, and dream of the day they too will board the train. Bundelkhand Express connects the stories of these children and their parents with the carpet economy. Traditional craft and global capital, meticulous craftsmen and non-artisan exporters tied together by a thin and fine thread, woven into a nightmare. Saba Dewan did her masters in T.V. and Film Production from the Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi in 1987 and since then has been making independent documentaries. Her work has focused on communalism, gender and sexuality. Her current project is a documentary on the courtesan.

Buddhism: The Great Wheel of Being

(Part of Ashes in the River: Four Religions of India Series)
52 min., 1995

Sikkim occupies a place of rare geographic splendor, and Buddhism is the state’s religion. Presents the tenets and history of the belief system founded on the teachings of Buddha. A discussion of the Four Noble Truths, including the Eightfold Path, sheds light on the practice of Buddhism, while ancient monuments testify to the enduring nature of this venerable religion.

Born Into Brothels

By Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski
83 min., 2004

A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in Calcutta’s red light district, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Spurred by the kids’ fascination with her camera, Zana Briski, a New York-based photographer living in the brothels and documenting life there, decides to teach them photography. As they begin to look at and record their world through new eyes, the kids, who society refused to recognize, awaken for the first time to their own talents and sense of worth. Filmmakers Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski capture the way in which beauty can be found in even the seemingly bleakest and most hopeless of places, and how art and education can empower children to transform their lives.

BitterSweet

By Sanjeev Chatterjee
43 min., 1995

Focuses on Asian-Indian immigrants in the U.S. who discuss the complex social and personal issues involved in dealing with their dual cultural influences. To most outsiders, the idea of immigrating to America suggest the opportunity to get rich and lead the “good life,” but those who undertake this journey, leaving behind their native communities for another culture, are often faced with larger issues than material well being. Interviews with a variety of Asian-Indian immigrants residing in the U.S.–including such notables as Professor Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and painter Mohan Samant–are combined with dramatic voice-overs and self-reflexive passages, all of which illuminate issues of cultural identity and the problems of defining community in an adopted land.

Bhopal Express

By Mahesh Matai
100 min., 2000

Bhopal Express (2000) explores the true story of one of the world’s largest industrial disasters. The 1984 gas explosion at the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal which killed over 16000 people and destroyed the lives of 50000 more. Championed by David Lynch and featuring Nasserudin Shah (Monsoon Wedding) and Zeenat Aman, the tragedy is revealed through the experiences of newlyweds Verma (Kay Kay ), a foreman at the Carbide plant, his wife Tara (Netha Raghuraman) and their friend Bashir (Shah). Resolutely political, the film explores the events leading up to the disaster, relives the crucial moment of the gas leak, the devastation left in its wake and the Union Carbide Corporation’s refusal to accept responsibility for the tragedy.