From the Oneworld SouthAsia Website
- Indian grassroots film-makers to form broadcaster's network
OneWorld South Asia
25 August 2005
New Delhi - Aug, 25: Indian grassroots filmmakers and non governmental organisations
(NGOs) plan to form a Grassroots Broadcasters Network to spread awareness on
developmental and social issues confronting rural India using videos and films.
At a seminar - using video for development - organized on Wednesday by OneWorld South
Asia (OWSA), Video SEWA (Self Employed WomenÕs Association) and the Indian Institute of
Mass Communication (IIMC), NGOs decided to harness the power of films, shot by rural
folk, women and people at the grassroots level, for creating awareness peopleÕs issues.
The seminar celebrated the 20th anniversary of the Gujarat-based Video SEWA, an
organisation that works for and mobilizes marginalised women, which has used films for
advocating the rights of small shopkeepers, hawkers and vendors. Participants said since
video is an audio-visual medium, it influences people strongly therefore it can be
effectively used for awareness, sensitization and empowerment in rural communities.
General Secretary SEWA, Namrata Bali, says: ÒWe have used video for teaching, training,
informing, recording testimonies of women and even court hearings. Our first film was on
the exploitation of women vegetable vendors and since then have highlighted the plight of
women workers Ð most of who are in the informal economy.Ó
Professionals or media graduates have not produced SEWAÕs films. Barely-literate women,
migrants and slum women have made these films that document the lives, struggles and
exploitation of other women like them.
Aruna Parmar was a screen printer before she turned film-maker. Likewise, Nano Behn
came to Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat, looking for work and not only made films but
also became a role model for other rural women who were trying to adjust to city life.
Noted development journalist Rahul Dev said the Indian media has been growing
exponentially but it does not highlight peopleÕs issues in an appropriate manner. ÒUnless
the news is big Ð farmers suicides, starvation deaths and similar others Ð the mainstream
media does not pick it up.Ó
ÒThe way out is to get advertisers, proprietors and the marketing people on one platform
and discuss these issues with them. Sensitizing only the mainstream journalists, without
reaching out to the other spokes in the media world, will not help,Ó Dev said.
The seminar telecast the films and spots made by grassroots film producers and NGOs.
Even though dealing with peopleÕs issues, the videos stood out for their creativity, passion
and simplicity. But viewership for such offbeat films was an area of concern.
Director, OneWorld South Asia, Basheerhamad Shadrach mooted the idea of holding
grassroots film festivals. He said: ÒThe time for alternative media has come. Need to have
festivals where we can show films made by the common man and on themes that touch
him. Also need to develop linkages with market forces Ð TV channels, corporate groups Ð
so that such videos can be taken to a wider audience.Ó
Bali agreed that her organization has a bank of such films but there are few opportunities
and fewer places where these can be shown/telecast. She added: ÒVideo for development
can be a very powerful medium of creating awareness on development issues. But we still
find it difficult to mainstream these films.Ó
New Delhi-based CCS holds documentary film festivals and invites video/films on
livelihoods, red tapism and governmental policies that exclude the urban poor. Its
documentary film festival Ð Jeevika Ð creates a platform for amateurs and grassroots film
producers to showcase their creativity.
Manali Shah from CCS said: ÒThe protagonists in our films are rickshaw pullers, hawkers,
street food-stall owners and similar other workers of the informal sector. We focus on how
government policies and the licence raj exploits these workers and almost prevents them
from earning a livelihood.Ó
Professor of Broadcast media from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication Raghav
Chari lauded the efforts of SEWA women who have won international awards for their
films. He said: ÒDigital technology has ensured that even village women and students are
making videos which are evocative. Media students can learn a lot from these grassroots
film-makers and explore issues that have not been given adequate attention.Ó