27 aspirants from 11 States took part in the creative venture and made 15 films
Article by M.Dinesh Varma, published in The Hindu, PUDUCHERRY, NOVEMBER 10, 2021
From camps of close-knit indigenous communities to emerald lakes and moonscapes of the Lamayuru, the ruggedly charming Leh-Ladakh region served as an ideal locale for a documentary film-making workshop anchored in principles of deep ecology.
Hosted recently by the Auroville Film Institute (AVFI), the workshop at Phyang was capped by the screening of 15 short films made by 27 participants from 11 States — Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, New Delhi, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand. If that was not diverse enough, the participants also included six Ladakhis, two aspirants from Auroville and one from Italy.
The experiential workshop was a collaboration between the AVFI and the Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL). An important outcome of the AVFI-HIAL collaboration was the decision to establish chapters in both institutions to foster bi-annual student exchange programmes.
The 45-day film-making workshop was anchored in an environmental philosophy where the self is deeply connected with nature, not disassociated with it, said Richa Hushing, a course director. “Like all AVFI workshops, this one too was designed in the exploration of 3Ss…self…surrounding and story. We encouraged the participants to look around in response to inner curiosities and concerns. We believed in the authenticity of narratives that would spring from an authentic interaction between the self and the surrounding,” Ms. Hushing said.
She, along with Rrivu Laha, a founding directors of AVFI and Gitanjali J B, co-founder and Dean of HIAL, designed and delivered the workshop. “We pushed ourselves to question everything, including our own perceptions,” said Rrivu Laha.
The brainstorming sessions threw up about 60 ideas for film. The hosts hoped to be able to make five films but ended producing three times more.
Cinematographically, the light and the landscape of Ladakh offered much to explore in a technical-aesthetic sense. “The landscape itself is extraordinary, and it transforms with the light,” said Ms. Hushing, referring to moonland sobriquet of the Lamayuru mountains.
In terms of sound too, there was great scope in villages, roads, marketplaces and monasteries.
There were participants like Shiv who hiked his way to the workshop and made a film about the experience, which would be “the best thing I’ve ever made”. If Deepa Kiran, an oral story teller was pushed to discovering the kinship between the surrounding and the self. Hem Shah resorted to docu-fiction for his ‘Kane Duk Jor Jor’ that tracks the search for Jor Jor, a renowned comedian from Ladakh who mysteriously disappeared from public appearances over eight years ago.
Phyang, where the workshop was anchored was tributed with films like Avinash Kumar’s ‘Village of Warriors’ tracing the memory of Kabali attack in 1948 through a search trek organised by the ex servicemen and politicians of the village. Vanshika Bhatnagar and Abhishek Stalinn’s ‘Midnight Mirage’ came alive as visual poetry as it dwelt on the dreams of the young monks of the Phyang Monastery.
In fact, Leh city and the larger rural landscape of Ladakh, contemporary culture and burning concerns were also explored by a set of films. In fact, these films were like little windows to Ladakhi culture, painting an insightful picture of the land. So much so that Sonam Wangchuk, founder Director of HIAL, felt that the young filmmakers had shown him a mirror to Ladakhi culture, while Sonam Dorjey, associate facilitator from HIAL noted that all films were contemporary and had a distinct identity.
Ms. Gitanjali, HIAL Dean found Ladakh and Auroville to be complementary in many ways. “What binds HIAL and AVFI is the value of integral education and commitment to an alternative life. The Auroville-HIAL collaboration will be a bi-annual student exchange programme, where we have Ladakh and Auroville chapters every year,” she said.
“We are preparing to screen the Ladakh films in the Auroville Film Festival in January 2022, flagging off the Auroville chapter,” added Ms. Hushing.