The official Film Southasia 2013 opening had it all: intelligent speeches, beautiful music, and some serious political controversy.
Three addresses started the proceedings, from Kanak Mani Dixit (FSA Chair and editor of Himal Southasian magazine), Sadanand Menon (the FSA Jury Chair) and Mani Shankar Aiyar (Indian Politician and Writer). One theme ran through all addresses, reflecting the ethos of the Film Southasia Festival: that greater unity is needed amongst the nations that make up Southasia, and that film is one means through which this can be consolidated. Kanak Mani Dixit commented that in these days of ultra-nationalism throughout the region, it is imperative to reach out to the ‘other’ side without losing sight of one’s own ethos and views. This is, India need not be hostile towards Pakistan, it will not weaken the Indian identity; similarly, Nepal need not be hostile towards India. The overarching animosity between India and Pakistan tends to overshadow, and leave behind, the other countries that make up Southasia. Sadanand Menon furthered this line of discussion, stating that while many genres of the arts around Southasia have been pushed into conformity, and ultimately commodified, documentary film is one genre that has resisted this and provides a platform for non-conformist views to be aired. Mani Shankar Aiyar—described by some on stage as a politician who actually makes sense—said that he had always found it easier to connect with people from around the Southasian region than from further afield. Therefore, he finds India’s foreign policy baffling: they are best friends with Paraguay, but don’t know what to do about Pakistan! Southasians from Afghanistan to Nepal to Myanmar to Sri Lanka (and of course, India in the midst of it all) are enormously diverse, but it is in everyone’s best interests to recognise the connections and similarities.
The talks were followed by beautiful Baul musicians from Dhaka, singer Anusheh Adanil and her guru accompanying her, a memorable and uplifting opening to the festival.
Some breaking and serious news was announced before the screening of the first film of the day: Kanak Mani Dixit had warned that the spaces for open discussion were being constricted in Nepal, and this news emphasised the truth of his statement. The Sri Lankan government has pressured the Nepali government into censoring the Sri Lankan films to appear in this year’s FSA. Callum Macrae’s “No Fire Zone”, and Kannan Arunasalam’s two films “The Story of One” and “Broken” will not be screened at QFX Kumari Cinema. But, refusing to be silenced, FSA will screen these films at a ‘private’ screening, the venue and date of which will be announced on Friday morning. As Kanak stated, “FSA protests this unwarranted intrusion into the cultural sphere. It obstructs our festival’s goal.” The three films will remain in the official competition, and hopefully greater interest in them has been generated, and they will receive strong audiences.
Blog by Elen Turner