Directed by: Ammar Aziz, 81' Pakistan
Ram Bahadur Trophy For Best Film
It is a great privilege to be the jury for the 10th edition of Film Southasia. What a journey it has been for FSA. This period of nearly two decades was one that witnessed profound changes, some irreparable damages, some extraordinary display of courage. The larger political economy of the region witnessed a range of contradictory pulls—from the power of globalising financial capital to the adivasi resistance, from the multitude potentials and pitfalls of identity politics to struggles that restored the human dignity.
The changes were large. They were multi-layered. There were as many Meta narratives as there were minor narratives. Any attempt at homogenising this vast region was resisted by the desire of the ordinary people not to become a subject but to retain their own citizenship. The complete range of issues born of the battle between the states to reduce people to subjects and the people’s unrelenting aspiration to empowered citizenship could not be captured by the mainstream media or the dominant film industry.
This agency of the people indeed cried for a different format of documenting and sharing their experiences. The digital technology, much like what Guttenberg did to literacy, democratised the documentary format. There are only two areas where the restrictive visa regime does not extend its diabolic tentacles. One, Nepal is the most welcoming place for all Southasians and it has the most progressive visa regime in the world. Second, documentaries can travel across the region without restriction because in the present digital format a filmmaker can always load them on to a server.
We cannot but wonder at the irony of the open visa regime of Nepal and its present state of closed economy. Who is responsible for the present blockade to this landlocked country – is it India, or is it Madhesi activists, or is it Kathmandu Valley-centric politics? These are issues, which we can discuss at length without arriving at a conclusion. The fuel shortage is real, the economic impact of the blockade is real, and difficulties of the coping with the daily life are real. But, what is certain is the resilience of the people of this country to live life as fully as possible against all odds. The 10th edition of FSA went ahead despite all these debilitating realities. In a sense, FSA ‘15 becomes a metaphor for independent filmmaking in our region. The larger political economy restricts intervention. Personally speaking, I come from a country where film students are protesting against the state’s desire to impose its handmaiden as the Chairman for the most important film school of the region. We find writers returning awards, historians worried about the type of altering of the narratives that are taking place.
In this context, the jury recognises that it is the human agency that opens up the space for dialogue, dissent and democratic engagement. And documentary is the best manifestation of this agency.
The Kathmandu Post award for Student Film goes to Tyres by the Myanmar filmmaker Kyaw Myo Lwin. The award carries a citation and cash award of 500$.
‘ The marginal existence in urban Mynmar/Burma in various hues of grey and black makes this film a statement about cycle of life, dignity and spirit of life.’
The Unicef Nepal award for the best film on Children’s issues goes to Drawing the Tiger. A film made by Amy Benson, Scott Squire and Ramyata Limbu —the award carries a cash component of $1,000
‘The film captures the lacunae in our systems to provide quality education to rural and marginalised section in a layered manner. It also brings out the limitations of philanthropy when the larger socio-economic model is not geared to provide the emotional space for aspiring children.’
The Tareq Masud Award for the best debut film goes to “On and off the records” by Pratik Biswas. This award carries a cash component of 1000$.
‘The film captures the interplay between the classical tradition and the recording technology and its role in taking the classical music outside the confines of the court and the rich households. It had a fine balance between an eye for historical details and an ear for musical nuances.’
The Jury Award for the Runner Up goes to Iffat Fatima’s Blood leaves its trail. This prize carries a cash award of 1000$.
‘A sustained and relentless documentation of the human rights conditions in Kashmir spread over a period of nine years is captured in a form of memoirs, reflections and personal stories.’
And, finally, the Ram Bahadur Trophy goes to “A Walnut Tree” by Ammar Aziz. This award carries a cash component of 2000 $.
‘A poetic portrayal of a sense of loss and displacement under the shadow of gun and radicalisation. The camera never becomes a voyeur but retains its gaze of compassion, understanding and shared values.’