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October 29, 1999
3 Indian Docus at Margaret Mead Festival
Aseem Chhabra in New York
The effects of Bollywood movies on villagers in India's remote areas; the individual stories of members of a pioneering self-help women's group in India, and the impact of modernization on the lives of people in northeast India. These themes are explored by three documentaries to be screened at the Margaret Mead Film and Video Festival -- the longest-running and the largest annual showcase of documentary films in the US.
The festival runs from November 12 to November 20 at New York City's American Museum of Natural History.
"The festival is committed to strong cinema and this year we have selected three films from India, two of them made by non-Indians," Elaine Charnov the director of the festival said in an interview.
On November 13, at 9.15 pm, the festival presents Polish filmmaker Andrzej Fidyk's film Battu's Bioscope." In the film, Battu, a projectionist at a movie theater, travels to remote villages in India, introducing commercial Bollywood films to tribal communities.
"The film is a celebration of the art of cinema and a study of the reactions of different communities," Charnov said. "It raises several post-colonial issues."
She added that there would be discussion following the screening of the film. Brian Larkin, a professor of anthropology at Barnard College, will initiate the discussion.
Gujarat-based women's organization -- SEWA (Self-Employed Women's Association) is the focus of Patricia Plattners 1998 film -- Made in India. Founded by Ela R Bhat in 1972, SEWA is a ground-breaking group that works with women of different religious and caste backgrounds, helping them become financially independent.
The group provides essential support and information to women on issues ranging from health to banking. In the film, Plattner lets several members of SEWA, including Bhat, relating their own experiences.
Charnov said that the film has a global appeal. It looks at the issue of what it takes to organize labor and will relate to women in India, US and elsewhere. Made in India screens on Tuesday, November 16 at 8.30 pm.
The third film from India is a short documentary, In the Forest Hangs a Bridge," directed by Sanjay Kak. Described by Charnov as an "unbelievably beautiful and lyrical work," Kak's film is study of the lives of the Adi tribes in northeast India.
The tribals build vast suspension bridges with cane and bamboo to cross rivers in the Siang Valley. This annual event asserts the unity of the tribes, but the traditional culture is now threatened by modernization and changes in the families units. In the Forest... will be screened on November 13, at 3.45 pm, and on Thursday, November 18, at 8.45 pm. Kak is scheduled to be present at the screenings.
For further information call (212) 769-5305. Tickets can be purchased by phone at (212) 769-5200, at the American Museum of Natural History's box office or through the museums web site at www.amnh.org. The museum is located at 79th Street and Central Park West in Manhattan.
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