The February edition of the Rising Gardens Film Festival focuses on the sector whose problems have led to months of protest, avoidable deaths and barricades at Delhi’s borders: farming.
Titled “Fields of Sorrow, Fields of Hope”, it will examine the role played by women as sowers, reapers and protectors of centuries-old practices. Some of the films explore the hurdles faced by female agriculturists, while others celebrate their often unsung labour. All of them prove that women have as deep a connection with the land as men do.
Thirteen documentaries and nine community videos will be available for free viewing on the website www.doculive.in between February 12 and 15. The January edition, “Cosmic Connections”, revolved around women and nature.
The festival has been organised by Sangat and the Kriti Film Club to mark the One Billion Rising’s South Asia Campaign. The selection has been curated by eminent editor and filmmaker Reena Mohan.
Here are seven unmissable films at Rising Gardens in February.
Falaknaz Iranian director Sahar Salahsoor’s documentary portrait is never short of wonderment. Falaknaz is possibly a one-of-a-kind specimen of her gender, using her manly voice, disregard for convention and fearlessness to survive and thrive. I don’t owe anyone anything, says the tireless worker, who grows crops, runs a store, hangs out with the men in the village as an equal, and canvasses for an upcoming local body election.
The widow of a man vastly older than her, Falaknaz has long since thrown propriety to the wind. She wishes that she didn’t have to work this hard, but you are not quite convinced since she makes this statement seconds after single-handedly mending her leaking roof. Warm and charming and despite a rugged exterior, Falaknaz smashes gender stereotypes by being a man’s man.
Talking to the Wind The centrepiece of Akshaya Sawant’s documentary about the plight of Maharashtra’s drought-prone Marathwada is an uninterrupted 10-minute shot of a farmer walking to fetch water. The seemingly never-ending walk reveals the challenges of trying to make a living in a rain-shadow region where a single season of crop failure can push agriculturists into debt or even drive them to suicide. Through three sets of characters, Sawant explores the hardiness of the region’s people, who manage to organise weddings, educate their children, and move from one day to the next with little government assistance.
Ambi Jiji’s Retirement Nandini Bedi’s documentary is led by a wise and cool Meghalayan matriarch who is holding out against turning her fields into orchards. The film explores the practice of jhum cultivation and the challenges faced by individual farmers whose land is being grabbed by other villagers.
Jal, Jangal, Zameen This Khabar Lahariya documentary focuses on the unsung labour of women cultivators. I see myself as a farmer, I take care of the fields, I prepare the land for farming, I do the sowing and irrigation, a farmer in a village in Chitrakoot, tells the filmmakers. And yet, she doesn’t own the land she tills in the absence of her migrant husband. Several other women voice their concerns over the lack of land rights. Women are ahead in every which way and yet the men hold them back, another woman points out.
Sugar & Spice The programme includes two documentaries from Myanmar. In the tender and humorous Sugar & Spice, director Mi Mi Lwin profiles her doughty parents, who make sweets from palm syrup. The parents have their differences, but their love for each other and their work is unmistakable.
Community videos Among the community videos is the adorable Dhanwarla O’ Avva, in which the knee-high Masanagari Mayuri and her “gang of friends” interview her farmer grandmother about living a highly sustainable life.
In Strength in Diversity, Chentei Lam Khiamniungan explores the wisdom behind age-old cultivating traditions in Nagaland. The farmers preserve their seeds and grow a variety of crops, from millet to purple yam and tapioca to corn, to protect themselves from seasonal lurchings and the vagaries of nature.