Swaraj Film Festival 2008

The first Swaraj Film Festival 2008 (also called Swaraj Film Utsav), was held in Allahabad from February 18 to 21, 2008. The festival venue was spread across 8 colleges in the city. Swaraj Film Utsav was held in collaboration with the Swaraj Vidyapeeth, an open university based in Allahabad. The festival hosted a large number of film screenings to college students and featured a workshop to facilitate young thinkers and film enthusiasts. A significant outcome of the event was the establishment of the Swaraj Film Archive.

A Report

The first Swaraj Film Festival 2008 (also called Swaraj Film Utsav), was held in Allahabad from February 18 to 21, 2008. The festival venue was spread across 8 colleges in the city. Swaraj Film Utsav was held in collaboration with the Swaraj Vidyapeeth, an open university based in Allahabad. The Swaraj Vidyapeeth’s endeavor is to initiate the youth into alternative thoughts and its processes, against globalisation and its malpractices.

The inaugural function of the film festival was held at Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth, where the Chief Guest was well-known filmmaker Amar Kanwar, while Justice Ram Bhushan Mehrotra chaired the event. On February 19, film screenings were held at Prayag Mahila Vidyapeeth, Anglo- Bengali Intermediate College and Ishwar Sharan Degree College. On February 20, the film screenings were organised at GB Pant Social Science Institute, Jhunsi, Ewing Christian College and Colonelganj Intermediate College. Film screenings on Feb 21 were held at Shri Rajdev Public School, Jayantipur and Jagat Taran Degree College. Since the festival was organised in various universities and colleges across the city, the centre of interest were the students and the budding film makers. Many academics, filmmakers and intellectuals thronged the festival with full fervor.

A filmmaking workshop to facilitate young thinkers and film enthusiasts was also organised as a part of Swaraj Film Festival from Feb 18-21 under the supervision of filmmaker Amar Kanwar. This workshop was held at GB Pant Social Science Institute.

The festival saw the Premiere of Amar Kanwar’s latest film Roshan Bayan (Hindi version of The Lightning Testimonies). The film reflects upon a history of conflicts in the Indian subcontinent through experiences of sexual violence, after the screening there was a long discussion with the director of the film. The film received a huge appreciation from the audience, though there was a power failure and some odd disturbances during the event, where a group some 60 odd class six students and their two teachers were trying to walk into the screening at a very sensitive moment.

The festival also screened various films from Under Construction: these were Shit By Amudhan R. P., Gender Trouble by Roz Mortimer, In Whose Interest by David Kaplowitz, Hot Off The Press (Taza Khabar) by Bishakha Datta, Holiday Camp by Jennifer Lyons Reid & Carl Kuddell, Little Republics by Gautam Sonti, Hope Dies Last in War by Supriyo Sen, Only an Axe Away by C Saratchandran & P Baburaj, were screened in the festival.

The festival was one of its kind, to be organised in Allahabad. The event also saw the formation of the Swaraj Film Archive, which was inaugurated by the Director of Doordarshan. The Archive will act as an in house library for films, through which the organisers plan to hold regular film screenings all over Allahabad in various schools and colleges. Magic Lantern Foundation donated a collection of its films to the archive.

The Swaraj Film Archive aims at collecting national and international films, organising film festivals at various underprivileged areas, providing films to different educational institutes and organizing film making workshops.

Both the Swaraj Film Festival and the Swaraj Film Archive is non-funded voluntary effort. This is solely from small financial contributions by several academics, and thought makers in the city, they also contribute with their time. Their primary effort has been to screen films and organise discussions around them, since they are all professors, thus the screenings are held in several colleges and also schools. The effort is not limited to the city of Allahabad, but one found the same initiative being taken up by the smaller towns around the city, such efforts one found was finding a new ground, and getting its much deserved attention.

Under Construction travelled to the city for the first time, with the Swaraj Film Festival, and like many other film festivals had a space for display of its films.

A report by Priyanka Mukherjee & Shruti Nagpal

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