It was indeed a rare event in Chennai, organizing a film festival on the theme of Human Rights, to commemorate the World Human Rights Day. This venture was the fruit of a joint collaboration of the Don Bosco Institute of Communication Arts, Madras School of Social Work, Bangalore Film Society and Breakthrough TV – Human Rights in Frames. Several films from across the globe, both national and international were screened during this festival. The festival commenced with the inaugural message by Mr. George Kutty, Director of the Bangalore Film Society who spoke on the different issues concerning human rights both at the national level and at the international level. Eleven films highlighting various human rights issues were screened during the festival.
The films screened were the following:

‘Happiness Behind Tragedy’ produced by Manitham Productions (India) provided an insight into the issue of child Labour in some of the southern districts of Tamil Nadu, especially Sivakasi. The Film showcased how the dreams of the innocent were crushed by the burden of debts, poverty and how physical retardation was caused.

‘Village of Dust, City of Water’ directed by Sanjay Barnela and Vasant Saberwal(India) focused on the issue of water induced migration. Earlier only the landless migrated, now we find medium and small holding farmers migrating due to lack of water. Fifteen years later the people in the villages of Rajasthan await their first harvest inspite of being promised green deserts.

‘The Untouchable Country’ directed by R.R.Srinivasan (India) focused on the atrocities endured by Dalits. The movie provides the audience with incidents of their human right violations. Images of murder, rape and denial to basic necessities shock and expose the audience to the status of Dalits in a developing nation like India.

‘Leila Khaled’ –The Hijacker directed by Lina Makboul (Sweden) showcased the making of a terorrist cum freedom fighter. The film alternates lives devastated due to war – human disaster perpetuated by Israel led war on Palestine that has made thousands homeless.

‘Mahadiga’ directed by Lila Suresh (India) portrayed the plight of untouchables in the state of Andhra Pradesh in India. It exemplifies the state oppressed and use of caste as a shield for inflicting violence on the weaker sections.

‘Lesser Humans’ directed by Stalin.K (India) treated issues concerning caste, gender, economic and political factors responsible for continuance of the inhumane practice of manual disposal of human excreta.

‘To Disobey’ directed by Patricio Henri Quez (United States) highlighted the power of human spirit and portrayed how an individual soldier of the U.S Army choses to disobey the Iraq war, not withstanding the repercussions of retrenchment or Court Marshal only because he felt, that it was inhuman to invade the right of freedom of another.

‘Payanam’ directed by Cyril (India) was another story of a little boy who gives up his dreams of education to be the bread winner of the family.

‘Words on Water’ directed by Sanjay Kak (India) threw light on the plight of the people affected by the Narmada Dam Project. Interviews and requests from the localities and several protestations by social activist Metha Patkar have failed to be eye-openers to the government.

‘First Lesson in Peace’ directed by Yoram Honig (Israel) featured differing views and situations – some complicated and angry, some courageous and surprising but all demonstrating the great complexity and difficulties endured by conflicts in West Asia.

‘Favela Rising’ directed by Jeff Zimbalist and Matt Mochary (Brazil) threw light on the life of a drug addict turned revolutionary who fights against the dreaded drug gangs to save his locality against abuse and oppression.

It was truly a participative film festival, with students interacting at regular intervals to express their comments and concern over the issues that were dealt in the films. Students hailing from various colleges, NGOs and many other groups were present for the festival. It was indeed very amazing to note, students totally involved and concerned, as they expressed sentiments of social responsibility and social consciousness in their sharing. Madras School of Social Work and DBICA have surely done a good job to host such an event at Chennai.

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