This year's Vibgyor Film Festival in Thrissur once again provided a platform for watching and discussing films on various social and political issues.

Vibgyor Film Festival in Thrissur, which was held from February 22 to 26, was the seventh edition of the fete; a fete that has emerged as one of the most important documentary festivals in the country.

Every year Vibgyor features films centred on a socially-relevant theme such as human rights, identities, environment and developmentalism, nation-state, gender and sexuality, fundamentalism vs. diversity, culture and media, and presents important documentaries, filmmakers and packages about them, apart from lectures, exhibitions and seminars on related issues.

Vibgyor was launched in 2006, with ‘Water' as the theme. The second edition of the festival began with a national conference based on ‘Earth,' which was the thematic focus that year. The next edition focussed on the theme ‘Energy', followed by ‘Food Sovereignty' in 2009, ‘State, Communal and Developmental Conflicts in South Asia' in 2010 and ‘Political Filmmaking and Media Activism in South Asia' in 2011.

On South Asia

The theme this year was ‘South Asia: Lives and Livelihoods;' the fete showcased around 100 films on this topic. Eminent filmmakers, activists, artistes, and journalists participated in this year's fete and included the likes of Anand Patwardhan, Mallika Sarabhai, Utkarsh Singh, Leo Saldanha, Guman Singh and Dayamani Barla, to name a few. One of the highlights of the festival was the ‘Master Class' session by anti-nuclear activist and documentary filmmaker from Australia, David Bradbury.

Documentary filmmaker Saratchandran was one of the founders of Vibgyor and the second Saratchandran memorial lecture was delivered by P. Sainath, eminent journalist, on the theme, ‘Inequality, Livelihood and Agrarian Crisis.'

Poster and cartoon exhibitions on several issues and themes such as ‘Homage to human rights activists and others killed as victims of state fabricated plots,' ‘Peace Counts' – an exhibition on peace builders around the world, ‘Nuclear debate and Koodamkulam anti-nuke agitation,' and Greenpeace anti-nuclear posters provided a vibrant ambience to the festival.

Conference themes of the festival included ‘Fabricated Victimisation and Civil Torture,' ‘Impact of Global Free Trade and Climatic change on Future of Livelihood in South Asia,' ‘Women and Livelihood in South Asia, ‘In solidarity with the Koodamkulam anti-nuclear Agitation,' and ‘Migration and Livelihood: South Asia focussing on migrant labourers in Kerala who have come from outside.'

The retrospectives included films by Mexican filmmaker Fransesco Taboada Tabone and Sanjay Kak (featuring among others, ‘In the Forest Hangs a Bridge' and the much-awaited ‘Jashne-e-Azadi').

Some of the other important films featured in this year's fete are Anand Patwardhan's new film ‘Jai Bhim Comrade,' Nanden Saxena's ‘Cotton for my Shroud,' Yasmine Kabir's ‘My Migrant Soul,' and Delia Ackerman and Heather Greer's ‘Voices that Heal.' Navroze Contractor's ‘Jharu Katha,' Nithun Nevil's ‘Meals Ready,' Hugh Piper's ‘Dancing with the Dictators,' Emre Koca's ‘Seppi & Hias, ‘Anjali Monteiro and K.P. Jayasankar's ‘So Heddan So Hoddan,' and Nitin Pamnani's ‘Vidrohi.'

‘Third Eye of Resistance,' a 100-minute filmic homage to Saratchandran by Razi Muhammed was premiered at the festival.

Evidently, Vibgyor is not just another ‘film' festival but an annual platform for activists, filmmakers, social scientists, media persons, students and film lovers to come together to watch films on various social and political issues and to discuss and share their experiences.

Space for expression

Through the years, the festival has nurtured a space for expression and interaction between perspectives from the grass roots, and various visual representations of issues.

The overwhelming presence of students and young social activists from all over the State makes a festival like this all the more relevant. For instance, this year Vibgyor provided a rare opportunity to interact with an experienced documentary filmmaker in the global arena like David Bradbury.

Vibgyor captured the attention and imagination of students and aspiring filmmakers to have a fresh look on vital issues concerning our life and polity that never find space or voice in the mainstream media or public discourses.

For, in an age when all media and socio-political discourses in our public sphere are being inundated and calibrated by a hegemony of consensus about the supremacy and inevitability of market, and certain instrumentalist notions about development all asserting the impossibility of alternatives, a festival like this opens up a space of discussions for the marginal and marginalised, the sane and the ethical – voices that are smothered by the forces of avarice and restraint all over the world.

This festival is then a celebration of the spirit of hope and resistance, a festival of handholding and exchange, and also a stark reminder of the dark times we live in.