The Jeevika Documentary Film Festival brought livelihood issues in focus

It might not get reflected on the big screen; livelihood issues continue to haunt the common man in this country. Jeevika Documentary Film Festival aims to capture the livelihood challenges faced by the rural and urban poor and bring them to the attention of the public, media, judiciary, and most importantly, policy makers.

Organised by the Centre for Civil Society, an independent, non-profit, research and advocacy organisation, over the years, Jeevika has been successful in advocating the cause of numerous small entrepreneurs, self employed — rickshaw pullers, street vendors, sex-workers, child labourers, farmers — and forest-dwellers. This year, the festival received a total of 175 entries from both professional filmmakers and students. An independent jury then short-listed 11 hard-hitting documentaries, which were screened at the India Habitat Centre. Manoj Matthew, Associate Director for CCS says, “The panel discussion which took place after the documentary screenings were the key-point of this festival. They encouraged people to think out of the box and break stereotypes. Through these discussions some plausible solutions to the problems also emerged.”

The issues

The documentaries focused on a variety of issues. Director Shaji Pattanam’s The Hunted — In search of Home and Hope, which won the 3rd prize, highlighted the plight of tribes in Kerala, who were evicted from their natural habitat by corporate planters. Deepika Bhardwaj drew attention towards the challenges faced by the grameen dak sevaks. Talking about how she came across this subject, Deepika, a student of journalism, says, “The GDS employees have been protesting for a justified pay scale, pension, and other facilities that are provided to regular postal employees since decades. However, the media has never covered this issue. I witnessed one such strike and on interacting with them was genuinely moved by their predicament.” The film is judged as the best student entry.

One of the documentaries explored the unusual lives of the Neharwalas in Kolkata, who meticulously sweep drains in front of goldsmiths’ shops and try to distil gold from the dirt.

The award-winning films will travel and will be screened in schools and colleges in different Indian states, in other organisations working on livelihood issues, as well as in neighbouring Asian countries.