Documentaries are becoming a vehicle for sharpened public awareness and action. Here’s a look at the upcoming CMS Vatavaran festival

While elsewhere, the issue of environment may just be treated as a cause gently touched upon, in a bid to raise awareness, at CMS Vatavaran, the burning issue takes centrestage year after year. At CMS Vatavaran, the country’s oldest and premier film festival devoted to environment and wildlife cinema, the cause transforms into the subject, probed by a community that is not only passionate about the medium of filmmaking but is equally committed to mother earth. Center for Media Studies is a multi–disciplinary development research body of eminent professionals known for its advocacy initiatives.

A total of 106 films dealing with climate change and sustainable technologies with the focus on natural heritage conservation will be seen in the fifth edition of CMS Vatavaran Biennale competitive festival that rolls out in the city from October 27 to 31 at the India Habitat Centre. If the 2007 competitive festival harped on the dangers of climate change, this time round, the festival is stressing on the solutions as well, and that’s why the festival is centred around the theme of climate change and sustainable technologies.

“We have noticed that the number of entries on the theme of climate change has increased substantially as compared to the 2007 festival. For example Faizan Jawed and Ashok Mundkur’s “Just Wheels” visits 12 cities across three continents to examine how intelligent, sustainable public transport solutions can be successfully integrated with simple, non-carbon modes of mobility like cycling and walking which can in turn contribute in the reversal of global warming,” says Narender Yadav, Manager, Communications, CMS. “More and more Indian filmmakers are looking at regional issues, like Umesh Aggarwal’s “Underground Inferno” looks at how underground coal fires are becoming a major problem in Jharkhand and it has compounded the problem of water shortage in the area,” adds Yadav.

What stands out in this year’s fare is not just the increase in the number of women filmmakers who have made it to the festival but also more participation from the Delhi circuit.

“Out of 106 films, 73 are Indian films, 33 are international films. Out of 73 films, 28 films are from Delhi and about 12 films have come from women filmmakers,” explains Yadav. Adding to the list of categories, the festival this year has introduced a few more like amateur films, eco-tourism, and environmental health. CMS will also start an online film bazaar soon where people can buy environment films online.

Prestigious festival

Rita Banerji of Dusty Foot productions, whose three films are in competition , feels the stature of the festival attracts more people to participate. One of her three entries is “A Shawl to Die For” documents the project initiated by Wildlife Trust of India to use the skills of shahtoosh shawl makers for pashmina shawls after the use of shahtoosh was banned. “The difference between Vatavaran and other festivals in India is that it is the first festival to have wildlife films on board,” says Banerjee.

The chiru, a protected animal under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, was being killed to acquire its under–fleece from which the shawl was made. “A lot of women were involved in the processing of the fibre which was a tedious process but after the ban was clamped, it meant loss of livelihood for them. So WTI developed a high quality pashmina fabric trademarked as “Pashma – the warmth of Kashmir” utilising their skills,” says Banerji.

She also feels that stylistically, documentary filmmakers are applying out-of-box ideas of which some will be seen at this forum. “Technology is a big boon for environment filmmakers. With so much equipment around, you can get good results even if you don’t invest a whopping amount in technology and equipment,” she says.