Sturla Gunnarsson's film is the story of ‘the most significant act of air terror before 9/11'

It would not be an exaggeration to say that Air India 182 has been the most discussed film so far at the ongoing Bengaluru International Film Festival (BIFFes). Sturla Gunnarsson, the director of this film, was often seen responding patiently to queries from interested audience members after his film was screened. The genial Canadian has brought his 2008 film to India for the first time and it has struck a chord because of its clear Indian connection.

The film tells the story of the doomed flight from Montreal to Delhi that exploded somewhere off the coast of Wales in 1985. None of the over 300 passengers survived.

Making the film 23 years after the event happened was not easy, but Gunnarsson says that it was necessary to tell the story as it was the most significant act of air terror before the incidents of 9/11.

Sense of closure

When asked about why he chose to make a film on this subject, Gunnarsson said, “The Sikh community in British Columbia are highly respected, and back then these bunch of radical Sikhs came to Vancouver, took control of the temple and spoilt the name of the Sikhs. I am married into a Sikh family and I needed to make this film. The families of the victims also needed a sense of closure as they were victimised twice — first, because of the loss of their loved ones and secondly, when nobody acknowledged the incident.”

The fact that the Canadian Government chose to sympathise with the Indian Government also led to a sense of betrayal for the families who insisted that the victims were Canadians first.

Gunnarsson chooses to tell the story in a documentary format — splicing harrowing interviews of victims' family members with enactments of what could have happened. The result is a brilliant narrative that says the story as it happened .

“Everything in the film is factual. This is what happened and it is for the first time that it has been put together. It is out there in the open if anyone wants to challenge the facts.”

Why so long?

Why did it take so long to tell such an important story? Gunnarsson says that it was not possible to get access to the intelligence reports before this.

Gunnarsson is a well known film director who dabbles in both formats – feature films as well as documentaries, and has made several acclaimed films.

Ask him what he likes better and he says, “I think it depends entirely on the subject matter but when you do a feature film, it's like you don't have control of all aspects of the film. So it feels nice to get out with a camera and make a documentary.”

Keywords: BIFF 2011

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