City-based filmmaker Sourav Sarangi’s documentary Char…the No-Man’s Island has been selected for the Berlin International Film Festival and will be screened at the International Forum of New Cinema section next month.
“I am really excited. It is a dream come true for the film to be screened at Berlin and that too in a section that is known to include the most experimental films,” Mr. Sarangi told The Hindu on Sunday.
The film brings into focus the lives of people living on the char -- riverine islands that have emerged as the Ganges changed its course -- along the Indo-Bangladesh border. It explores the social, political, environmental and water issues that have emerged, he said.
Seen from the eyes of 14-year-old Rubel, who smuggles rice from India to Bangladesh to support his family, the film explores “the absurdities” that emerge because “the river moves, but the border does not.”
Mr. Sarangi’s encounter with the people of the island began as a journalistic endeavour ten years ago, when the people of Parashpur village had been rendered homeless.
Their lands were lost to erosion by the Ganges. Six or seven years later, a fragile island emerged in the river and homeless families from both countries moved into “this no-man’s island.”
“Completely cut-off from mainstream society, in a way they were sent back in time. Rubel knows what a school is, but there are no schools on Char . The people who migrated to Char have seen electricity and television, but today live in a place where they have to cross an international border to charge a mobile phone,” Mr. Sarangi explained.
Having directed the critically acclaimed and National Award-winning Bilal , the story of a child born to visually challenged parents, Mr. Sarangi clarified that it was not as if children are always the protagonists of his films.
“Rubel is an adolescent who at times has to act like grown up people, but he has not lost his innocence. Transitioning from his childhood to the world of adults, Rubel has many boundaries to cross,” he said adding that “it was the river that wrote the story, I have not created it.”
An international co-production of India, Japan, Norway, Denmark and Italy, Mr. Sarangi said that the film received support from various sources including a grant from Locarno Open Doors in 2011.