Movies

The ChangeChitra Film Festival 2020 and its mission to ignite social change

A still from ‘Made In Madras’ by Shikha Kumari, Aishwarya Ashok and Mohit Arora from Tamil Nadu.

A still from ‘Made In Madras’ by Shikha Kumari, Aishwarya Ashok and Mohit Arora from Tamil Nadu.   | Photo Credit: Video Volunteers

The purpose of the films at the festival is to inspire people to get involved in social change, says founding director Jessica Mayberry

Some of the most compelling documentaries continue to leave a lasting mark on not just audiences, but on society and policy too. Blackfish, From Darkness To Light, Food Inc. and An Inconvenient Truth are just some that come to mind. However it is also worth looking at the untapped reservoir of projects in India made by people who care just as much for the ripple effect than for the art.

One of these reservoirs is from Video Volunteers and their touring ChangeChitra Film Festival, which comes to the city this weekend. Jessica Mayberry, its founding director, says the film festival received positive feedback from its first stop in Mumbai, where Kinaarpatti, a documentary about the Koli fishing community, did quite well. A TED fellow and having served on the board of WE Charity (formerly Free the Children), Jessica’s work focusses a lot on guiding filmmakers through a social activism channel.

Jessica Mayberry, founding director of Video Volunteers

Jessica Mayberry, founding director of Video Volunteers  

Video Volunteers is a media, non-profit organisation which has been active for around 16 years. “Our main work is to get people from villages and rural communities to produce content on different social change issues. As India’s largest non-profit YouTube channel, VV produces around 3,000 short, web-ready videos a year for community audiences, panchayats and district offices,” explains Jessica, “The purpose of these films is to inspire people to get involved in social change and look at various social problems from a new perspective. Around 400 times a year, these videos are able to solve a problem.” The themes of the videos address the socially-stratified communities as well as institutionally-induced problems, but they also have audiences looking at themselves to solve issues.

‘Power of communication’

Eighteen months ago, VV received a grant from the US Embassy to train novice filmmakers to make documentaries. In total, there are 65 filmmakers, of which 15 are VV correspondents. Many of the other filmmakers work in NGOs, students, nascent filmmakers and people who essentially want to hone the power of communication and film for social change. Hyderabad, the second of the five festival legs, will see 16 films, though; one large screening will take place at a US Embassy venue while other screenings will be community screenings.

A still from ‘Avalokanam’ by Dheeraj Aithal and Siddhartha Reddy from Bengaluru

A still from ‘Avalokanam’ by Dheeraj Aithal and Siddhartha Reddy from Bengaluru   | Photo Credit: Video Volunteers

But the project does not cease at the film festival. Once the films go online, VV ensures that they are being used by appropriate groups and media partners. For example, a film about trafficking can be used by a group which fights against it. “Our projects should go beyond the screenings and properly advocate the causes mentioned. And when people at the film festival see it, a deeper discussion about the film and the bigger picture can take place,” comments Jessica. The final stops for the film festival are Chennai for March 6, Kolkata for March 11 and Delhi for March 20.

The line-up

Many of VV’s films are in Hindi, Bengali and Oriya but the festival ahead promises some content from the south. Nobody Knows! is a film by Ananya Pandey and Parij Borgohain from Telangana. The film follows the search of the elusive government agency responsible for reporting and developing a strategy to combat the rising crimes against women in the state. Another Brick In The Wall by Rana Prathap, Jogi Raju, Puli Sudheer and Jagdish Kumar from Andhra Pradesh – a young migrant worker and an underpaid graduate are just two other bricks in the wall of the system that might fall any minute. It is the quality of bricks, their arrangement and the system that holds them together that determine the nature and strength of the wall. These two films are not confirmed for screening at the festival, though.

Still from ‘Nobody Knows!’ is a film by Ananya Pandey and Parij Borgohain from Telangana

Still from ‘Nobody Knows!’ is a film by Ananya Pandey and Parij Borgohain from Telangana   | Photo Credit: Video Volunteers

Made In Madras by Shikha Kumari, Aishwarya Ashok and Mohit Arora from Tamil Nadu is about an 18-year-old girl from the streets of Chennai, who was a child labourer and winds up playing international football. Avalokanam by Dheeraj Aithal and Siddhartha Reddy from Bengaluru is an exploratory journey of an organic farmer’s life in solitude, which contrasts with the chemical-fuelled agricultural society around him.

Some projects relate to the ongoing NRC and CAA strifes and gender issues. Assam-based Indranee Kalita and Vikramjit Barua’s 2nd November centres on a mother who mourns the killing of her two sons, a daughter weeps for her father, and a wife describes the shootout of her husband in the midst of communal riots. Delhi-based Aatur Sharma, Vikas Yadav, Ashish Kumar, Alya Ekta, Mohd. Wazid and Ankita Menon’s Atah Nashedi narrates the journeys of drug addicts coming from myriad socio-economic classes. Then there is MangalaMukhi by Arpita Singh, Mohd. Zeeshan, Mohd. Ragib and Madhuri Chauhan from UP. This personal documentary shows us the lives of Guddi and Kanchi who struggle to survive as eunuchs, dealing with civil rights issues.

Venues and timings

The Hyderabad festival is scheduled for February 28 at St Francis College, Lamakaan on February 29, and Phoenix Arena on March 1.

The Chennai festival is scheduled for March 6 at the US Consulate-General Chennai, Anna Salai, besides a community screening with Sangeetha, Wall Tax Road on March 7 and on March 8 at The Hive, Thirumangalam.

The Delhi festival is scheduled for March 20 at the Embassy of the United States, Chanakyapuri, with the rest of venues still to be confirmed.

For more details, call 7355667227 or 8299554981.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:07:10 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/movies/video-volunteers-change-chitra-film-festival-2020-interview-jessica-mayberry-hyderabad-chennai-delhi/article30922244.ece

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