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Cry, beloved country


The Tri-Continental Film Festival dealt with a wide range of human rights issues in the Global South

"Moving images enthral us as nothing else does", explains the media organisation Breakthrough, in introducing the recently concluded Tri-Continental Film Festival (3CFF). After 30 hours, 20 films and a spectrum of emotions that most of us are safely insulated from in the security of middle-class India, one cannot help but agree.

Over a span of three days, from January 29 to 31, the festival showcased 16 documentaries and four feature films aimed at highlighting human rights issues from across the global south, i.e. Asia, Africa and America. This marks the second time that the festival is being held in India since its initiation in Latin America in 2002. Like last year, this festival too is travelling across the country, having already completed screenings at Delhi and Mumbai, and going to Chennai and Calcutta in the coming weeks.

Unlike many festivals, 3CFF delivers on its promise of adequately representing the global south, with an extensive bouquet of films and proper emphasis on range in terms of issues discussed as well as styles of narration and documentation. The journey of 20 films takes the viewer from the Muslim-dominated Jamianagar in The House on Gulmohar Avenue to war-torn Chechnya in 14 Episodes to Buenos Aires clawing its way out of recession in The Take, documenting a wide range of movements in between.

Different strokes

The various films also vary incredibly in tone: Justica, a gritty take on Brazil's almost draconian penal system is offset well by the heart-warming Sisters in Law, which documents the work of two sisters, one a lawyer for the state and the other a judge in a small courthouse in Southwest Cameroon. The irreverent West Bank Story, a musical comedy set in the West Bank, is a delightfully fresh change from the weight of films like No More Tears Sister, about Dr. Rajani Thiranagama, an activist who was assassinated following her breakaway from the LTTE.

WIDE RANGE The films in the Tri-Continental Festival made an effort to spark debate on issues that carry universal implications

While almost every film in the festival is worth acclaim, there are some obvious highlights. The Concrete Revolution, which kicked off the proceedings, is a gently ironic tale of Beijing caught in the middle of an ambitious leap towards the future that most of its people are not ready for. Alternating between gently ironic and heartrending, the film piquantly captures the erosion of individual and cultural roots. The Take, scripted and directed by well-known activists Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein chronicles efforts by a betrayed working class to expropriate factories from managements that betrayed them in one of the greatest economic collapses the world has seen. It is an inspiring tale of hope in the middle of desperation. Sancharram, directed by Ligy Pullapally, a feature on a lesbian relationship in rural Kerala, is beautiful not only for the sensitivity with which it handles the relationship, but also for the mastery with which it gets under the Malayalee skin. Weapons of Mass Deception, the winner of the Jury Prize, savages the mainstream media in the U.S. with a caustic tone strongly reminiscent of Michael Moore. Angola saudades from one who loves you simply breaks one's heart as its protagonists insist on the beauty and richness of the country in the midst of horrifying misery.

There is a conscious effort to not simply gather and display information on human rights abuses around the world, but rather to spark debate on issues that carry universal implications.

Thus, the festival also includes Thirst, possibly the first film to discuss, at length, the issue of water privatisation. Similarly, The House on Gulmohar Avenue provides a unique perspective on what it means to be a Muslim in India today, while Acting Like a Thief studies the stigmatisation of the Chhara tribals, notified as "born criminals" by the British and considered the same to this day.

Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan breaks into a little known area of the world, documenting for the first time a custom of forced marriage that is widely prevalent here.

The 2006 3CFF is an affirmation of life, gathering together struggles from around the globe to find hope and justice in a world determined to deny them the right. As poetic as it is profound, every film in the festival merits a watch, and the fierce debate that is meant to result from it.

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