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  • Writer's pictureGEM LAB

Bearing Witness/Holding Space: Screening + Discussion

Bearing Witness, Holding Space: National Populism, Post Truth and the Documentary Form - 5:30pm - GEM Lab

Global Emergent Media Lab and Cinema in the Midst of Struggle invite you to "Bearing witness, holding space: National Populism, Post Truth and the Documentary Form", featuring a lecture demonstration by documentary filmmaker Nakul Singh Sawhney. The event will feature screenings from his film Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai (Muzaffarnagar Eventually...) and work produced by part of his activist collective Chal Chitra Abhiyaan . Through these media works, the event will reflect upon questions of populism, post truth and the role of the documentary form in activist modes of struggle. The respondents to this event will be Giuseppe Fiodatta and Ishita Tiwary. Speakers: Nakul Singh Sawhney: is an Indian documentary filmmaker who has extensively worked on issues of communalism, honour killing, labour rights and social justice. He runs Chalchitra Abhiyaan , a film and media collective in Western Uttar Pradesh in North India, with a special focus on local caste, class and gender issues through film screenings in rural areas, training local people to make their own films and news features. Ishita Tiwary: an Horizon Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Department of Cinema, Concordia University. Her research interests lie at the intersection of media infrastructures, video cultures, aesthetics and migration practices in South and East Asia. It has been published in Bioscope: South Asian Screen Studies, Post Script: Essays in Film and Humanities, MARG: Journal of Indian Art amongst others. Her research has been supported by the Fulbright Doctoral Fellowship, The Charles Wallace Grant and the Indian Council of Social Sciences Research Council. Giuseppe Fidotta: a 4th-year PhD student in Film and Moving Image Studies at the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema, Concordia University (Montreal), where he is conducting a media-ethnographic project on mafia media culture and its effects upon the local civil society. Through this research, he has been exploring the potentials of populism as community-building and mobilizing tool and its use in the context of neoliberal governance, Sicily's culture industry, and Italy's Southern Question. Giuseppe has published essays on media geography, the planetary imagination of the essay film, and Italian documentary cinema. He also edited an anthology on media archaeology in Italian an a NECSUS journal issue on mapping and the media. He is currently co-editing a special issue of Culture Machine, with Joshua Neves and Joaquin Serpe, on media populism to come out in 2020. About Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai..(Muzaffarnagar Eventually...) In September 2013, Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts of Western Uttar Pradesh, India, witnessed one of India's worst ever anti-Muslim pogrom since Indian Independence. More than 100 people were killed and close to 80,000 people were displaced. In the past, the two districts have seen relative harmony between Muslims and Hindus. What happened this time? 'Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai...' (Muzaffarnagar eventually...) straddles between various socio-political-economic dynamics in the area that affected or have been affected by the violence. The film speaks to a cross-section of people. While looking at the immediate violence and it's repercussions, it takes a journey around the many facets of the massacre- the question of a woman's 'honour', which becomes the biggest rallying point to instigate people, the way communal polarisation was orchestrated by Hindu nationalist organisations including BJP-RSS, the merging of caste identity politics within the larger Hindutva fold and the breakdown of the once powerful farmers' union, Bhartiya Kissan Union, from this region, whose survival hinged on the unity of Hindu and Muslim peasants. It also explores the various aspects of Dalit politics in the districts and the dubious role of the Samajwadi Party, the ruling party in Uttar Pradesh at the time of the riots. This has, today, resulted in a feeling of complete alienation and marginalisation of the Muslim community. All these aspects are weaved together by the 2014 Indian General election campaign. The film looks at how the massacre finally found its resonance in these elections. But in the midst of this gloom the film narrates the tale of a continued and growing resistance in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli districts against the corporate- communal nexus.Muzaffarangar and Shamli districts have not given in yet. And so, the film asks the question, what will be the fate of Muzaffarnagar, eventually? Prominent Festivals where film was screened- MIFF (Mumbai International Film Festival), Film South Asia (Nepal), Minneapolis St. Paul International Film Festival, 10th International Documentary & Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK) among others. About the ChalChitra Abhiyaan Media collective: ChalChitra Abhiyaan is a film and media collective based out of Western Uttar Pradesh in India. The collective produces a range of video formats like documentary films, news features, interviews and live broadcasts. We try to bring to the fore local issues that concern different marginalised communities in their own voices. Issues that are often glossed over by the mainstream media because of corporate control, the stranglehold of strong political parties or caste, class, religious and gender biases. Part of our endeavour and a very important aspect of ChalChitra Abhiyaan’s work is to train people from local communities to tell their own stories through videos. These stories are evolving into a movement to challenge the propaganda machinery that’s constantly dividing communities. We also organise film screenings of a range of films on different socio-political issues. There is a treasure of such incredible films, both documentaries and fiction, but they rarely make it beyond select circles. In trying to build such spaces, ChalChitra Abhiyaan seeks to contribute to a larger progressive cultural movement. We see ourselves as not just a media organisation but also as a film collective and a cultural collective. For us, ‘Counter culture is people’s culture.’ - Sarika Joglekar, Marco Meneghin & Tanvi Rajvanshi

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