Finding A Voice Through Alternative Video

BY Frederick Noronha| IN Community Media | 28/08/2002
Finding A Voice Through Alternative Video

Finding A Voice Through Alternative Video

But Where are the Audiences?
By Frederick Noronha

Behind the camera, idealistic video enthusiasts want to give a voice to issues that affect India¿s fields and villages. But, the rich world of alternative video cinema is simply not visible enough to find an audience large enough to make a difference.

"Outside there, nobody knows of these films. But alternative video film makers are now increasingly feeling the need to come together, as the space available to them gets reduced," says Ranjan De, a long-time campaigner for giving the common man¿s issues a voice on video.

Amudhan R.P., from Madurai in Tamil Nadu, explains how they build viewership for alternative videos: "First we just held small screenings for our friends. Then we went to colleges. Today institutions come and request us to hold screenings." In any given year, he says, Tamil Nadu has at least five alternative video festivals of two or three days each, screening a whole lot of such works. Both these campaigners striving to make the ¿idiot box¿ into a voice for the underpriviledged were down in Goa to take part in an alternative video-workshop held.

Egging on potential videographers from Goa to venture into the field, they highlighted how falling costs can enable concerned video-filmmakers to put together their work on really low budgets."We have put together two films for under Rs 5,000," says Amudhan.

But while dozens of alternative video films are put out across the country each year, finding the right audience for the right film is an uphill task. " It¿s difficult to locate the films we are looking out for. Where can wefind such resources easily?" asks Nirmal Kulkarni. He¿s a young art student and leader of Green Cross, a Goa-based network of youth that campaigns for the rights of wildlife.

De, who works with the Delhi-based Magic Lantern Foundation, estimates that 40 to 50                                             alternative videos are circulated each year. "Some are of very high quality, others are very ordinary. But still, they perform the function (of informing about an issue that is otherwise ignored)," he says. Over the past three to four years, the Magic Lantern Foundation has itself put together a database of some 350 alternative video-films, focussing on a very vide range of themes and issues.

¿Blessed by Plague¿ is a 52-minute English-language film on how Surat underwent a "dramatic transition" over the past five years from being a plague-ridden filthy city into one of India¿s cleanest. ¿In Search of Khichri¿ explores the problem of the Korku tribal children of Melghat forest in Maharashtra.

Recent alt-video films have focused on themes ranging from tourism-caused 
problems in the coastal state of Goa; to the contribution of forgotten women nationalist leaders of the Congress; the battle over pollution of Kerala¿s Chaliar river by industry; an individual¿s fight-back against rape; and the Right to Information campaign in Rajasthan.
While they have the freedom to choose their subject, the makers of these films would not even know how to begin seeking a platform on the public service broadcaster, Doordarshan, or for that matter on any other TV channel. The choice of subject may be too individualistic, the length arbitrary, but most important, these films that showcase reality from an independent perspective are too maverick to fit into any broadcaster¿s agenda. Not just that, on television the space for documentaries is shrinking. Finding sponsors for them would be an uphill task, and revenue

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