Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Film festival in India focuses on those movies with disability themes

From SindhToday.net:

NEW DELHI, India -- Mainstream cinema needs to make films on disability issues to sensitise the masses and help integrate differently abled people with society at large, say filmmakers and achievers with disabilities.

At an event here Thursday to award the winners of WeCare Film Festival-2008, organised by the NGO Brotherhood, people spoke of the importance of bringing about conscious social change in not only society but also in the content of cinema.

According to Ritika Sahni, producer of award winning works like ‘Dark’ and ‘Disability Awareness: Sonal’, feature films and documentaries dealing with autism, cerebral palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities must be handled sensitively.

‘It is important to approach films on such issues with sensitivity. For the making of ‘Dark’, the team was briefed to bring out the strength of the people who are faced with disability and ensure that their strength was celebrated,’ Sahni told IANS.

‘The film evoked the concept of how even in the dark, the visually impaired lead a normal life.’

Sahni said that one-minute films have the greatest impact on people, as people don’t like to be preached on such issues.

‘In fact, although it’s a constraint to get films like this screened as they are produced digitally and not on film (60 mm or 35 mm), many of our films, including ‘Dark’, which is in Bengali, has been aired on national TV in Kolkata and on a national channel like Sahara,’ added Sahni.

Twelve films - three each in the categories of one minute, five minutes, 30 minutes and 60 minutes - were awarded out of the 48 films that had come from countries like the Philippines, China and Israel besides India at the WeCare Film Festival held earlier this year.

Eminent danseuse Sonal Mansingh, Asian Academy for Film and Television (AAFT) founder Sandeep Marwah, National Trust for Welfare of Persons with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, Mental Retardation and Multiple Disabilities chairperson Poonam Natarajan, and NGO Brotherhood founder Satish Kapoor were also present at the ceremony.

Apart from awarding the best films like ‘Girl Star: Anuradha The Medical Student’, ‘Believe Me’, ‘Bullets and Butterflies’, an announcement was also made about the festival for next year.

Two sets of three DVDs each containing the award-winning films were also released on the occasion apart from the launch of a website, http://www.wecarefilmfest.net/, where all films on disability issues are available for viewing.

The WeCare Film Festival, which provides a platform for disability related films, in its sixth edition in 2009 will be held for the first time in collaboration with the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC) as part of its yearlong celebration campaign to mark the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

UNIC director Shalini Diwan said: ‘The challenge is drawing attention, mainstreaming. I’d love to watch such films on television; they are any day more
informative and entertaining than the trash we get to see nowadays.’

She pointed out that in 2002, a United Nations survey said that 1.8 percent of the entire Indian population is disabled. ‘Despite recognition, there is a lack of facilities and opportunities, not because of lack of doing but lack of wanting to do something,’ Diwan added.

Physically challenged achievers - Divya Arora, Shibani Gupta and Sanjeev Sachdeva who compered the programme - were also honoured on the occasion.

Arora who was also on the jury for the festival said: ‘Disability should be enveloped in the mainstream commercial cinemas. Movies on disability like ‘Black’ and ‘Taare Zameen Par’ are few and scarce.’

‘Disability is in the mind - we are not disabled we are differently abled,’ she said.