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FD Zone Delhi and BioScope Screenings – ‘Pedagogic States’ and ‘The Act of Killing’

Cross-posted from fdzonedelhi.


Joshua Oppenheimer - The Act of Killing - Poster

FD Zone Delhi and BioScope invite you to a screening of documentaries on Tuesday, January 07, 2014, at India Islamic Centre, Lodhi Road, New Delhi.

The programme is presented by FD Zone, Delhi Chapter, The Sarai Programme at CSDS, BioScope, and the Centre for Research in Education, Art and Media (CREAM) at University of Westminster, as part of the events leading up to The Many Lives of Indian Cinema and Beyond: Disciplines, Histories, Technologies, Futures Conference, January 09-11, Delhi.

[I] Pedagogic States and Lessons ‘Learnt’

Nation and Integration: A moving image travelogue though Independent India

FD Zone Delhi presents a curation of films, produced by the Films Division in the first 30 years of Independent India. Films Division, established in 1948 by the Government of India, was the main film-making and film-producing body committed to maintaining ‘a record of the social, political and cultural imaginations and realities of the country’. Before the advent of television, these films were shown in private cinema theaters and in government organizations, and later broadcast on the State owned television network.

While most of the films produced in the first few decades after Independence, were ‘educative’ tools to push forward socio-political agendas of a pedagogic State, there emerged, by the mid 1960s, a generation of filmmakers who brought in subtleties to the cinematic craft by pushing aesthetic boundaries, while producing a critique of the Nation-State. The films in this curation are open to multiple readings – as cultural artifacts; as historical documents; as State propaganda and its subversion; as an account of the birth of a nation and of “nation-building”; and as documentary film texts which created formal and aesthetic innovations.

While films like Freedom Marches On, 1949 and Hamara Rashtragaan or Our National Anthem, 1964 are pedagogic in their ambition, documentaries likeNaya Daur or New Era, 1975 and Face to Face, 1967, while furthering the State project of nation-building, also seem to question the very idea of ‘India’. A more formal experimentation with image and sound can be seen in films likeThis Bit of That India, 1975 and Explorer, 1968, while Flashback, 1974, is a reflection on the documentary film movement, and explores the relationship between cinema and the Nation-State, and what it meant to make films ‘back then’.


1. Freedom Marches On

Director: Unknown (11:18 min/ 1949/ B&W/ English)

Synopsis: This is a review of the various events that took place in India during the two eventful years following Independence.

2. Hamara Rashtragaan

Director: Pramod Pati (09:35 min/ 1964/ B&W/ Hindi)

Synopsis: The film aims at helping children to learn the correct way to sing India’s National Anthem.

3. Face to Face

Director: KS Chari and TA Abraham (18 min/ 1967/ B&W)

Synopsis: This film examines the meaning of democracy 20 years after independence by talking to people on the street.

4. Naya Daur

Director: SNS Sastry (9 min/1975/ B&W/ Hindi – English)

Synopsis: A backgrounder showing the state of affairs which eventually led to the proclamation of Emergency by the Government of India in 1975.

5. Explorer

Director: Pramod Pati (07:00 min/ 1968/ B&W)

Synopsis: A film based on the theme – Mission of Youth. In this film, the youth explore, probe, question and analyse everything that they find around them. With no commentary, the film focuses the attention of the audience through symbols and expressions.

6. This Bit of That India

Director: SNS Sastry (15:00 min/1975/B&W)

Synopsis: A experimental journey through sound and images of the youth of the country, and their thoughts in the ‘70s.

7. FlashBack

Director: SNS Sastry (21 min/ 1974/ B&W)

Synopsis: The film is a survey of the documentary film movement in India . We hear views of Films Division filmmakers S. Sukhdev and S N S Sastry before the Emergency and close to the end of their lives talking about documentary.

The screenings will be followed by a discussion moderated by Avijit Mukul Kishore.

Avijit Mukul Kishore is a filmmaker and cinematographer based in Mumbai, India. His areas of interest and specialisation have been the documentary film and collaborations with visual artists on video and film based installations. He is actively involved in art, cinema and cultural pedagogy. He has directed the films To Let The World In, Vertical City, Certified Universal and Snapshots From a Family Album. He has shot several documentary films and the feature film Kali Salwaar.

[II]The Act of Killing: Looking back at Indonesia

In the second segment, we bring you Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing, 2012, a documentary set in Indonesia, which looks back at Indonesia’s violent past in the mid-‘60s. Released in 2012, The Act of Killing revisits a time following the overthrowing of the Government by the military in 1965. Within one year of this event, more than a million communists, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals had been killed by the State run death squads.

Oppenheimer’s chilling documentary is about killers who have won, and the sort of society they have built. Unlike ageing Nazis or Rwandan genocides, the perpetrators in Indonesia have not been forced by history to admit they participated in crimes against humanity. Instead, they have written their own triumphant history, becoming role models for millions of young paramilitaries.

The film is a journey into the memories and imaginations of the perpetrators, offering insight into the minds of mass killers, and presents a nightmarish vision of a frighteningly banal culture of impunity in which killers can joke about crimes against humanity on television chat shows, and celebrate moral disaster with the ease and grace of a soft shoe dance number.

The will be followed by a Skype conversation with Joshua Oppenheimer, moderated by Rosie Thomas.

Joshua Oppenheimer has worked for over a decade with militias, death squads and their victims to explore the relationship between political violence and the public imagination. Educated at Harvard and Central St Martins, London, his award-winning films include The Globalization Tapes (2003, co-directed with Christine Cynn), The Entire History of the Louisiana Purchase (1998, Gold Hugo, Chicago Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival), These Places We’ve Learned to Call Home (1996, Gold Spire, San Francisco Film Festival) and numerous shorts. Oppenheimer is Senior Researcher on the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Genocide and Genre project and has published widely on these themes.

Rosie Thomas is Professor of Film and Director of CREAM (Centre for Research and Education in Art and Media) at the University of Westminster. She began research on the Bombay film industry as a social anthropologist in the early 1980s and, since 1985, has published widely on Indian cinema. Her current research interests focus on pre-independence popular Indian cinema and her book Bombay Before Bollywood: Film City Fantasies has just been published by Orient Blackswan. Throughout the 1990s she worked as a television producer making documentaries, arts and current affairs programmes for Channel Four UK. She is a co-founder and co-editor of BioScope: South Asian Screen Studies.