An Interview with Pinky Brahma Choudhury (Director)
Utilizing the Media for Social Work
Q: This film was first shown at YIDFF ’99. How do you feel about it being shown here again? What has happened to the village and folk theater since?
PBC: It’s an honor for it to be invited to Yamagata. I’ve been so excited since the screening was confirmed, because I know how wonderful the atmosphere of YIDFF is. The Bodo villages you see in the film have changed since then. It’s getting better in the past few years. When I made the film in 1997, there was a lot of violence within the community. Sectarianism fragmented society. I made the film hoping to show that the current state was not good. The political movements of the times were supposed to protect citizens’ rights and the local culture—yet because of the violence, all that was being destroyed.
Unfortunately, I was unable to return to that community after the film. Although my film was about non-violence, my family and friends warned me not to return to the village because of the increasing threat of violence. The folk theater performances you see in the film were already in decline at the time of the shooting. Villagers were unable to come together to practice, because of fear of the militia. We took the scriptwriter to a safe faraway village to shoot the scene with him. The theater as you see in the film, with villagers watching the open air performance from nightfall to dawn, does not exist anymore.
Q: What have you been doing these past 20 years?
PBC: I am originally from Assam in Northeast India, but now I work as program director for a non-profit organization called SPS Community Media which I established with my husband in central India. The poorest indigenous communities in India are located here, and we have been making different kinds of films to help people in communities to understand each other better. We have hosted training programs for farmers and indigenous people to make films, and there’s now even an established local filmmaking team. Over the past ten years, their films have been invited to international film festivals. Not Allowed is one of them, showing at YIDFF this year. We also organize traveling cinema programs to tour villages. We used to show classic Hindi films, but due to popular demand, we now mainly show the films we have produced ourselves. The villagers really enjoy watching their own lives in their own language, for example watching traditional farming methods now relapsed.
Q: You are making contribution to society through the film media.
PBC: I identify myself less as a filmmaker and more as a social worker. Although I hadn’t made my own films for a long time, I realized in my activities in social work that we could utilize the media to our benefit. Taking advantage of my skills, I started producing films. I am involved also in restricting waste dumping in forests, and promoting the growing and consuming of local foods. We use films to raise awareness of the need to protect forests from fires and such. We encourage access to our films through YouTube. Uploading is not easy because making English subtitles takes time. But our activities embody great potential.
(Compiled by Inotani Yoshika)
Interviewers: Inotani Yoshika, Morisaki Hana / Interpreter: Tomita Kaori, Matsushita Yumi / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Ishizuka Shino / Video: Sugawara Mayu / 2019-10-12