Flickering Lights

INDIA / 2023 / Tangkhul / Color / DCP / 90 min

- Directors, Script: Anupama Srinivasan, Anirban Dutta
Photography: Anupama Srinivasan, Vandita Jain, Mrinmoy Mandal
Editing: Anupama Srinivasan
Sound: Partho Halder, Sandeep Singh, Sabyasachi Pal
Sound Design: Shreyank Nanjappa
Music: Saskia Rao-de Haas
Producer: Anirban Dutta
Source: Metamorphosis Film Junction

Tora, a remote Naga village which sits on the border between India and Myanmar. Electricity is now coming here, where protracted fighting for sovereignty had prevented the development of local infrastructure. However, construction is proving extremely difficult due to the labor shortage, in addition to the effects of the rebel forces’ economic blockade. We see the construction workers who shoulder the dangerous tasks; Jasmine, who dreams of selling ice cream in a shop to fund her children’s education; Khamrang, an elderly living witness to the region’s history, suspicious of the coming of electricity. Yet another Christmas passes by for these Christian villagers without illumination. How will the lights, finally lit in every house in the village, change the lives and lifestyles of the villagers who had lived in such a quiet and unhurried manner? (MA)

[Director’s Statement] We started out by trying to tell a story from a place that is within the political borders of the Indian nation state, but that seems to be almost absent from the mainstream consciousness. It is a region we have visited several times over the past fifteen years, engaging with communities, trying to understand, searching for ways to express what we saw on the ground.

When we heard about the rural electrification drive in the region, we felt that exploring this would allow us to delve deep into the intricacies of life here. Looking at this journey could be a way to understand how things work (or don’t work) in this part of the world, and how people cope with a life rife with uncertainties. At the same time, when a new entity like electricity enters people’s lives, what really changes, if anything?

The treatment of our film is guided by an urge to reframe stories of marginalization of indigenous communities, and to present Tora as a living, thriving entity rather than essentializing the people here as victims of underdevelopment or violence. In a world of increasing cacophony and polarisation, we want to express ourselves with gentleness, allowing small gestures, everyday conversations to reveal the lived philosophy of a people, their dreams and anxieties.

- Anupama Srinivasan

Filmmaker, film educator and curator based in Delhi, India. An alumna of Harvard University and FTII, Pune, she has been making documentaries for the past two decades, often shooting and editing her own work. Her films include I Wonder . . . (2009, YIDFF 2009), Nirnay (Co-director and Editor, 2012) and Are you going to school? (2019).

- Anirban Dutta

Filmmaker, still photographer and media educator based in Delhi, India. He has directed and produced several documentary films and created many photographic essays. His work has been shown at the New York Short Film Festival, the San Sebastian Human Rights Film Festival, Al Jazeera International Film Festival, and Mumbai International Film Festival.