Jeevika continues to bring livelihood issues to the fore

Jeevika continues to bring livelihood issues to the fore

To complement the advocacy efforts of the Centre for Civil Society (CCS), the annual documentary festival, Jeevika, took place at Habitat Centre, New Delhi last week. The festival focuses on the livelihood threats that the rural and urban poor in Asia face today. The inauguration of the festival was done by exhibiting the festival posters of the last ten years. "The festival hopes to continue to advocate free enterprise for the poor and engage with social leaders to bring about changes in practices, mindsets and attitudes of many towards inclusive and sustainable development," said Manoj Mathew, Festival Director.

38 documentaries were shortlisted for screening, including long and short films by both professional documentary makers and film-making students. Cotton For My Shroud by Nandan Saxena and Kavita Bahl delved into the mass suicides of cotton farmers of Vidarbha, Maharashtra. The distress migration of millions of poor people in The Road Back Home by Shobhit Jain showed how in the KBK districts of Andhra Pradesh, millions are forced to abandon their villages and work in inhumane conditions at the brick kilns in Hyderabad, despite the rich resources available in their own villages.

This year, the festival also screened 5 GE Focus Forward Films of three minutes each that told a story about innovators and world-changing idea. The Impact of One by Holly Mosher was one such film that showed the change Muhamad Yunus brought to the lives of 8 million women by providing them 'microcredit' and launching various 'social businesses' focusing on education and healthcare for the poor.

This is Jeevika's 10th year and to commemorate the occasion, they screened the award-winning documentary Last Train Home by Lixin Fan. The film told the story of a migrant couple journeying home for the Chinese New Year along with 130 million other migrant workers to see their family. Does Jeevika as a festival make any difference to the harsh realities the documentaries often depict? "Since the documentary Hollow Cylinder was screened at the 2008 festival, the CCS has helped research, document and advocate the campaign 'Bamboo is not a Tree' by reviewing regulations which restrict bamboo-based livelihoods. These efforts are mainly to amend the Indian Forest Act (1927) and remove bamboo from the list of trees under Section 2(7) of the Act. So, yes, that made a difference," said Mathew. "We might be screening these here, but it will have a ripple effect somewhere else in the world. Who knows, someone will see, come, help, and make a huge change," said Saxena, director of Cotton For My Shroud.

Also, with 'Jeevika on the Road', a new initiative, some of the shortlisted documentaries will be screened at various cultural centres across India, colleges/universities, film clubs, public policy seminars for youth and journalists.

"We also have developed tied up with other international festivals like PovertyCure Short Film Festival 2013 in New York, where some of the documentaries would be submitted," Mathew said.

Read the story in The Sunday Guardian