Tag Archive for 'Documentary'

The Quantum Indians

At the turn of the 20th century, the world was witnessing a renaissance in the area of quantum physics through the work of great scientists such as Max Planck, Albert Einstein, Ernest Rutherford or Neils Bohr. Unknown to the world, three Indian scientists were also making significant contributions to the quantum world with revolutionary deductions, interpretations and theories.

Arunima conquers two Everests

Arunima “Sonu” Sinha is the first female amputee to climb Mount Everest. Kunda Dixit in Nepali Times:


Image: arunimasinha.com

When Arunima Sinha neared the highest point in the world at 10:55 in the morning of 21 May, she let out a shriek. Her climbing partner, Nima Sherpa, thought something was wrong and rushed to her side, asking “What happened, what happened?”

Arunima turned around and with a big smile said: “I am shouting with happiness. I did it.”

It has been a long way in a very short time for Arunima from a hospital bed at AIMS in New Delhi after her left leg was amputated a year ago. This is story of a young woman who attained two Everests: one to climb the physical mountain, the other to overcome a tragic injury and strive for an impossible goal.

Arunima was a national volleyball player from the Uttar Pradesh team and was travelling on a train to Delhi when six men tried to snatch her necklace. When she resisted, they threw her out of the running train at 1AM. An incoming train ran over her left leg, and Arunima lay there between the tracks, her body broken. Other trains passed within inches of her face. She was rescued six hours later. More:

Sherpas – the True Heroes of Mount Everest


Delhi (1938)

Shot by the legendary Jack Cardiff – the Oscar-winning cinematographer of ‘Black Narcissus’ – this is one of a number of short films that he made in India in the late 1930s.

River of faith

A new documentary film about the Kumbh Mela 2013, Prayag, Allahabad. 56 minutes.

Namit Arora at 3quarksdaily:

The Kumbh Mela is an ancient pilgrimage festival that happens once every three years, rotating across four locations in India. The largest of these riverside fairs happens every 12 years in Allahabad at the confluence of two rivers, Ganga and Yamuna. On its opening day in January 2013, I was among its estimated ten million visitors. During the 6-8 weeks it lasts, tens of millions come to bathe in these rivers — as a meritorious act to cleanse body and soul — making it the largest gathering of humanity on the planet. On the festival’s most auspicious day in 2013, an estimated thirty million pilgrims came. The Kumbh Mela is also a meeting place for ascetics, sadhus, sants, gurus, yogis, sunyasis, bairagis, virakts, fakes, misfits, and crooks of various sects of Hinduism, who camp out in tents on the riverbank, lecture and debate, drink milky-syrupy chai, smoke ganja and hashish, and are visited by pilgrims seeking spiritual renewal. The sprawling floodplain resounds with devotional movie songs and bhajans, some strikingly melodious and familiar to me from childhood. More

Freedom From Famine — The Norman Borlaug Story

Norman Ernest Borlaug (March 25, 1914 – September 12, 2009)was an American agronomist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution” and “The Man Who Saved A Billion Lives”. See Wiki

In Times of India: By cranking up a wheat strain containing an unusual gene, Borlaug created the so-called ”semi-dwarf” plant variety — a shorter, stubbier, compact stalk that supported an enormous head of grain without falling over from the weight. This curious principle of shrinking the plant to increase the output on the plant from the same acreage resulted in Indian farmers eventually quadrupling their wheat — and later, rice — production.

It heralded the Green Revolution.

Below, Freedom From Famine – The Norman Borlaug Story:


The World Before Her

From Tribeca Film Festival website: Young, beautiful, and ambitious, Ankita and Ruhi compete in the Miss India pageant for the chance at a career in the beauty industry, one of the few opportunities for women to find success and empowerment in contemporary India. On the opposite end of the spectrum from Miss India is Durga Vahini, the women’s wing of the Hindu fundamentalist movement. Filming for the first time within a Durga Vahini camp, director Nisha Pahuja offsets the pageant narrative with that of camp leader Prachi, a fiery and compelling figure expressing a very different voice in the debate over women’s issues. Nisha Pahuja’s The World Before Her dramatizes the tension between traditional and modern perspectives toward women in today’s India. Click here for more

Dilli – a beautiful documentary

‘Dilli’ is a multiple-award winning documentary that has played in over 70 international film festivals across North America, South America, Africa, Europe and Asia. Directed by: Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh

Jai Bhim Comrade: A chilling film on Dalits

Sunalini Kumar at Kafila:

How many murdered Dalits does it take to wake up a nation? Ten? A thousand? A hundred thousand? We’re still counting, as Anand Patwardhan shows in his path-breaking film Jai Bhim Comrade (2011). Not only are we counting, but we’re counting cynically, calculating, dissembling, worried that we may accidentally dole out more than ‘they’ deserve. So we calibrate our sympathy, our policies and our justice mechanisms just so. So that the upper caste killers of Bhaiyyalal Bhotmange’s family get life imprisonment for parading Priyanka Bhotmange naked before killing her, her brother and other members of the family in Khairlanji village in Maharashtra, but the court finds no evidence that this may be a crime of hatred – a ‘caste atrocity’ as it is termed in India. Patwardhan’s film documents the twisted tale of Khairlanji briefly before moving to a Maratha rally in Mumbai, where pumped-up youths, high on testosterone and the bloody miracle of their upper caste birth are dancing on the streets, brandishing cardboard swords and demanding job reservations (the film effectively demolishes the myth that caste consciousness and caste mobilisation are only practised by the so-called ‘lower castes’). Asked on camera about the Khairlanji murders, one Maratha manoos suspends his cheering to offer an explanation. That girl’s character was so loose, he says, that the entire village decided to teach her a lesson. More:

It’s a girl

Please watch till the last scene.

In India, China and many other parts of the world today, girls are killed, aborted and abandoned simply because they are girls. The United Nations estimates as many as 200 million girls are missing in the world today because of this so-called “gendercide”.

Pakistan’s first Oscar

Read story in NYT here, and in Dawn here

The American behind the 2008 attack on Mumbai

Watch A Perfect Terrorist on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Click here to watch

From NPR:

American David Coleman Headley was one of the leading planners of the 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai, which killed 166 people over three days at two five-star hotels, a train station and a small Jewish community center.

Headley, the son of a Pakistani father and an American mother, had been chosen for the mission because he looked like a non-Muslim Westerner. He used those looks — and his U.S. passport — to plan logistics for several of the places attacked in Mumbai.

Headley’s role in the Mumbai attacks is the subject of a new Frontline documentary by ProPublica reporter Sebastian Rotella. A Perfect Terrorist — which airs on PBS on Nov. 22 — chronicles Headley’s journey from the United States to Mumbai, and reveals what U.S. and Pakistani intelligence officials knew about him before and after his mission.

Before Headley became a terrorist, he was what Rotella calls “a walking mix of cultures.” His mother was part of an elite family from Philadelphia; his father was a Pakistani. Soon after his birth in the United States, Headley and his parents moved to Pakistan. After his parents divorced, Headley’s mother moved back to the U.S. Headley stayed in Pakistan with his father, who sent him to elite military schools. But after getting into some trouble, Headley was sent to live with his mother above her bar, the Khyber Pass Pub in Philadelphia. More:

Sebastian Rotella‘s investigation in ProPublica:

Chapter 1: “The Prince”

David Coleman Headley is not his original name.

The 51-year-old was born Daood Gilani in Washington, D.C. His father, Syed Saleem Gilani, was a renowned Pakistani broadcaster. His mother, Serrill Headley, was a free spirit from a wealthy Philadelphia family. They moved to Pakistan when he was a baby, but the parents divorced and Serrill returned alone.

Headley grew up in an environment of Pakistani nationalism and Islamic conservatism. During a war with India in 1971, a stray bomb hit his elementary school in Karachi, killing two people. The incident stoked his hatred of India, according to his later accounts.

Headley attended the Hasan Abdal Cadet College, where he met his friend Tahawwur Rana. During testimony at Rana’s trial this year in Chicago, Headley said he was proud of studying at the elite military school, though he did not graduate. He described Rana as a “very good” student and himself as “very bad.”

Rana’s wife recalled an anecdote about Headley’s approach to morning prayers.

“Dave, he knocks on all the doors of students and he says, ‘Get up, get up, it’s time for prayer,’ ” Samraz Rana said in an interview. “And then when everybody gets up, he went to his room and went to sleep, you know. So he was laughing, he was like that.” More

Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields

About Jon Snow’s Channel 4 documentary, Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields, in The Guardian: Much of the footage, which documented the summary executions, rape, torture and bombing – all apparently sanctioned by the Sri Lankan government – of tens of thousands of Tamils in the last days of the civil war after the UN pulled out of the country in September 2008, was shocking. Soldiers filmed laughing on mobile phones while they shot bound prisoners in the back of the head. Civilian women lying dead on the ground, having been raped and mutilated by the government troops to whom they had tried to surrender. Hospitals being targeted.

At Channel 4: Documenting the final weeks of the bloody civil war when an estimated 40,000 people died, the Channel 4 documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields reveals shocking new evidence of serious war crimes. The film includes footage of government soldiers executing bound prisoners; the dead bodies of naked, abused women dumped in a truck; and the bombing of civilian hospitals.

Watch at Channel 4

And here’s the link to the report of the UN Secretary General’s panel of experts on accountability in Sri Lanka.

The tribes of the Deccan

From Shunya’s Notes:

A documentary based on the footage gathered by Austrian anthropologist Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf on the hill tribes of the Deccan in the 1940s (archive). This includes the tribes of the Chenchus, the Reddis, the Koyas, the Bondos, the Gadabas, and more. It may well be the only visual record of these groups from that period—their rituals, hunts, dances, foods, marriage ceremonies, material life, and more. It is revealing too of anthropology from another era, with notions and judgments that seem positively quaint and superficial by today’s standards. Note, for instance, the force and frequency of words like “primitive” and “civilized”, and the need to delineate borders between them. I don’t know much more about Fürer-Haimendorf beyond what is on wikipedia, but this is nevertheless a valuable historical record. The film was made in 1960 and narrated by a 34-year-old rising star at the BBC named David Attenborough.

Filming the real Slumdog Millionaire

Sourav Sarangi recently won eight international awards for his documentary film Bilal, which tells the story of a five-year-old boy who looks after his blind parents in a cramped hut in a poor district of Kolkata. The film-maker describes the journey he and the family have taken with the documentary (watch trailer below). From the Guardian:

I first met Bilal when he was only eight months old. His head was wrapped in bandages after an accident and he was lying on a cot next to my wife. His mother, who was blind, was clinging on to him. After attending to my wife, who had been hospitalised, I looked at the baby. He seemed to smile at me and seemed to nudge his mother as if, in a silent communion in a dark world, he was trying to tell her to talk to me. I was convinced about that. At that point in time, Bilal the film was born.

My friendship with the family grew. As I saw him grow up, what struck me about Bilal was his common sense. Even when he was three years old, the time when we launched the film, he was wise and that is the word I would like to use when describing this remarkable boy.

His Muslim father, Shamim, also blind, had married Jharna, a Hindu who changed her name to Humera Begum after the wedding. That in itself is quite unusual among the poorer communities in India – a Hindu woman marrying a Muslim man and then changing her religion.

Shamim himself is quite a man. He runs a portable phone call centre and, before this film was made, he used to carry a telephone to one of the busiest traffic intersections in Kolkata and sit on the pavement with a table. He has a photographic memory. Even now, he can rattle off 10-digit telephone numbers I told him six months back simply from memory. I am still amazed by this man. More:

See also: http://www.bilal.in/

Children of the Taliban

From the Wall Street Journal:

In “Children of the Taliban,” documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy interviews two 15-year-old boys, Abdurrahman and Wasifullah, who are living in Kachegori Camp, a refugee settlement in Pakistan.

The boys, best friends since childhood, fled their hometown in northern Pakistan in October 2008, when it became a target of both a Pakistani army bombing campaign and a U.S. missile attack intended for Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders.

In the film, Abdurrahman, who blames the Taliban for the October raid, says he wants to be a Pakistan army soldier when he grows up. Wasifullah, whose cousin was killed by a U.S. missile, wants to join the Taliban.

Later, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy asks the two boys separately: Are they willing to fight each other on the battlefield?

“Definitely, I will kill him,” says Abdurrahman.

“Yes,” says Wasifullah, “I will retaliate fiercely.” More:

Burma uprising and the secret cameramen

It began as a ‘nice little project’ about life in Burma. Then the riots erupted. In The Guardian, director Anders Østergaard on the secret cameramen who helped him tell the full story:

Burma VJ was supposed to be a modest little film: a half-hour, low-key yet intimate portrait of Joshua, a 26-year-old Burmese video journalist, or VJ. Joshua had decided to do his bit for a better Burma by taking his video camera, usually concealed, on to the streets of Rangoon to document what he could of everyday life. When we started work on the project, in early 2007, the footage Joshua was able to show us was, frankly, totally uneventful: little reports on street kids, life in his village, the miserable state of the railways.


Reason to smile

As Megan Mylan’s Smile Pinki, the story of a poor Indian village girl whose cleft lip made her a social outcast, wins an Oscar for the best short documentary, journalist Anubha Sawhney Joshi, who was born with a double cleft on the lip, tells her story in this beautiful piece in The Times of India:

Friends were okay, but would the boy one liked never ever look my way because of the defective lip? The first one didn’t. Neither did the next few. Some said they didn’t really mind when the truth was that they did. Some who actually didn’t really mind were not my type. I had my standards, cleft or no cleft, and so what if they were double! The first kiss something i spent long days and unending nights fretting over was silly, hurried and uneventful as first kisses usually are. More

Shot In Bombay

From the Harvard alumni Magazine 02138:


lizmermin.jpgLiz Mermin (right), an acclaimed London/New York-based independent filmmaker who specializes in international social issues, has directed and produced Shot In Bombay, released in UK in January.

The documentary is a behind-the-scenes drama of the making and release of a Bollywood film, Shootout at Lokhandwala, featuring Bollywood screen legend Sanjay Dutt in his last film before serving a six-year prison sentence for illegal arms possession.

Mermin graduated summa cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in literature (French, African, and American), and has a Masters degree in cultural anthropology from New York University.

More about Liz Mermin and the documentary:

A Channel4 review: