Monday, December 1, 2008

Another Film Festival: Random Notes from the Goan Peoples’ Film Festival

Forgive me if I sound triumphalist over the successful conclusion of the Panjim leg of the Goan Peoples’ Film Festival. The Festival was held to protest the silence with which the Goan State has been treating the various memoranda and questions of the Ganv Ghor Rakhon Manch (GGRM) pertaining to the continuing rise of speculative real-estate projects, and the State’s lack of commitment to participatory planning that is the first demand of the Goan people.

The Festival was accomplished under handicaps of various sorts. The first of these was that of time. We contemplated this move of drawing attention to the abuses of the Goan State (and administration) only on the fifth of November. And yet despite this late decision the response that we had from people both in Goa and the rest of India was overwhelming. While the support in Goa was understandable, it was the support from India that was truly heart-warming. Directors from across the country, at a moment’s notice couriered films to us, sending messages of support and solidarity. If one of the aims of the Festival was to draw Indian attention to the Goan struggle, then in some measure the Festival succeeded in drawing national attention to our cause.

The relationship between India and Goa was one that featured in some of the discussions at the Festival. There were some, myself included, who feel that the dominant relationship between India and Goa is in fact a colonial one. It is a colonial relationship when it comes to viewing Goa as a holiday destination (India’s holiday state as NDTV once put it) for the country; and as another space for exploitation (of mineral resources) where the voices of the local people don’t really matter.

And yet these voices, didn’t call for a Goan nationalism, but rather an articulation of a healthier relationship with India, based on democratic and constitutional norms. To do this however, we recognized that we will have to rearticulate not only the manner in which the Goan economy is currently structured, but also the mythologies of our State.

When speaking of restructuring mythologies, it was suggested that we also need to think in terms of restructuring geography. It is not just in Portuguese-Indian mythology that Goa is seen as a land apart. The whole Parashuram myth also sees Goa, as the land beyond the end. New (and this emphasis on ‘new’ needs to be noted) land that was created for invaders (migrants?) from the North. Mythologies of other groups would show us connections of the land we now call Goa, with Bijapur, with the Deccan and the Kanara coast, that link us in organic ways with India. Routes that don’t push us into self-isolating insularity.

Another way we can connect with the India, along democratic and constitutional norms, is in finding our own voice, among the voices of resistance in India. The insular position that Goa (and Goan causes) find themselves in, is also the result of a certain patriarchal provincialism that sees nothing in common with Goa. As such, one heard the question, but what do these documentaries have to do with Goa? The answer was aptly given by Ramesh Gauns after watching Rakesh Sharma’s ‘Aftershocks: The Rough Guide to Democracy’ that dealt with the fate of villagers displaced to allow for lignite mining. “I felt I was watching not Gujarat but Goa!” Ramesh Gauns would know what he is talking about he has been at the mining issue for a while now.

Yet another parallel between the Indian experience and the Goan, came across after watching ‘India Untouched: Stories of a People Apart’. The film dealt with the experiences of Dalits across various parts of India. Dadu Mandrekar, another persistent voice, this one dealing with Dalit issues, was visibly moved by the film. It is a mistake to presume that we in Goa do not suffer from the kinds of violences that are meted out to Dalits in other parts of India. These do exist, but are very effectively silenced. It is possible that these violences may be limited to small sections of our territory but the daily experience of humiliation by upper-castes is an undeniable fact. And at the end of the day, who am I to judge if your humiliation is greater to or less than the humiliation of some other person. Humiliation is humiliation, period.

Engaging with the resistance in India, will allow us in Goa to nuance the arguments that we present to the opposition here in Goa. It will open up newer options for us, options that we in our small society, oftentimes dare not dream of.

The smallness of our society was cause for another one of the handicaps that the Festival had to deal with. ‘Why do you want to do it alongside IFFI?’ ‘Are you hosting a parallel film festival?” “Why! What will the Government say?” Indeed, one of the supporters to the Festival threatened to pull out at the last moment fearing a souring of their relationship with the State if they helped in hosting a parallel film festival.

These responses and the fear of this particular supporter speaks volumes about the Goan state-society relationship. We are willing to go only so far and no further in offending the State and threatening the socio-economic elites that support and benefit from it. It is the size of the Goan territory and its elite that allows this almost tyrannical situation to continue. Tyrannical because when no one is willing to break the conspiracy of silence, tyranny is the only situation that comes to mind. Once more it is in joining forces with a larger Indian resistance to State, corporate and elite tyranny, that we in Goa stand a better chance.

The Goan Peoples’ Film Festival ended its screenings in Panjim yesterday, and will now reconvene in Colva to allow the dialogue initiated in Panjim to continue. If you are even vaguely interested in the issues on the boil in Goa, you would do well to visit the Festival!

(Published in the Gomantak Times, 26th Nov 2008)

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