Film Festival
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     Afternoon Sessions
     Film Festival 2 to 4 pm at Jamia Millia Islamia, MA Ansari Auditorium 

Organized by the Mass Communication Research Centre Jamia Millia Islamia

 "Soul Searching"

 A festival of films on the religious, the sacred and the spiritual

                                                                     23rd February 2009
                                                                1)Chalo Hamara Des (98)      
                                                                2) Scribbles on Akka (60)  

                                                                    24th February 2009
                                                                1)Oceans of Wisdom (25)
                                                                2) Eyes of Stone (91) 
                                                                3) Basant (13)

                                                                    25th February 2009
                                                               1) Paradise on the River of Hell (29)
                                                               2) Khel (100)
                                                               3) Muharram (12)


monday 23rd february

2.00 pm ‘Chalo Hamara Des (Come to my Country)’ Journeys with Kabir and Friends – a documentary film by Shabnam Virmani
98 min (2008)

A journey in search of the “des” (country) invoked in the poetry of Kabir, a 15th century Indian mystic, this film interweaves the stories of two people from two very different countries – Indian folk singer Prahlad Tipanya and North American scholar Linda Hess. Where is Kabir’s country? The answer is elusive, as we journey through song and poem into the public and private lives of these two people, brought together in an unlikely friendship by the cross-cultural resonance of Kabir.  

Chalo Hamara Des is one of 4  documentary films by Shabnam Virmani, narrating a journey through contemporary spaces touched by the music and poetry of the 15th century mystic weaver-poet of north India, Kabir. We meet a diverse array of people – an urban folklorist, a street fruit seller, a social activist, a Dalit folk singer, an American scholar, a neo-fascist cleric of a Kabir sect, Muslim singers from India and Pakistan – each encounter offering a moment of insight into the poetry and its contemporary meanings. We glimpse not one but many Kabirs. Sometimes he beckons, sometimes he baffles, but always he pushes us to self-interrogate, to question the boundaries of our identity, nation, ideology, caste and religion, making these journeys unrelentingly inward even as they venture outward

Shabnam Virmani has directed several award-winning documentaries and radio programs in close partnership with grassroots women’s groups in India. In 1990, she co-founded the Drishti Media, Arts and Human Rights collective in Ahmedabad. For the last 6 years she is Artist in Residence at the Srishti School of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore, India and has been immersed in the Kabir project (, which consists of a series of journeys in quest of this 15th century mystic poet in our contemporary worlds.

Shown in: One Billion Eyes Documentary Film Festival, August 2008, Chennai, World Performing Arts Festival, Nov 13-23, 2008, Lahore, Pakistan


monday 23rd  february
4 pm
Scribbles on Akka ‘ Directed by Madhushree Dutta

Scribbles on Akka is a short film on the life and work of the 12th Century saint poet Mahadevi Akka. Her radical poems, written with the female body as a metaphor, have been composed and picturised in contemporary musical language. Mahadevi, famed as Akka-elder sister, while leaving the domestic arena in search of God, also abandoned modesty and clothing. The film explores the meaning of this denial through the work of contemporary artists and writers and testimonies of ordinary folks who nurtured her image through centuries in their folklore and oral literature. A celebration of rebellion, feminity and legacy down nine hundred years.


tuesday 24th february 2009
2 pm ‘Oceans of Wisdom’
 by Rajiv Mehrotra  

This documentary is a biographical account of the life of Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama. It contrasts the Dalai Lama's non-violent campaign to free his homeland, Tibet with the deadly reality of the Chinese occupation. It describes the struggle of traditional Tibetan society to survive under occupation by a totalitarian Chinese regime.

tuesday 24th february 2009
2.30 pm
Eyes of Stone’ a documentary film by Nilita Vachani

91 min (1990)
Mewari and Hindi with English subtitles

Eyes of Stone is a film about rural women in Bhilwara, Rajasthan and their rituals of possession and exorcism: expressions of faith, rebellion and healing that thrive within the confines of a stringent patriarchal order. The film is a deep and unsettling exploration of one case of possession, which taken to its logical conclusion, becomes an eloquent testimony to the strengths and sadnesses and indeed the subversions in womens' lives.

Shanta has been married to NandaLal since the age of 10. She became a mother at the age of 12, and now, at the age of 19 is a mother of two sons. She has been severely ill for five out of her nine years of married life. She is given to raging head-aches, body aches and fevers, a sense of dissociation and disinterest in the world around her. She has been taken to local doctors and shamans, fortified with injections and mantras, but nothing has helped. Her family is convinced that she is possessed, bewitched by the evil gaze of a 'dakan', physically inhabited by a 'bhut'. When the film visits Shanta, she has come to live with her parents and her brother in her native village, Keriya. With considerable expense and difficulty her family arranges weekly pilgrimages to the temple of the Goddess Bhankya Mata in Asind. It is well known that at the court of the Goddess no spirit goes undefeated. The exorcism may last five weeks or seven, but ultimately the evil spirit is forced to leave. Ever since Shanta has begun visiting the goddess, she goes into trance and the spirit speaks, a sure sign that her illness is not an ordinary one.

It is now assured that Shanta will be cured. Her truck-driver husband will come to take her home and life will return to 'normal'. In this normalcy lies the key to possession.

tuesday 24th february 2009
4.15 pm
‘Basant’ a documentary film by Yousuf Saeed

 13 min (1997)

                                            Few would know that Basant Panchami, the ancient Hindu festival of spring, is also celebrated by many Muslims in India, especially at the dargah (tomb) of Nizamuddin Aulia at Delhi, every year. This 700-year-old colourful tradition is attributed to the Sufis, especially the Chishti saint Nizamuddin and his disciple Amir Khusrau, who were probably the first Muslims to have rejoiced at the celebration of Basant. This  short film documents a day in the life of the  Sufis and Qawwals at the tomb of Nizamuddin  in Delhi. , celebrating Basant.  

Screened at the Mumbai International  Film Festival (MIFF'98),

6th International  Short Film Festival, Dhaka (Bangladesh) 1999.
And as part of the lectures at the Centre for  South Asia Studies, Berkeley University, Harvard University, Wolfson College, Oxford and at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris.

wednesday 25th february 2009
2 pm ‘Paradise on the River of Hell
a documentary film by Abir Bazaz and Meenu Gaur

 29 min (2002)

The film reflects and refracts the multiple experiences of tortured subjectivity in Kashmir in the 1990s.

Paradise on a River of Hell is an award-winning film on Kashmir’s catastrophic desolation. The violence Kashmir witnessed in the 1990s shattered human dignity and changed everyday Kashmiri life beyond recognition. The film seeks to reflect and refract the multiple experiences of tortured subjectivity in the ’90s Kashmir. Not attempting to situate the 1990s in this or that event, person, space or time, the film is a mapping of personal and collective memories of Kashmir


wednesday 25th february 2009
2.40 pm
‘Khel ’ a documentary film by Saba Dewan/Rahul

 100 min (1994)

Had there ever been an alternative to the brahmanical vision of fettered and bound female sexuality? The film makers undertake a journey through Bundelkhand in search of the elusive Yoginis (divine female spirits). They meet kol tribal women, see some forgotten medieval shaktic temples and have some strange adventures. But do they find the answers?

Screened at The Film De Femmes Festival, Creitel, France 1996.


wednesday 25th february 2009
4.30 pm
‘Muharram ’ a documentary film by Yousuf Saeed

 12 min (1998)

Muharram is the first month of Islamic calendar. It commemorates the martyrdom of Hazrat Imam Hussain, the grandson of the Holy Prophet . This festival starts at the 1st day of Muharram and lasts for 10 days. Shia Muslims observe this festival by putting on black clothes, the colour of mourning and on the 10th day take out large processions holding banners and carrying models of the mausoleum of Hazrat Imam Hussain. They show their grief and sorrow by inflicting wounds on their own bodies with sharp metal tied to chain with which they scourge themselves. This is done in order to depict the sufferings of the martyrs. 

This short film is about a passionate Muharram being observed by a small community of Shias in Amroha, Uttar Pradesh

Screened at The Mumbai International Film Festival, 2000.














 25 min (1991




 60 min (2000)