Mumbai filmmaker to show documentary at Sweet Briar

| March 12, 2013

Animation from the 2012 documentary “In God’s Land”

Sweet Briar College will host a screening of the 2012 Indian documentary “In God’s Land” at 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, in Tyson Auditorium in Benedict Hall. The film will be followed by a Q&A session with the director, Pankaj Rishi Kumar, and is free and open to the public.

In his eighth film, Kumar documents one small village’s struggle to keep its land in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. In a recent article, Mumbai’s Daily News & Analysis called it “nothing short of a surprise,” noting that “the documentary subtly deals with the economic ‘prosperity’ of a state like Tamil Nadu, juxtaposed by the presence of a morphed but still-practiced, age-old caste system and a faith in goodness that is wonderfully resolute and unshaken.”

Kumar’s documentary follows the lives of villagers in the state of Tamil Nadu as they struggle to keep their land.

Using animation, the film recounts the history of the land while satirizing the exploitation perpetuated by religion and class distinction. In his interview with the newspaper, Kumar explains that his intention was not to criticize the federal Special Economic Zone program specifically, but rather to question the idea that economic progress is always a good thing.

“The film hopes to look at land within the larger issue of development, forcing us to recognize the totalitarian attitude of the ideals of development, ostensibly to bring economic prosperity, but rarely a benefit to real users,” he said.

Despite this struggle between progress and tradition, Kumar says it’s actually “a subtle tale narrating the lives of these people connected to this land. … The villagers are completely aware that the land can be taken from them, they also know that they can fight this oppression, yet they choose to let fate play out the game. They are, after all, in God’s land.”

“In God’s Land” received the 2012 Asian Network of Documentary Fund, initiated in 2002 by the Busan International Film Festival. Kumar is the director of other acclaimed documentaries, such as “Kumar Talkies,” “Pather Chujaeri,” “The vote” and “3 Men and a Bulb.” A graduate of India’s Film and Television Institute, Kumar worked as an editor on Sekhar Kapur’s “Bandit Queen” and several other movies and television series before moving into full-time filmmaking.

Pankaj Rishi Kumar will hold a Q&A session after the film screening.

His previous awards include a special jury citation at the Zanzibar International Film Festival and the National Award for Best Audiography. Kumar has won numerous grants and was awarded an Asia Society fellowship at the Harvard University Asia Center in 2003. To learn more about his films, visit kumartalkies.blogspot.com.

The event is sponsored by the anthropology department, the All Spices planning group and generous support from the Lectures and Events Committee.

Following the Tuesday screening, Kumar will introduce two of his earlier films, “The Vote” (2003) and “The Play is On” (2000), at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 20, in the 1948 Theater in the Fitness and Athletics Center.

For more information, please contact Claudia Chang at (434) 381-6191 or cchang@sbc.edu.

Janika Carey

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Category: Academics, Anthropology, Film, Religion