Why green films?

Filmmaker Amar Kanwar in conversation with Binayak Das

Published: Monday 15 July 2002

Amar Kanwar, an independent documentary filmmaker on social and environment issues, takes a strong stand against subtle forms of censorship from government and industry. He also urges the need for language films that can reach a wider audience.

Working in Delhi for the last 12 years, many of his films, including ' King of Dreams ' and ' A Season Outside ' have won international awards. Two of his films were recently screened at the India Habitat Centre, Delhi in Vatavaran 2002, on June 5, World Environment Day.

Many Faces of Madness is a series of snippets on current ecological destruction in India that covers the commerce and greed in mining, chemical pollution, deforestation and biopiracy. This film won the second prize at the niscort-All India Video Festival. The second film, Marubhumi is based on the history and politics of water in Marwar.

Both the films, especially Many Faces of Madness , are hardhitting enough to sensitise the viewer to degradation in their backyard and the urgent need to protect the environment.

"We work longer on projects and ideas, rather than making just propaganda films," Kanwar says, stroking his beard thoughtfully.

Made five years apart, these films reflect the sophistication of available technological advantages.

Kanwar finds that digital technology has allowed documentary makers to make slick films on low budgets. "This has allowed us to experiment and explore more options, both with content and form," he says. "Earlier it did not matter how a film looked as long as the content was correct, but audiences are more demanding today," he adds.

Besides film direction, storyline, photography, image quality and editing are vital too. Filmmakers and their commissioners need to realise this while sanctioning the funds. "To make documentaries on ecology and people, we need larger budgets and therefore the space to work at length, stay with the local people and explore different forms of story telling," he says.

But there is no absolute freedom in making green films. Governments or industry often pressurise filmmakers into censorship. "They want us to tone down or ignore certain facts. This needs to be strongly resisted. We need support for making strong films," Kanwar says.

"Language is another key element that can make for wider distribution of such films with a message," he remarks.

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