8th Auroville Film Festival, Day 1

It is January 22nd, and the blowing of a conch marks the start of the 8th Auroville Film Festival at the Town Hall campus. The audience are treated to a concert by the Saragam drummers, a martial arts show by Kshetra Kalari demonstrating the use of swords, daggers, a spear and other weapons, and a fire baton performance by Aurovilian Monica. Soon, dinner is served to the music of The Trio Jazztified, a band of Auroville musicians.

All That Breathes

There is an old belief that feeding kites – a common predatory bird – purifies one’s karma. This informs the life journey of brothers Nadeem and Saud, as documented in the opening film by Shaunak Sen. The siblings have devoted the past 20 years to a wildlife rescue centre caring for injured birds. Kites have adapted to Delhi’s chaos, feasting at its gargantuan landfills and hunting from rooftops. But in this city where monkeys scale the jungle of electric cables and chimneys spew pollution into the air, more and more birds are falling from the sky.

The brothers, meanwhile, can not ignore the political turmoil and flooding which are the background for their noble pursuit. It is 2020, and hatred erupts into violent religious riots and arson in their city. Yet the duo continue washing birds behind their ears, in the way that a mother washes her children. Transcending the species barrier is not something they have to fake or try to achieve. The two spontaneously feel oneness with all that breathes.

Two Minutes to Midnight

Yael Bartana asks a simple question: What if women ruled the world? A fictional country elects an all-women government on a platform of disarmament and pacifism. But are they naïve? When the routine puerile bullying of familiar-sounding President Arnold Twittler, the leader of a large foreign nation, takes on the increasingly ominous tone of a serious nuclear threat, their high ideals are tested.

Female experts and leaders gather in Dr. Strangelove’s “War Room”, now transformed into a Peace Room to experiment with dispelling the horrors of Mutually Assured Destruction. President Fouéré is supported by a circle of women committed to a different path, but the difficult choice is hers alone to make.

Adithalam (Basic Education)

It’s all too easy for children from farming families to get discouraged from education, especially when faced with shaming and the lack of support from teachers and family. Yatra Srinivassan’s film dramatizes one such situation, focusing on Saraswathi, a 6th-grader still struggling with reading and writing.

Yet a caring teacher at the right time can make all the difference between despair and the willingness to persevere in the pursuit of a better life than one’s parents had. Science teacher Sumathi has what it takes to give Saraswathi confidence, becoming her greatest inspiration in this sweet affirmation of inclusion and social responsibility.

by Daniel