A Wet Letter From Munnar!
By Lopamudra Jena Kaul
If Kerala is known as God’s own country, then we can go as far as to assume Munnar to be Eden. Located on the Western Ghats, the temperature can drop as low as to -3 Celsius. With fog so thick that one cannot see what’s in front of them and frosted dew, people can sometimes forget they are actually in the southern part of India. Definitely on almost everyone’s travel list, one can see tons of foreigners who throng in the market for tea, spices and chocolate along with city dwellers who come to this picturesque hill resort for a change in pace. Those who are into adventure can go on treks and hike the through numerous tea plantations to national parks. If you are a health freak or a foodie, a sporty person or just someone looking to relax, Munnar is the place for you. Finally, for those who are passionate about films can add one more place to their bucket list along with the likes of Mumbai, Goa, Kolkata and Thiruvananthapuram. Thanks to the Rain International Nature Film Festival, now there’s something for everyone in Munnar.
From 25th to 27th January, 2019, the 1st edition of the festival was hosted by Mr. Jayaraj. He is not just a filmmaker but an activist as well. Founder of the Birds Club International, he has incorporated the most prevalent issue in our time – that of climate change - to make a statement in his very first film festival. The festival saw International jurors and participants from all over. The accomplished jury comprised of Girish Kasaravalli, Prasanna Vithanage and Bijaya Jena. A wide variety of films, from documentary to feature were submitted from Norway, Japan, Canada, France, Russia and Sri Lanka among many others. Forest Man of India, Jadav Payeng received the Lifetime Achievement award for his contribution. At a very young age he spent his time turning dry, arid land into a forest all on his own. His story is a fine example of what a man can do if he puts his mind to something. Nothing is impossible and it’s never too late.
The competition comprised of features, documentaries, animation as well as short films. In the feature film category, the award went to ‘The Lord Eagle’ by Edvard Novikov of Russia. Set in Siberia, it is a fictional story with a powerful message. What people need to understand is that we can co-exist with animals if only we try. In the first half of the film, the characters think of the eagle as a bad omen, a nuisance, a threat. What they don’t realize is that its man who is the real villain, a danger to environment. By killing a helpless eagle, all that the hunter gains, is his affirmation of himself as being on top of the food chain.
The documentary section had many competent films making it difficult to even predict who would get the award. In the end, Canadian film ‘Antoe’s Ark’ got the prize. Filmmaker Matthieu Rytz’s subject on the dangers faced by the country of Kiribati makes us think twice about the fate of island nations. It is a plea to take global warming seriously. The western developed countries may be the largest contributors to global warming yet it’s the small and powerless that are affected immediately with no means to face the near future. Two special jury mentions were also announced. ‘Yasuni Man’ was one of them. Focusing on the indigenous communities of Ecuador, filmmaker Ryan Killackey weaves a heart-wrenching tale. Man is the enemy of nature as well as his own species. People talk big, but in the end money and territorial power is prioritized over a country’s own people and culture.
Traditions are being forgotten every day, ecology is degrading and people are being killed over what is in the long term, just petty grievances. The second documentary was Hidekuni Imazu’s ‘A Life Line.’ This aesthetically beautiful film shows us the biodiversity of Japan and what is at stake. Different species of animals have co-existed since the beginning of time. Predators and preys live together. But why can’t man? With no narration or dialogues, the film sends across a very striking reminder of what we should be fighting for. Suresh Elamon’s short documentary, ‘Kaananam, The Spirit of Silent Valley’ merits acknowledgment for its topic on how to preserve the ecosystem. Dams are a needed to further progress and provide electricity which is why many are not told about some of its harmful effects on nearby flora and fauna. But nature thrives if it’s given a chance. The Silent Valley National Park’s outcome is what people can achieve if they work together. Its success story is why NGOs and activists should not give up.
The Rain International Nature Film Festival provides a platform for young filmmakers and students. Those who want to make films but for a cause should look no more as this festival is a chance to showcase their talent as well as spread their message. It also brings cinephiles and nature lovers together. Participants, audience as well as volunteers of this year were from various fields. We had filmmakers, teachers of zoology and botany to PhD students of environmental science. Everyone learnt something from one another. The festival also brought awareness to the local people about the pollution from diesel emissions and plastic waste among the other problems faced by Munnar.
One should not just watch a film, enjoy and then forget or go back to their lives. That is not what entertainment is for anymore. Due to the universal concerns very much present in this time and age, every single person has to step up and lend a hand. Festivals like this provide opportunities for movies, which if made with a powerful motive will surely have impact. We have to take climate change seriously and movies do exactly this, which is by informing without being didactic.