York University’s Department of Film presents two films that interrogate India’s democracy

Sanjay Kak
Sanjay Kak

York University’s Department of Film presents free public screenings of two provocative documentaries with acclaimed independent Indian filmmaker Sanjay Kak.

Film Professor Ali Kazimi will moderate an audience Q & A with the filmmaker following each of the screenings.

Jashn-e-Azadi / How We Celebrate Freedom (2007. 138 min. In Kashmiri/Urdu/English with English subtitles) will be presented Friday, March 21 at 2pm in the Nat Taylor Cinema, N102 Ross Building at York’s Keele campus.

The film is a searing exploration of the Kashmiri freedom movement – and the many meanings of freedom (“azadi”) in Kashmir, the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. It tells the story of a population trapped between terrorists and the army in an armed struggle encompassing almost two decades and many tens of thousands of civilian casualties.

Jashn-e-Azadi was shot over three years, from 2004 to 2006. Conjoining the personal and the political, violence and tenderness, hope and despair, it evokes the past while unravelling the present. “Where truth has been an early victim, all language – speech, poetry, even cinema – becomes inadequate to describe what we know and feel here,” said Kak.

Kak’s latest feature documentary, Red Ant Dream (2013.  120 min. In Gondi/Odiya/Punjabi with English subtitles) receives its Toronto premiere Saturday, March 22 at 2pm in Cinecycle (behind 129 Spadina Avenue).

Subtitled “The Life of Revolutionary Possibility in India”, Red Ant Dream has been hailed as “a love song to people across the country fighting to save our soul” (Saroj Giri – Tehelka Magazine). From the armed insurrection simmering in Bastar, to the struggle of the adivasis in Odisha, to the growing protests by Punjabi peasants, the film chronicles ideas that define and people who live the revolutionary ideal in India.

Red Ant Dream is the third in a cycle of films that interrogate the workings of Indian democracy, following Jashn-e-Azadi and Words on Water (2002).

A self-taught filmmaker based in New Delhi, Kak is actively involved in the documentary film movement and the Campaign against Censorship and Cinema of Resistance project. His productions reflect his interests in ecology, alternative approaches and resistance politics. In addition to the landmark titles Red Ant Dream and Jashn-e-Azadi, his extensive filmography includes One Weapon (1997), about democracy in the 50th year of Indian independence; In the Forest Hangs a Bridge (1999), about the making of a 1000 ft. bridge of cane and bamboo in northeast India (Golden Lotus Best Documentary – National Film Awards; Asian Gaze Award – Pusan Short Film Festival, Korea) and Words on Water (2002), about popular resistance to the building of a series of massive dams in the Narmada Valley in central India (Best Long Film – International Festival of Environmental Film & Video, Brazil). Kak also writes occasional political commentary and is the editor of Until My Freedom Has Come – The New Intifada in Kashmir (Penguin India 2011, Haymarket Books 2013).

Kak appears under the auspices of the Shan and Jaya Chandrasekar Visiting Artist/Scholar Residency program based in the Faculty of Fine Arts, York University.