NCPA to showcase global documentary on lived experiences of female refugees

20 November,2022 08:03 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Nasrin Modak Siddiqi

Catch a documentary that focuses on the worldwide refugee crisis and how women from different societies are responding to it

Bai Bibyaon is chieftain of the Lumad, a community of indigenous people in the southern Philippines. The community is struggling to protect its land from being grabbed by agencies seeking to exploit the natural resources

Of eight billion people on earth, 89.3 million are forcibly displaced. But what happens after the leap across the abyss? How do individuals adapt to societies very different from theirs? How do they create meaningful interactions, acquire new skills, learn a new language and build new lives?

The questions are plenty, but the answer is just one: resilience. The documentary, Displacement & Resilience: Women live for a new day, tells the heart-wrenching tales of five women who were forced to flee home. The subject was proposed by Mumbai based award-winning documentary filmmaker Chandita Mukherjee, who likes to explore the different ways in which people make sense of the world.

It was important to Mukherjee to tell these stories from the female perspective, which she thinks is often missing. "I sent out a call to IAWRT, which has about 70 members," she says. "Only 15 or so responded as our requirements were very specific. Curating the stories was not very difficult. It helped that I had experience in filmmaking for 40 years or so."

A group of formerly home-bound Syrian refugee women overcome their isolation in a foreign land through a food collective called Tayybeh, which specialises in Syrian regional cuisines. They cater to dinners at public events and run a food truck, all while learning to conduct a business with the discipline it entails

The film is a collaboration between women directors from different countries (acting as producers) and the International Association of Women in Radio and Television (IAWRT), a global organisation of women working in media. The six collaborating directors and their topics are: Erika Rae Cruz on the displacement of indigenous people in the Philippines; Archana Kapoor and Chandita Mukherjee on Rohingya refugees; Afrah Shafiq on Tibetans in India; Khedija Lemkecher on Syrians in Tunisia; and Eva Anandi Brownstein on Syrians in Canada.

"These are stories about being homeless in one*s own land, and keeping your identity alive in another. Stories about identity as politics, of being pushed into a corner to die, on ethnic discrimination and genocide and forced to move due to wars by others... they are endless," says Mukherjee.

The 60-minute documentary is in Arabic, Hindi, Tagalog (a dialect from Philippines) and a few other languages; subtitles are in English. "Since we were working across continents, we relied heavily on principal photography, combining it with interviews, archival footage, graphics and mixed media which was edited to be made into a seamless piece," she informs.

Chandita Mukherjee

In the Rohingya segment, women share accounts of their escape from genocidal attacks by the Myanmar armed forces and vigilante groups. "We also get a glimpse of the massive humanitarian activities of the UNHCR at Cox*s Bazaar in Bangladesh, which is home to 9,20,000 refugees. We wanted to visit personally to shoot but could not," regrets Mukherjee, adding, "These stories about conflict, migration and exile must not be viewed as traumatic experiences, but as heroic tales of resilience." The Mumbai premier of the documentary will be followed by a discussion with Mukherjee.

WHAT: Screening of Displacement & Resilience
WHEN: November 24, 6.30 PM
WHERE: Godrej Dance Theatre, NCPA

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