Animated reality takes you through the ordeals of gender-based violence

Updated: Sep 22, 2018, 09:05 IST | Snigdha Hasan

An animation artist and a filmmaker from Mumbai mentored students in Yangon to make docu-animations on stories of gender-based violence. Go watch their creation

Animated reality takes you through the ordeals of gender-based violence
In Kayah Lily, a 13-year-old recalls the trauma of being raped in the woods and how with support from family and teachers, made a new life for herself

A Bumblebee flits through the undergrowth in a dense forest, and the frame of a cute-as-a-button bunny ambling in follows. But soon enough, vermilion flames clog the background, and you know that you are not watching a children’s cartoon movie — not even a violent one. A moving voiceover of a 13-year-old takes you to the Kayah State in Myanmar, where she recalls growing up amidst sounds of gunfire exchanged between military and ethnic armed groups. On her way home from school one day, she meets a man who lures her to the woods and rapes her.

Limbo is the story of a 19-year-old woman who is raped by her uncle, and the struggle to break her silence and bring up a son born from the sexual assault
Limbo is the story of a 19-year-old woman who is raped by her uncle, and the struggle to break her silence and bring up a son born from the sexual assault

This is the chilling plot of Kayah Lily, one of the four powerful animated documentaries from Myanmar released under the title, Stand Up for Women! Stand Up for Peace! The project is an initiative by the Yangon Film School in collaboration with Mumbai’s sand art animation artist Debjani Mukherjee, and filmmaker and Mid-day columnist Paromita Vohra. This January, they were invited to Yangon by the film school, which is an NGO, to select and mentor students from across the conflict-ridden country to make documentaries on first-hand accounts of gender-based violence in Myanmar.

A humanitarian independent activist from Shan State shares her journey of how she battled personal challenges to carve a path for herself in the film, Wave
A humanitarian independent activist from Shan State shares her journey of how she battled personal challenges to carve a path for herself in the film, Wave 

The idea behind the initiative is to help audiences to understand that such violence is not a private affair but a matter of social concern, and that peace and security are essential in order to create a society in which women’s lives are respected and protected.

Home is about a woman living with her family in a camp for internally displaced people. She recalls how war changed everything, and dreams of returning to her village
Home is about a woman living with her family in a camp for internally displaced people. She recalls how war changed everything, and dreams of returning to her village

While Vohra trained the students in collecting and recording stories from survivors residing in camps and other regions for three weeks, Mukherjee, over the next six weeks, took the process further by helping them create shorter edited versions of the recordings, developing storyboards, and mentoring them in various forms of stop motion animation to make the four documentaries. This Saturday, the films will have their first public screening in India.

Debjani Mukherjee mentors students at the workshop
Debjani Mukherjee mentors students at the workshop

“For such sensitive topics, it is difficult to shoot direct documentaries. Yet these stories need to be told and shared,” says Mukherjee, explaining the choice of the medium.

The first two weeks, she recalls, were all about warm-up sessions, where she helped students find a connection with the stories. “We watched a lot of films made on similar subjects the world over. I also shared with them stories from India,” says Mukherjee. But to see such stories come from almost every family residing in camps shocked her.

The films have been made using various forms of stop motion animation including paper cuts
The films have been made using various forms of stop motion animation including paper cuts 

“One more thing that I hadn’t anticipated was that many students were supportive of the current political ideology in the country even if they were not supportive of the methods,” says Mukherjee, pointing to the plight of the Rohingyas. “Because there is a crisis of higher education and jobs in the country, the government is showing them a picture of other people eating up their cake. And they have no way of seeing the larger picture,” she adds.

By the second week, she took a more emotional view to the mentoring process and removed the political context consciously, so the students could understand the magnanimity of the situation from a humane point of view.

Debjani Mukherjee
Debjani Mukherjee

“That’s one more reason behind the project; to sensitise the students. For them to become the medium of sharing these stories with the world, they have to be passionate about the subject,” shares Mukherjee.

And that’s perhaps what the role of art is — to step in where dialogue proves ineffective.

ON September 22, 8.30 pm
AT Harkat Studios, Aram Nagar, Versova, Andheri West 
LOG ON TO insider.in
ENTRY Rs 200

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