The Travelling Film South Asia festival hit the road at the end of last month. Featuring documentaries, this festival has become a real eye-opener encouraging political/social expression in this medium.

One docu that was produced last year  is Tanvir Mokammel’s excellent but painful “Teardrops of Karnaphuli” (made 2005). Through the words of the inhabitants of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), both “hill people” and recently arrived bengalis, Tanvir eloquently tells the devastating story of dam construction in the area, the displacement of people and the resulting impoverishment of local inhabitants. The film focusses on how the Bangladeshi government then started settling people from the late 70s from outside the area, and how this laid the basis for protracted instability and human rights violations.

Here is a snippet of a conversation Tanvir has with Basundhara Dewan, widow of a pioneer painter of the CHT area, Chunilal Dewan:

In childhood we studied with Bengalis in school. We never quarelled. We never uttered who was a Muslim or a Bengali. There was no question then who was a Chakma or a Bengali. We lived in harmony. Water came and people became poor. Rehabilitation wasn’t properly done. Some received. Some did not. Those who received - the settlers came and occupied what they had received. Lots of violence began. Without feuding and fighting someone’s land can’t be occupied. Our lives became troubled.

Interestingly, for my South African mates, the festival includes a documentary from South Africa, called “Dirty Laundry,” exploring the issue of indian identity in post-apartheid South Africa. Give me a shout if you have any info about it.