For the very first time, a Dalit Festival is going to be held in New York on February 23 and 24 organised by the Ambedkar Association of North America (AANA), Boston Study Group (BSG), Ambedkar International center, Ambedkar International Mission (AIM), The New School, and the Ambedkar Buddhist Association, Texas (ABAT).
“Historically, the experiences of Dalits, erstwhile untouchables, and the lower castes (totalling over half a billion people) in films have been camouflaged by appropriating their voices into a caste-neutral narrative. Oft-repeated incidents of suppressing Dalit voices and Dalit assertion has maintained the cultural hegemony of dominating castes in India. Whenever Dalit characters are presented on screen, it is either to degrade the humanity of the Dalit or term them as despicable characters deserving humiliation. Such casteist gestures have worsened the quality of Dalit cultural life in India, pushing them down to the nadir of humane existence,” the festival says on its website.
The Dalit Film and cultural festival 2019 (DALIFF) has been organised with the intention:
- To expose to the world the nuances of Dalit life that are buried underneath the popular forms of artistic expressions.
- To encourage a dialogue on the lack of representation and diversity in the Indian and South Asian film industry on the experiences of Dalit lives.
- To create solidarity with other oppressed groups tied into a Fourth World project through the intervention of film and other forms of media.
This international Dalit film festival is dedicated to the memory of P. K. Rosy, the legendary first female actor of South India who was a victim of casteist social and cinematic sphere. P. K. Rosy, the pioneer of Indian feminist cinema died in penury, shunned by the public. It is to honor her inspiring legacy and courageous work that the Dalit Film Festival proudly asserts the art of Dalit Cinema and of Dalits in Cinema.
Twelve films – 6 feature and 6 documentaries, surrounding the lives, struggles for identity and assertion of Dalits will be screened. These films are in Tamil, Hindi, Malyalam, Marathi and even Nepali.
The feature films include: Pariyerum Perumal and Kaala in Tamil; Papilo Buddha in Malyalam; Fandry and Bole India Jai Bhim in Marathi and Masaan in Hindi.
The 6 documentary films are : Kakkoos, a Tamil documentary on the life of manual scavengers; We Have Not Come Here To Die a documentary on the caste discrimination in educational institutions; Pistulya, a Marathi documentary on struggles of a young Dalit boy who wants to study; Gandhi, Untouchables and Me on the Dalit protests at JNU; The Battle of Bhima Koregaon a documentary about the500 Mahar soldiers who joined the British forces and defeated the Peshwa rule in 1818 and the Dalan Series from Nepal on the problems of landless labourers oppressed and abused by the landed castes.
Some prominent guests and invitees for the DALIFF are directors Pa Ranjith; Nagaraj Manjule, Bomakku Murali – social and political activist and also a film maker and Niharika Singh, actress and winner of Femina Miss India Earth.
DALIFF will be organised at Columbia University on 23rd February Saturday and in The New School on 24th February 2019 Sunday, New York.
There is no entry fee for the screenings.