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Field to Factory: Film and ethnography of industrialisation in Chhattisgarah, Central India

Introduction to the Films

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All the films in this 'Field to Factory' collection were made by film students from the Bhilai area as part of the training programme described in  'Jandarshan, a short History' and  in 'A personal account of Jandarshan's Bhilai training programme. ' They are a small selection from the films made during the programme.   

The Journey, Every Day Tales, Living Memory  and Letters and Learning were selected because they were judged to be the films which most effectively compliment Jonathan Parry's writing on Bhilai.  Letters and Learning is made by Jonathan's former field assistant who here gives his own perspective on one of their most important informants, a former employee of the steel plant living in  one of the urbanised villages which feature in the papers. The Journey, Every Day Tales, Living Memory were part of a project  in which students were encouraged to make films about themselves or their own families.   These more than the  other two  in the series directly or indirectly provide a perspective on the culture of Bhilai.  The families shown in The Journey  and Living Memory were both attracted to the area because of the opportunities provided by the steel plant. The family in Every Day Tales was living on the site needed by the steel plant and had their land requisitioned for the plant's reservoir.

Click Click, Papa Says  and Practice are included for the light they thrown on the process of film-making. They are the result of the first part of the family history/autobiography project, an exercise in which the students  all had tom 'pitch' a five minute film about one member of their family  and they worked in  groups to make the three films sown here. Papa Says and Practice were developed later into the longer films The Journey and Living Memory and are included mainly for that reason. Click Click  is a delightful portrait of thej film makers mother which was selected the the Göttingen Internatinal Ethnogrpahic Film Festival.   The Last Shelter was selected  as an example of  an early exercise in which the trainees could chose any topic. It is also one of the more successful films, and was selected for the RAI Ethnographic Film Festival in  December 2000.  The subject here is a home for the elderly.


The film-makers were aware of Jonathan's work and the aim of documenting the impact of the steel plant but they were encouraged in this exercise  to select material which interested them.  Gender and marriage emerge as major preoccupations in most of the films. Not surprisingly perhaps, gender is prominent  in both the two longer films made by  women.  But it  is also a key element in Click Click,.  Marriage is central to Living Memory, is raised in The journey and in Letters and Learning.  Although social mobility is not directly discussed in any of the films it is fairly clear that the subjects of all of them (except The last Shelter) are, or  have, been upwardly mobile.  Education and Literacy  are overt themes in Letters and Learning but are raised  by implication in Living Memory and Everyday Tales.  Religion is only raised directly in Living Memory but the very fact that its role in the other films is low key is of interest.  Most  of them show their subjects doing poojas as part of normal daily life but no one comments or reflects on  spiritual matters and even in Living Memory it is religious toleration which is emphasised.  Old Age is overtly the focus of The last Shelter but  Letters and LearningEvery Day Tales and  Living Memory all show interactions with elderly people and the former two obliquely say a lot about the role of old men.  Attitudes to industry and agriculture are are given most prominence in Everyday Tales and Letters and Learning  but they are possibly  somewhat misleading in what they show as neither really expresses the dislike for farming felt by many villagers.


Those of the films which have been finished for more than a year at the time of writing have all been shown  to local audiences and some to audiences in Delhi and Banares.  Some  have been seen abroad at private screenings and festivals.   The Last Shelter  was shown at  the RAI Ethnograpahic Film Festival in London 2000; The Journey at Sheffield International Documentary Film Festival 2001, where there was a panel discussion afterwards,  at the Factories and Fields event in Göttingen 2001 and at the London South East Asia Festival Westminster University in 2002.  The Last Shelter and Every Day Tales were also shown at at Factories and Fields event in Göttingen 2001. Click Click was shown at the Göttingen International Film Festival 2002.  Living Memory , which has not been completed long enough in subtitled version to have entered for any festivals had its first foreign screenings  at Kent University in December 2002.

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