New film on Naga

Read the full Times of India story on the film.

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Rebel filmmaker creates controversy with Naga film

SHANKHADEEP CHOUDHURY

TIMES NEWS NETWORK [ MONDAY, JULY 01, 2002 11:49:21 PM ]

GUWAHATI: Shooting a sixteen year old, gun-wielding soldier of the 'Naga army', rebel filmmaker Shankar Borua admits having experienced "strange explicable feelings."

Originally from Assam, this was how the maker of If God be with us, the now-controversial film on the 'Naga nation', described his most memorable scene in the 120-minute flick: "In a way, I identified with him. I will struggle with his ghost all my life."

"As an Assamese, I have never been able to reconcile with the uncomfortable questions about my nationality and identity. In many a way, I too am a stranger in my own land and deep inside, I really truly resent it", an obviously angry Borua lamented in a recent interview e-mailed from overseas.

Needless to say, If God Be With Us has raised many an eyebrow, with an alert central government reportedly trying to assess how much of an embarrassment the documentary can be to India.

Already, the world premiere of the movie was held on May 21 at The Blinding Light, a 110 seat micro-cinema located in Canada's Vancouver and specializing in alternative, underground and obscure film and video screenings.

"This summer, I plan to take the movie across North America and possibly later to Europe. I am looking forward to showing it around back home in Assam and elsewhere in India when I return in Winter", plans Borua, describing himself as a storyteller along the lines of a wandering minstrel.

Going by the synopsis of the documentary, that too the maker of which is an Indian from outside Nagaland, the government has every reason to be hassled. "A film on the Naga Nation, a once free people. It traces the genesis of one of the least known conflicts, the Indo-Naga war. For the last 55 years the Naga people living at the tri-junction of India, China and Burma have resisted the occupation of their land", the synopsis - which declares If God Be With Us as a tribute to the Naga resistance - reads.

It continues: "Close to 200,000 Nagas have been killed during the course of the conflict. At the height of the war in the 1950's the Government of India through the Indian Army indulged in wide-scale abuses, which surprisingly went unreported in the international media. Representations were made to the United Nations that also chose to remain silent."

Apparently, Borua reacts on issues through his celluloid creations. Besides the obviously rebellious If God Be With Us, even his debut film, Angst At Large, was a political documentary on Assam centering around the twin issues of nationality and identity. Even his current project BROKEN SANDS is about another highly controversial topic - the "trans-national movement of people centering around mass migration from Bangladesh to Assam."

Having worked in capacities ranging from a waiter to a pig farmer, Borua - interestingly - never went to film school but interned with famous filmmakers like Jahnu Barua, Mira Nair, Anand Patwardhan and Mahesh Mathai for over eight years.

He says: "With this film, my primary concern is to reach out and make people aware of a situation that does not seem to be on the collective consciousness of the world as of now. The Naga resistance inspired me to make this film and pay tribute to the struggle for self-determination. The film is an effort to record the predicament of a people who have been subjected to enormous pain, humiliation and suffering"

If God be With Us takes its viewers across the Naga country in the Northeast, where, Borua says, "Nagas from all walks of life, young and old, in very moving terms, describe the tragedy that has befallen their land as also eloquently engage in a dialogue for a just settlement that takes into account the legitimate aspirations of the Nagas."