NEW DELHI, January 3, 2013

Budhaditya Bhattacharya, The Hindu

 Nuke look: A still from 'Jadugoda: The Black Magic'.
  • Nuke look: A still from ‘Jadugoda: The Black Magic’.
  • Norbert G. Suchanek.
    Norbert G. Suchanek.

The International Uranium Film Festival travels to India

The debate about nuclear energy in India has in the last few years become a hotly contested one. But there is a predictability to how it plays out; usually on TV screens with a fixed cast of ‘experts’ who articulate their positions pro or contra. The stories and views of affected persons are conspicuous by their absence.

For the smaller picture to emerge, it is sometimes necessary to engage the bigger screen. And the International Uranium Film Festival was born out of this necessity. The festival, starting today, will go on till January 6 at the Siri Fort Auditorium in Delhi and travel thereafter to Shillong, Ranchi, Hyderabad, Pune, Mumbai, Chennai and Thrissur.

“I had the idea in 2006. I was at an international meeting about uranium mining in the U.S. and there I saw many films about mining and nuclear problems, films that I’ve never seen on television… and so I thought well, we have to do something. These films must be shown to the public,” explains Norbert G. Suchanek, an environmental journalist, filmmaker and festival director.

Norbert tells of the paradox that while developed countries like Germany are phasing out nuclear power, countries like Brazil and India are pushing the nuclear agenda relentlessly. “How can a democracy force nuclear power on its people?” he asks.

His film “The Speech of The Chief”, co-directed by Marcia Gomes de Oliveira, is predominantly in the form of an interview with the chief of the indigenous tribe Guarani Mbyá of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and presents his “strong prophetic speech” about nuclear energy, ecology and the future. He tells of the problems faced by the people, living under the constant shadow of two nuclear power stations.

The festival’s journey to India has been co-ordinated by Ranchi-based filmmaker Shri Prakash, whose film “Jadugoda: The Black Magic” documents the devastating health effects of uranium mining in the area of Jadugoda in Jharkhand.

The 30 or so films being screened at the festival come from Ukraine, USA, Germany, Italy, Denmark and Poland, among others, and range from the documentary to the fictional and animated, over short and long formats. The sheer breadth of stories, coupled with the presence of some of the people who documented them, will benefit film students greatly, suggests Shri Prakash. “They can come and learn how to document complicated issues and how to translate their feelings onto film.”

But as filmmakers themselves, what mode of expression do they think is best suited to their anti-nuclear politics?

“The format doesn’t matter, the point is what the documentation shows. Because the problem is an invisible one,” says Marcia.

“I think we should use every format possible to explain what is going on. For example, an animated film has the power to show something invisible like radioactivity. Sometimes you need to show emotions, and there you need feature films and documentaries,” explains Norbert.

He points to the Swedish film “Coffee Break” to explain his point further. “It’s a comic suspense film about the Chernobyl disaster. A comedy about the nuclear disaster has never been done before! I am waiting for a soap opera about the life of a nuclear engineer.”