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Bengaluru moved by the ‘Moving Waters’ Film Festival

Photo : Anushka Kale

Bangalore’s second Moving Waters Film Festival brought with it stories of beauty, despair and hope, from water bodies from all over the world. Based in India, it is the first film festival of its kind devoted to oceans and rivers. This year, the film festival was held in two of the nation’s major cities - Bengaluru and Chennai. The 2 day event, which took place on the 14th and 15th of October, was hosted at the Max Mueller Bhavan, Indiranagar, Bengaluru.

From adventure and exploration, to research and conservation, the films screened at the festival were aimed at entertaining and educating the viewers on the threats faced by our waterbodies. A wide plethora of independent and award-winning documentaries, ranging from a few minutes to full-length screenings, marked the festival which had around 21 films screened, including 5 from India.

Filmmakers and photographers, ecologists and anthropologists, surfers and divers, shared their discoveries and their conservation efforts. Spectacular films and insightful talks helped bridge the gap between us and the water.

The films spanned from focusing on the adventures at sea, to talking about the threats faced by the oceans, and how we as people interact with the water bodies around us. Films like Four mums in a boat, which followed 4 housewives as they attempted to row the Atlantic Ocean, and Beyond the Surface, which followed Ishita Malviya, India’s first female surfer, as she explores South India, incited the intrepid wanderers in all of us. To top it up, practicing divers in India, talked about breathtaking diving spots across the country -- Goa in the Arabian Sea and the volcanic Barren Islands of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal -- that could give us an adrenaline rush.

Often we think that deep inside the oceans, it is nothing but silence and darkness. And Discovery’s Emmy-winning film Sonic Sea changed it all! It showed how marine mammals like dolphins and whales vocalise in a wide range of frequencies, across entire oceans, to communicate with their kind. Perhaps, our foray in the field of communications may have some serious competition! Alas, the roaring ships and submarines are disturbing the acoustics deep down, resulting in whales being beached onto the shores, as the documentary showed. It also included leading scientists talking about how various stakeholders coming together to restore the oceans’ acoustic environment.

After the screening, ecologist Dipani Sutaria then elaborated on the human-whale relationship and how it has changed through the ages. She also presented several whale calls that she recorded during her research, elaborating on the threat from noisy container ships. Dr. Arnab Das, Director of the Maritime Research Centre (MRC), further iterated the nature of the acoustic environment and spoke about the importance of holistic research in this field.

The other form of pollution that oceans face today was shown by Plastik, a film from Germany that followed a group of researchers as they investigated where millions of tons of plastic that make their way to the ocean, eventually go -- into massive whirlpools, sometimes bigger than entire countries! The documentary Chasing Coral showed the relentless struggles of divers and photographers as they attempted to visually record coral bleaching and coral death in parts of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, a side-effect of climate change.

Focusing on the smaller waterbodies were films like The Super Salmon, a passionate story from the banks of the Alaska’s Susitna river, about a salmon’s incredible journey and a man’s relentless fight against the government proposed mega dam, and The Strong People, which looked at America’s greatest dam removal project from the eyes of the area’s residents. To get the point across to the audience, Shishir Rao, a researcher who works in the Western Ghats, highlighted how not just mega-dams, but even small dams are destructive. In India, he said, small dams are being built indiscriminately in some of the most pristine and ecologically sensitive regions that obstruct the movement of migrating fish and cause irregular flooding in the nearby regions. Small Dams, Big Problems, a short video clip, summed it all up.

Rivers and oceans are home to a wide variety of marine life and most of them are consumed by us as food. This has given rise to overfishing, resulting in depletion of our fish reserves and creating an imbalance in the oceans’ ecosystem. Mayuresh Gangal, the co-founder of the Know Your Fish initiative, demonstrated how research and outreach can help us consume responsibly. Divya Karnad, an ecologist, also stressed on the importance of consuming locally grown fish and doing so responsibly.

We share a close relationship with water -- 70% of who we are is water, after all! In a series of talk highlighting this relationship, Suprabha Seshan from Gurukula Botanical Sanctuary and Manish Chandi from the Andaman and Nicobar Environmental Team shared their thoughts and experiences on how people regard water in their lives. Joshua Barton, an expert underwater photographer, shared his personal adventures as he captured stunning photographs of the river Kaveri, capturing many indigenous fish, some of which might not have been even known to science!

Aghanashini, a documentary about one of the last untouched and undammed rivers of India, directed by Ashwini Kumar Bhat showcased how locals had successfully preserved their river. Flowing in the Western Ghats near Sirsi, river Aghanashini is the lifeblood for threatened frogs, birds and mammals like the endangered Lion Tailed Macaque. Filmed from the perspective of the river, it captured the relationship of people and the river, from the practice of harvesting mussel and a native type of rice, to the unique dance tradition which holds the community together.

The final documentary to be screened during the festival was the award winning Holy (un)holy River, which traced the waters of the river Ganga as it descends from the Himalayas on its way to the sea. The film showed how the water is polluted at every stage of its course, due industrial and sewage waste, and the indiscriminate littering and misuse by the common people. It commented on the contradiction that on the one hand, mother Ganga is venerated as being pure and holy, and on the other hand, it is allowed to become one of the most polluted rivers in the world.

“This experience was eye-opening. I enjoyed the beautiful documentaries and was moved, even disheartened, by some of things I saw. However I am full of hope after listening to conservationists and activists. Most importantly, I got to interact with different people, and the good thing about this event was that it was not an echo-chamber, but we heard from people who believed in different things. We need this - there are so many things to be done!” said Deepak Chavan, an undergraduate Biology student and an aspiring conservationist.