This year was the first South Asian Film Festival in Vancouver. The festival was put together by Hannah Fisher and Pat Bayes. Hannah Fisher had travelled all over the Indian sub-continent and found films from every country with the exception of the Maldives.Being a filmmaker and very interested in India and working with India, I found an excuse to attend. I managed to get some tickets to the opening gala featuring a dance performance and the film, Two Voices, One Soul by Makarand Brahme. I saw Chaitanya Chinchlikar’s Master Class videos film at Whistling Woods, and witnessed Jaya Bachchan discussing the Indian film industry.
I also managed to attend the Indo-Canadian Industry forum featuring John Dippong (Telefilm Canada), Jamshed Mistry (Entertainment Lawyer and Advocate at the High and Supreme Courts of Mumbai), Jeet Matharru (Woman from the East), Chaitanya Chinchlikar (Whistling Woods International), and Makarand Brahme (Two Voices, One Soul). Many filmmakers attended such as Nimisha Mukerji and Meghna Haldar and I believe we all gleaned some information from the well-informed panel. There was a definite desire for coproduction between Indians and Canadians, and it showed through the questions the audience asked the panel and the passionate discussions that followed in the lobby of the Fairmont Pacific Rim.
However, my favorite experience of the festival was watching the film The Frontier Gandhi: Badshah Khan, A Torch for Peace by T. C. (Teri) McLuhan.
The film is a historical documentary about a man who believed in non-violence in the same days as Mahatma Gandhi. Badshah Khan was a Muslim who lived in the Frontier Province which contained the Khyber Pass, the famous route that carried conquerors into India such as Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, and the British. He lived among a people know for their violent tendencies, but preached non-violence as a way of life. He joined forces with Gandhi and they spoke together about using non-violence as a way to gain independence from British colonialism.
However, when India finally gained independence it was with a partition. In 1947, India was partitioned into Pakistan, India, and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). This partition was based on perceived regions dominated by either Hindu or Muslim people. This resulted in massive bloodshed and a border dispute which continues to this day. While Badshah Khan and Gandhi (A Muslim and a Hindu) had worked together for a unified freedom from the British, the British had left the country divided by territory and religion. This left both men feeling betrayed by their country. Badshah Khan returned to his home which was now part of Pakistan to continue teaching non-violence among the people in his village. However, Gandhi was idolized and branded as the man who led the resistance of the British even after his assassination.
Badshah Khan continued to live on and spread his beliefs on non-violence and education among his people, being imprisoned even at the age of 98.He spent 1/3 of his long life in jail. He was a man of love, and carried a message much bigger than himself. Because of political reasons, he was never fully recognized in the way that Gandhi was. The stories of him and his followers, the Red Shirts, were never told until Teri McLuhan tracked them down in the 1980’s.
The film was in the making for twenty-one years. Teri spoke after the film played at the Granville 7 cinema and described her journey of making the film. Through a personal drive and desire to make the film, she managed to acquire visas for herself and four Indian crew members to go under the radar and film on and off for many years. The interviews she has done are incredible, as some of the men and many of the women on screen had never been filmed before but were so passionate in their love and devotion to Badshah Khan and his message. Despite his amazing history, many people outside his region had never heard his name.
Teri is now searching for distribution, and is working toward a theatrical release in India. Teri expressed her desire to distribute the film for free on the internet but first needs to pay back her investors. Finding distribution can be difficult when a film has already been made, but when the film touches so much history that needs to be told, it is certain that distribution will come.
I think this film was the highlight of the South Asian Film Festival. When you see this film, you will realize its importance and why it needs to be distributed widely.
If you want to see the film, I encourage you to check out the website: www.thefrontiergandhi.com and spread the word about the film in order to increase its chances of getting distribution.