Tag Archives: Festival

How to India: Ganpati Dancing

So I’ve found a whole new way to make a spectacle of myself! My new video series is called HOW TO INDIA. It’s a (hopefully comical) instructional video series for foreigners living life in India.

My first video was about how to Bucket Bathe. Basically, taking a bath with a bucket instead of a shower or bathtub.

My latest video (my second one) is about how to safely enjoy Ganpati as a foreign woman, with som bonus dance moves at the end (make sure you don’t miss it!).

Click here to watch!

So, how does one safely dance in a crowded, sweaty, male-dominated procession on the last day of Ganpati?

Ganpati is a Hindu festival which culminates in a procession called Visarjan, where the Ganpati Idol is immersed in water. A lot of families keep a Ganpati Idol in their house and submerge it in water at home. However, the large community Ganpati idols are ceremoniously paraded down the streets and taken to the water  (the river in Pune, the ocean in Mumbai).

Processions are amazing to see and hear, but they are extremely crowded and you need to be careful.

Going out Safely: If you’re like me, and you stand out from your typical Indian crowd, you can draw unwanted attention to yourself by dancing.

  • Tip 1: Go out with a group.
    • Strength in numbers means Fun in numbers.
  • Tip 2: Girl Power
    • Some Ganpati processions have sections for the women to dance in. This is intended to protect the women from unwanted touching and cat calling. If you’re a woman, feel free to jump in and make some friends!
  • Tip 3: Pack light
    • Take only the cash you need for the night and some ID. Make sure your phone is fully charged in case you get lost!
  • Tip 4: Wear a Disguise.
    • I find that wearing a hoodie worked really well for me last year.
    • If you want to go all-out, you can buy a mask. Nobody will look at you funny on this day, I swear.

Now make sure you watch the video on youtube to see my recommended dance-moves. There is also some additional footage that shows what to expect during a Ganpati procession.

If you want to learn how to take a bucket bath… well, I have a video for that too.


Click to watch!

Big Boys Gone Bananas

This is an old blog I wrote in May 2012 for the DOXA Connexions program. Big Boys Gone Bananas is a documentary follow-up to the film Bananas!* detailing the legal battle the filmmaker Fredrik Gertten with Dole. The film is a Coproduction between Sweden and Canada. Read on!

The tagline for the screening at the Pacific Cinematheque: Fredrik Gertten says film is about freedom of speech and the right of the “little person” to take a bite of JUSTICE out of the big boys.

Talk after the screening with Randy Hooper, a Fair Trade activist with Discovery Organics

Big Boys Gone Bananas is the story of Fredrik Gertten and his production team in Sweden and their battle against DOLE fruit company after the release of their first documentary BANANAS!* depicting the mistreatment and abuse of Nicaraguan banana plantation workers. The fruity giant came after Gertten before the world premiere of his film at the Los Angeles Film Festival, and proactively came after the filmmaker and began to spread falsities about his filmmaking practices and his documentary subjects in the film BANANAS!* before even seeing it.

The film does not use the opportunity as a way of making Fredrik Gertten a superhero, and BANANAS!*, the victim of corporations and the media. Instead, it follows the legal processes and investigates the ways in which mainstream media and government can be controlled by corporations as a way of educating the public. The story of Gertten and BANANAS!* is to show how this seemingly impossible force can be beaten, and is shown as a source of inspiration for others hoping to achieve similar goals that involve overcoming big industry and big money through grassroots and bottom-up efforts and storytelling.

The film calls out against PR firms, news media, and even professionals that have been brought over to the “dark side” by putting their name on an opinion piece written by a PR company, paid for by a client such as DOLE.

There is a call for support for independent storytellers, such as bloggers who can have a large role in influencing public opinion like the Swedish blogger who called for a DOLE boycott.

However at the end of the film, there were some issues that I still couldn’t find solutions for within the film itself. I don’t mean to say that a film is supposed to give the answer to the problem it exposes, but these are general questions I would like to see more discussion on as the film has screened as a part of the Justice Forum.

First of all, the success of Gertten against DOLE would not have been possible without the Swedish government. The Swedish government is much more centralized that the Canadian government, and is already suspicious of American neocolonialist tactics and reacts by being very protective of it’s own economy and industries. Without the support of the Swedish government, the lawsuit would not have been dropped. Do you have any ideas on how one might fight successfully against large corporations in a country like the US and Canada, or any idea on how the fight  would have played out in North America instead of Sweden?

I asked this question to Fredrik during the Q&A after the screening. His answer was that nothing is impossible, even in Canada. He directed that we support storytellers, challenge government, and break the isolation of these storytellers created by the media (that is being influenced by the corporations). He also called for journalists to be more active in questioning their sources, and for the public to support them.

Ii found the answer to be a little vague, but of course I don’t expect him to be familiar with how difficult it is to make progress in activism in a city such as Vancouver. Perhaps I am a pessimist, but I think it would take three Fredrik Gertten’s to have a chance at making the Canadian government take a direct stand against DOLE.

Lastly, the Justice forum is sponsored by CUPE BC, a worker’s union that I myself am a member of. The film was introduced by a Union Representative (I apologize for not remembering his name) and it brought up the interesting idea of increasing collaboration between independent filmmakers and unions. From audience suggestions during the Q&A, it was clear that both are invested in rights and quality of life rather than money. Why should there not be more funding for projects such a BANANAS!* from local unions?

P.S. If you are interested in taking action against DOLE, start by buying “FAIR TRADE” bananas. Also, take a look at the 10% shift program being pushed by CUPE BC. The program takes 10% of the money you spend, and reinvests it into local businesses such as grocers and markets, giving them more buying power and ability to compete with chain supermarkets locked into contracts with corporations such as DOLE.


The Original Post

The Frontier Gandhi and Other Highlights of SAFF Canada 2012

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.