Director Supriyo Sen (Wagah) started his career in documentary filmmaking in 1996, and has since racked up thirty-five international awards for his successive endeavors. In his short for Focus Forward, New Gift, Sen takes a closer look at the pioneering efforts of the Navdanya movement, led by Dr. Vandana Shiva, whose ethical mission is to promote seed-saving and organic farming in India. Watch his film here.
FF: How did you become interested in Navdanya?
SS: Navdanya offers “a sustainable solution to the ecological and human disaster caused by industrial farming. It is a movement that not only identifies problems but also offers solutions. This aspect of Navdanya inspired me immensely as a civil society activist and a filmmaker.”
FF: What made you decide to make a film about it?
SS: “The mainstream media has largely neglected its duty to report on the lives and livelihoods of the largest group of working people in India: farmers. As an independent filmmaker I was looking for an opportunity to talk about this tragedy of epic proportion. I also wanted to highlight Dr. Shiva’s work that offers a long term solution to this crisis.
FF: What were the first steps you took to start making this film?
SS: “Dr. Shiva is a very busy person and a globetrotter! First hurdle I had to cross was to get her appointment and seek her permission to make a film on her work! Second step was to visit Navdanya farm in Dehradun, which is situated on the backdrop of picturesque landscape of Himalayan foothills. The place has a healing effect and generates a very positive energy… The visit actually helped me to decide on the tone of the film.”
FF: Did you have any connections to Navdanya or to Dr. Vandana Shiva?
SS: “Dr. Vandana Shiva, is a leading thinker who has eloquently blended her views on the environment, agriculture, spirituality, and women's rights into a powerful philosophy. Although I never knew her personally, I always felt a kind of spiritual connection with her work.”
FF: Tell us about the editing process? How did you make it work?
SS: “I created a beginning, middle and an end in the film… I used all the elements one puts in while telling longer stories. Therefore there are interviews, interactions, observations, shocks, surprises, songs, music, sound effects… everything found its own space in the film. I was just conscious about the proportion of using all these elements and tried to create a proper balance among them.”
FF: How did you handle the three-minute time constraint? Any advice?
SS: “Advice! I don’t dare! I can only give two suggestions: 1. Never try to squeeze a longer narrative in order to get a short film. 2. Never give up on your own style, in terms of the way you work technically and they way you articulate yourself aesthetically in cinema. Short or long, the film only succeeds when you are able to express yourself as an author without any inhibition or holding back.”
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