The New Wave, Chandrasekhar Nair, 1976, digital projection, 9 mins
Prisoners of Conscience, Anand Patwardhan, 1978, 16mm, 45 mins
On June 25, 1975, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government declared martial law in response to a rising tide of social unrest. Originally proposed as a temporary security measure, the Emergency, as the era came to be called, would last for almost two years, and remains the most nightmarish episode in the history of India’s democracy. Gandhi became a dictator in all but name: elections were suspended, civil liberties curtailed, journalists censored and intimidated by party thugs, and over 100,000 of the prime minister’s political opponents jailed. Slum residents were forcibly removed and their homes demolished; poor men were kidnapped off the streets and sterilized.
During this period and its immediate aftermath, Anand Patwardhan, one of the subcontinent’s most fearless and uncompromising documentarians, chronicled acts of resistance to state authority in his film Prisoners of Conscience. Inspired by the “imperfect cinema” of Latin America, Patwardhan tells the story of the Emergency through street-level footage as well as harrowing interviews with a range of dissidents who had been detained, beaten, and tortured by their government—Maoist revolutionaries, a Gandhian socialist, a British expat—attempting to bring together, through the very structure of the film and its editing, a divided and embattled Indian Left.
Prisoners of Conscience will here be shown with a contemporaneous propaganda film produced by Films Division India. Blithely ignoring the political violence then being perpetrated, The New Wave explains in smiling tones how the “new wave of discipline and order” was “aimed at removing corruption, nepotism, and lawlessness on the university and college campuses so that peace and discipline may prevail, and examinations may be conducted in a free and fair atmosphere.”
Special thanks are due to Shai Heredia, who conceived of this inspired pairing, and Early Montly Segements, Toronto.
Tickets — $8, available at door.
Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.