Filming the Evils of Globalisation
Ric Wasserman a filmmaker from New York was a guest speaker at the Dhaka Talent
Campus part of 10th Dhaka Film Festival held on January 2008 and spoke about his recent documentary 'Back to the Village'. This 26-minute documentary highlights the plight of millions of South Indian villagers who are struggling to survive, being forced to move to the urban centres in search of work. 'Back to the Village' follows the lives of people in three South Indian villages near Bangalore. Their stories reveal the dark side of the effects of globalisation, where to survive villagers must fight back, capitalisation on their own initiatives to be able to remain in their villages. In an interview for SWM, Wasserman talks about the harsh realities depicted in his film.
How did you get the idea of making 'Back to the Village'?
I met Dr. T. Scarlett Epstein who is a renowned Oxford anthropologist researching for 40 years in southern India. She told me that I might like to make a documentary on the result of globalisation in those villages. Later I visited there and decided to film. Mr. Chandrashekar Nagathihalli, a popular southern Indian filmmaker was my co-producer in this film.
What interesting things did you find while researching on the film?
My film documents three villages in southern IndiaMangala, Nagathihalli, Karnathihalli. The last two villages being completely dry villages. They're fighting for their survival. Due to the acute shortage of water few crops can grow there. It has a great impact on their lives. For example, the inhabitants here try to marry their sons and daughters to such other villages where water is available. That means they marry for water.
How does 'Back to the Village' reveal the dark side of the effects of globalization?
Many of the people in these villages in southern India work in different small molasses mills. But the wages are very low. Moreover, for the low price of sugar this molasses business is at stake and many have stopped production. Why is sugar at such a low price? Sugar is imported from the US that is cheaper than the domestically produced sugar. So, workers who are involved in this industry become jobless and go to the cities and seek capital for their livelihood. Now the question arises why does the government not take initiatives for this? The answer is they don't want to. The government has taken loans and so they have to pay it back. Now the most costly thing in this world for business is labour. The lower the labour cost, the better the profit. Textiles and garment industries in the cities look for workers at a small salary and all of these are export-oriented businesses. People coming from villages take these jobs. Most importantly, the textile exporters receive dollars, which insures payback of loans from foreign creditors. Government can be sure tax revenues from these sectors will come in. So you can say the government has full consent on it and supports it. Supporting initiatives in the Indian countryside doesn't bring in many dollars. As a result, we find thousands of small villages slowly losing their workforce to the cities, leaving only the very young and the old people behind to keep the village alive. Centuries old cultures will die out if this continues.
I heard you could not telecast your film in India.
Yes, it's very painful for me because the Indian government did not allow it to be shown there. Whatever, the film is now being shown in 25 universities around the world.
What is the gap between east and west according to you?
In answer of this question shortly I can say, the west tries to profit from the east, and also the north from the south by any means. That attitude can only cause problems and imbalance.
Are you making any film in Bangladesh?
I hope to. Some environmentalists believe that most of the southern parts of Bangladesh might go under the sea within next 20 years. I think it's a big matter of attention for Bangladesh. I want to make a documentary on this alarming change of environment. Now I am doing research about this troubling subject.
What about your ideas on NGOs? There are lots of NGOs working in Bangladesh implementing micro-credit. But the experts say that this system doesn't work to better the condition of extreme poor. We have seen some NGOs in Bangladesh have turned into big business.
Well, in my film 'Back to the Village' you have seen that to borrow eight thousand rupees from the bank poor men have to give three thousand as a bribe. In this respect the NGOs are doing well. People can easily borrow money from them though the interest may be high. From my experiences I have seen, when a NGO is small it often works well and poor people can be benefited. So, I consider it this waysmaller is better in my opinion, with the bigger there is a risk it may become a business.
Wasserman with Badal Rahman at the Dhaka Talent Campus; the cover of Ric's documentary in DVD.
You make documentary films; do you have any plan to make feature films later?
Absolutely not, I feel comfortable making documentary films; I enjoy this field, not the field of making feature films or fiction films. Though I enjoy docu-drama and have written and produced a film on HIV/Aids in this style.
What is it that drives you in your work?
There are lots of problems and crises around the world. I can't change the world. But through filmmaking I can use some ideas and my observations to make people think about problems and solutions.
How do you define life?
I think life is a search for solution. For ourselves, for our families and for our futures. I believe in Mahatma Gandhi's speech'there is enough in the world for everybody's needs, but not for everybody's greed.'
Ric Wasserman, filmmaker/director born and raised in New York began his film and television career in 1990 as a correspondent for the CNN World Report; He worked for CNN for eight years, first in Angola and then from Sweden. He later started Afrovideo, producing documentaries, and information films from the African continent. When the rest of the world became his workplace, he gave birth to Consigo Productions (www.consigo.se) based in Stockholm, Sweden. Ric recently became part of an international consulting team working to increase efficiency in the Information Department at the Laos Ministry of Health. A musician and singer Wasserman has formed two bands since his arrival in Dhaka - a jazz and blues trio called Downbeat and a five-piece band that plays a mix of blues, reggae, African high-life, country and pop and is called Groove Therapy.
(R) thedailystar.net 2008