The Travelling Uranium Film Festival was 2013 in Pune (India) in association with the seventh Kirloskar Vasundhara International Film Festival (KVIFF). Citadel highlights their disturbing but true exhibits.
By Prajakta Pandhare
On one hand, where children in the world are enjoying their kindergarten days, there are many others who are deprived of it all. They live in contaminated villages and consume contaminated food. They are sick and are dying. Yes, that contamination is radioactivity.
Ever heard of radioactive children? Sounds terrible? Then you might as well find it hard to believe that there are such children even today. The children in Chernobyl villages, until this day, are living in an environment that is decaying and killing people. Children are suffering from leukaemia. Some have birth defects. The hospitals here have no proper equipment. The medical centres are in a poor state. But nonetheless, children are taken care of.
Mothers have only one hope, that their children will recover soon. There also is a high chance that she will see her child breathe their last in her lap. People from other villages call these kids radioactive. They humiliate and insult these children; they are not ready to consider them one amongst them. And the government is doing nothing about it. You witness this ugly reality of the world in the movie disturbingly titled To Whom It May Concern.
With its noble attempt to spread awareness amongst the masses about the hazards of the uranium atom, ‘The International Uranium Film Festival’ was started in 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Being the only one of its kind film festival committed to the issue, it includes documentaries and fiction films on this subject, such as uranium mining, nuclear power plants, atomic bombs, nuclear waste, etc.
Marcia Gomes de Oliveira, Brazilian social scientist and filmmaker, and the Executive Director of the Uranium Film Festival, says, “I saw the movie Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda made by Shri Prakash. And I thought the entire world needs to see the movie. Then I thought why not start with a film festival? The movie convinced me with the idea.” Norbert G Suchanek, German writer and filmmaker, and the General Director of the Festival, says, “When the new wave of nuclear power plants started in 2006, we asked the people in Brazil what they knew about it. And we realised nobody really is aware about it. Schools do not teach the subject; and nobody else is informing people. So we thought of using the medium of cinema to inform people.”
The Travelling Uranium Film Festival was in the city in association with the seventh Kirloskar Vasundhara International Film Festival (KVIFF). This is the first time that the festival travelled to India. From January to February, this festival travelled through 10 cities in the country—New Delhi, Shillong, Ranchi, Manipal, Hyderabad, Pune, Bangalore, Chennai, Thrissur and Mumbai. Twenty films of this festival were screened during the KVIFF.
This is just to state the various genres of films through which the subject was formulated. The film When the Dust Settles, in both humorous and serious manners, brings about the dangers of uranium mining. Uranium Thirst tells you of the plight of the Topnaar Nama people living in the Kalahari. Here, people want to stop the uranium mines because its toxic million tonnes of water is being consumed daily and plants and animals are dying and people feel trapped even after independence. Many such movies made by filmmakers across the globe elaborate on the fine points related to the issue. Shri Prakash, National Award winning filmmaker and Uranium Film Festival coordinator in India, says, “When I made Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda, I knew the minute details of this issue; this was about a nuclear mine some 150 km from Ranchi. Institutions were doing nothing about it. The villagers in the area only know that these stones cause wounds that don’t heal easily. The world does not know the truth. I wanted this festival to come to India and KVIFF gave us that space.”
Some questions seem to remain unanswered even today. Do people want to talk about this issue? If not, are they scared to talk about it? Do the media bring forth the truth? And so on... These filmmakers make it clear that the movies are not anti-nuclear; they only talk about the issues of the people and other complicated issues related to it. Norbert says, “Humanity should never forget accidents like Hiroshima and Chernobyl. From our side, creating awareness about this issue will continue.”
For the audience in the city, this festival must have brought in a different perspective altogether. Professors, students and many others said they learnt about this issue only from these movies. Marcia says, “There are a lot of views about this issue. So after watching these movies, we become aware of new aspects. Many people are surprised about the various aspects related to this issue.” Through the movies, these filmmakers want to bring to public notice that the environment is not related to only one small issue. All the issues, nuclear, water, etc, are interrelated. And in case of the nuclear issue, it’s a nuclear fuel chain, where waste is created at every step. Shri Prakash goes on to say, “There are societal and political impacts involved in the matter. There is too much money involved in nuclear activity. We want to bring this issue in the mainstream; and it’s a hazardous issue that we are working on. But we need to keep in mind that nuclear materials will damage the next several generations.”
All the three spoke in union that their prime motto is to become a really popular film festival. Hurdles in the forms of police, government, finances, etc, will always pop up. Their only wish is that at least some famous personalities join hands with them and lend their weight behind the cause. Marcia says, “We stayed together with people like Prakash. We all are learning each time. It’s our responsibility to do whatever little we can through our films.” Their travelling festival received a huge response; they could make a mark on the minds of many. And they hope the collaboration stays strong. Norbert points out, “People here are surprised. There is almost 15 years of mining going on in India. But most did not know about it. After watching our films, students want to take action now. So we suggest that they make films.”
KVIFF hopes that the Uranium Film Festival will remain a part of it in years to come. Virendra Chitrav, KVIFF Festival Director, says, “It’s a strong issue related to environment; but it’s neglected. We should think about the nuclear issues and create pressure so that the decision- and policy-makers can feel the public outcry; and it might influence and convert it into right policy-making. Somebody has to start; that’s why we thought we should collaborate with this festival.” The International Uranium Film Festival was here for the first time and we can only hope they succeeded in leaving behind their message.
The International Uranium Film Festival (IUFF) started in 2010. During the past years the Festival has screened hundreds of well done atomic & nuclear films in Rio de Janeiro, Berlin, New York, New Delhi, Mumbai, Munich, Santa Fe, Montreal, Los Angeles, Window Rock. Santa Fe and several other cities around the world. The International Uranium Film Festival continues. But it needs your support. The independent Uranium Film Festival needs donations and people from all over the world who believe in the festival and its mission. We welcome any donation! Next IUFF in Window Rock & New Mexico, Nov 29 to Dec 12th, 2018.
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“The International Uranium Film Festival was – you should pardon the expression – a blast! Wonderful people came to watch the films and were blown away by what they viewed. `The Man Who Saved the World´ was, if anything, more impactful this second time I viewed it. Kudos to festival director Norbert G. Suchanek, in from his home in Rio, and local event producer Alexandra Radlovic for pulling together such a great event.” Libbe HaLevy, panelist and producer of Nuclear Hotseat, the weekly international news magazine on all things nuclear
„If you make it in LA, you make it everywhere," said journalist and solar energy activist Harvey Wasserman from Solartopica who attended the amazing first Uranium Film Festival in Hollywood 2016.
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I loved the films, the panels, the entire concept!! Ivana Massetti, Women Occupy Hollywood Founder & CEO
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"In my 25 years as an anti-Depleted Uranium activist this experience of the Uranium Film Festival has been a highlight in the exposure of a very serious problem that faces mankind today: The use of radioactive waste as a military weapon." Damacio A. Lopez, USA, Founder and Director of IDUST (International Depleted Uranium Study Team)