This month marked 70 years since the partition of India, and the subsequent forced separation of hundreds of thousands of people living in the region of Jammu and Kashmir – divided by the Line of Control.
Over the past seven years, four filmmakers, from both the Indian and Pakistani administered sides of Jammu and Kashmir have produced a series of films, despite limited opportunities to meet or communicate across the divide. The films document the lives of the people living in this region and highlight the potential for building bridges across the divide. Irfan Dar is one of the filmmakers involved:
Films are about building stories. The dialogue is there on the ground, we are just bringing the stories out. Our work will be part of the evidence of what people thought and felt at this time.
In August, the filmmakers travelled from around the world to screen the films and hold discussion on the making and significance of the films at events across the UK. Their first stop was the Beyond Borders festival in Edinburgh, where the whole series of films was screened across the festival weekend. The filmmakers then travelled to Manchester to a discussion hosted buy Kashmir Development Foundation (KDF) to share the films with interested people in and around the city, and to discuss ways in which the community could support collaboration across the divided Jammu and Kashmir region.
The filmmakers’ final stop was a sold-out screening at London’s prestigious FrontLine Club, in collaboration with the Commonwealth Journalists Assocation. Writer and broadcaster Victoria Schofield led a panel discussion and question and answer session on the filmmaking process and possibilities for collaboration in the region.
Rita Payne, President Emeritus, Commonwealth Journalists Association said:
I found the Kashmir films incredibly moving. What gave them special impact was the fact we saw and heard from ordinary people who are still suffering the pain of being separated from their families. I feel strongly that these films need to be shown to a range of groups.
Since partition, India and Pakistan have fought three wars over the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir, and conflict along the LoC has torn families apart.
Despite communication across the LoC being limited, the filmmakers have made four films together, highlighting the need for collaboration across the divide in areas such as trade
and disaster management
. For each documentary, they have separately shot the footage and worked to produce the films before coming together to edit the footage and finalise the narrative, with support from Conciliation Resources.
As a cross-LoC collaborative project, the process of jointly shooting and editing the films is as important as the messages they contain. It has transformed the attitudes and relationships of those who took part in the project. Pawan Bali is one of the film producers:
It taught us to understand nuances, to reach common ground despite differences and be sensitive to each others’ problems. It bridged our perception gaps…the process taught us that the constraints of borders and the line of controlled can be challenged.
The latest film in the series, Disaster: the common enemy
highlights the need for collaboration across the Line of Control to help prepare for and manage disasters. Over the past 40 years, South Asia has experienced more than 1,300 natural disasters – these have been particularly severe in the region of Jammu and Kashmir. Mohammed Arif Urfi is one of the filmmakers:
This film is not actually a film about disaster management, but a film about collaboration across the LoC. You can not separate what happens in one part of Kashmir from the other. We need communication between people living up and down steam.