After the 1997 police shooting of 10 unarmed Dalit (formerly known as Untouchable) protesters and bystanders in Mumbai’s slums, the community’s rage over their 2,000 years of oppression boils over. For one man, singer, poet and activist, Vilas Ghogre, it’s more than he can bear; filled with despair over the pain and grief of his people, he hangs himself. Compelled by this tragedy, award-winning activist and documentarian Anand Patwardhan focuses his keen lens on the atrocities committed against the Dalits in this magnum opus 14 years in the making, incorporating their voice through their stirring resistance music and poetry. Denied basic human rights for centuries, condemned to clean the filth of the upper caste for pennies a day, then abhorred as lesser beings, the Dalit struggle is deftly counterbalanced by intimate family portraits, moments of inspiration, perseverance and glimpses of a better future.
The film will be introduced by program curator Ashish Rajadhyaksha, Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Culture & Society, Bangalore and co-author of the Encyclopedia of Indian Cinema. A reception with the program curator will follow the screening.
Ida Noyes Hall, Max Palevsky Cinema
1212 East 59th Street, Chicago, IL
Co-presented by Doc Films, the Committee on Southern Asian Studies, and the Smart Museum of Art in conjunction with the special exhibition The Sahmat Collective: Art and Activism in India since 1989 (on view at the Smart through June 9).