Cannes beckons NE filmmaker duo for second consecutive time

Film on man-animal conflict in Assam selected for Cannes film festival

The duo has done it again. Following the tremendous publicity blitzkrieg that was created by the selection of their film, The last of the tattooed head hunters, in the prestigious Cannes film festival last year, filmmaker couple Vikeyano Zao and Indrajit Narayan Dev latest short film has also been selected for the festival this year. The 15-minute short film, This Land We Call Our Home — Man Elephant Conflict of Assam, has been selected for screening in the short film segment of the festival.

Making it to Cannes with The last of the tattooed head hunters as the first film to be selected from from Northeast India had been a dream come true for Dev and Zao. But to be able to walk the red carpet again, that too just within the space of 12 months, is truly a great achievement – something which nobody else from the region has achieved till date.

While their last film revolved around the dying head hunting practice of the Konyak Nagas, the filmmaker duo chose a subject closer home for their latest venture. This Land We Call Our Home — Man Elephant Conflict of Assam revolves around the frightening man-elephant conflict that has been going on in our State and which has assumed grave proportions in recent times.

Photo of elephant killed in railway track; taken from internet

Talking about their film, Zao says, “We are extremely excited and thrilled beyond words that our work has been recognised and appreciated before such creative and intellectual stalwarts as the ones present at Cannes. This would inspire us to do better work in the future.”

The filmmaker duo has reasons enough to be thrilled. From Dihingmukh and Panidihing in Sivasagar to Neematighat and Mariani in Jorhat, Gibbon wildlife sanctuary to Rani Reserve forest, the film maker duo left no stone unturned to capture the perfect moments. “While we enjoyed every moment of the shoot, we really had a tough time finding the jumbos,” says Dev, the joint director of the film and also one of the last descendents of the Chilarai clan of the Koch Royal family. His views are of particular significance for they underline the increasing disappearance of elephants from our biodiversity and the shifting of their normal routes. “On certain days we walked and walked. Sometimes we even lost track of time. We had only one thought in mind—to capture these animals through our cameras,” says Vikeyano.

To provide a brief background of the subject matter, the conflict between man and elephants has become one of the most challenging problems in modern wildlife management in India, particularly the North-east. With continuous loss of habitat qualitatively as well as quantitatively, elephants are forced to extend their range, and raid crops for their survival. Because of such forays of elephants into villages and agricultural lands, and the human forays into forests, such man-¬elephant confrontation becomes inevitable in Assam. The problem is further compounded by building of railway tracks and other man-made constructions brought about by an increase in human population. Though this kind of conflict cannot be prevented, the saddest part is the almost lack of mitigation measures adopted by the government and the civil society to thwart this menace.

The primary forms of conflicts include crop raiding, ivory poaching and elephant death caused by heavy traffic movement through the elephant corridors. Ecological disasters such as soil erosion, flood, destruction of forest cover, and human encroachment have also contributed to the increase in elephant mortality rates. “Most of the railway tracks pass through the elephant migratory corridors causing a series of accidents, with blood-curling sights of smashed elephant skulls, ripped bellies of pregnant pachyderms, and electrocuted calves,” says Sagarika Sharma, the narrator of the short film.

This Land We Call Our Home — Man Elephant Conflict of Assam was shot in the fag end of last year. An animal lover, it has always been Vikeyano’s desire to make a film on this man-elephant conflict. “So once we settled back into our lives after coming back from Cannes last year, we began working on this film from November,” she says. But despite her enthusiasm at being able to make a film on her favourite subject, the “bleak condition” of Assam’s forest cover has left both husband and wife distressed. “When we talk about national park many of us know only about Kaziranga. But what about the other forests. The situation is really very bleak in Assam,” she says.

The selection of this film to the Cannes film festival, however, should turn the focus of wildlife enthusiasts to this dreary situation in Assam. For Indrajit Narayan Dev and his wife Vikeyano Zao, the next port of call is Cannes once again. And excited they surely is. To quote Vikeyano, “I am sure our experience in Cannes for the second time will catapult us to newer heights – not just in our profession, but also in our spirits and passion.”


About Aiyushman Dutta

Who am I? Yet to find the answer. For the time being, u can call me a writer, maybe a journalist and a music entrepreneur or an errand boy! Whatever suits your fancy!

Posted on May 7, 2011, in Concerts/ Reviews, Day-to-Day, Personalities/ Interviews and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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