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Screening On Labor & India
Author Steve Zeltzer
Date 00/04/06/01:59
Hit Count 310

"Lifting The Veil "

Screening for the first time in Berkeley, a documentary film By Shonali Bose.
Videographer Shonali will be in attendance to answer questions. She and her husband will also sing Indian songs of struggle.
Shonali Bose will also be interviewed on Friday April 7 on the "Flashpoints" Show from 5:00 to 6:00 PM on KPFA 94.1 FM.

Also Premiering In Berkeley

"Labor Battles The WTO"
Workers Of The World Unite
By the Labor Video Project

"Lifting The Veil " exposes the real role of the IMF and structural adjustment programs in India. Through dozens of interviews with community activists, street people, workers, politicians, and with illuminating footage, videographer Bose shows how Indian capitalists and the politicians they control, are destroying whole communities and attacking the labor movement for the supposed "development" of India. This is the most recent in-depth look at the contradictions of capitalism in India. It was also screened in Seattle during the WTO protests. Shonali Bose and her husband will also sing Indian songs of struggle.
Also, screening for the first time in Berkeley will be "Labor Battles The WTO", a documentary video on the role of workers and the unions that went to Seattle to protest the WTO. It includes a labor music video with writer Larry Shaw's song "Sold Down The River". Don't miss these two important films.

$7.00-$10.00 Donation: A Benefit For LaborFest 2000

Sunday April 9, 2000 7:30 PM
La Pena Cultural Center
3105 Shattuck Ave/Ashby Berkeley,CA 94705
For More Information About LaborFest Go to www.laborfest.net
P.O.Box 40983 San Francisco,CA 94140-0983
Phone: (415)642-8066 Fax (415)695-1369
Email laborfest@hotmail.com


THE VEIL: Brief Description of Work
50 years after independence they say there is a “new India in the making. What is this new India? Whose aspirations does it reflect? Is it the India for which thousands have died? Is this the India of our dreams? In search of these answers.

A powerful and compelling new documentary set in contemporary India in the historical context of worldwide policies of liberalization, privatization and globalization. Workers, politicians, students, teachers, housewives, politicians and industrialists speak forcefully on what impact these measures have had on them - giving a panoramic view of Indian society at the crossroads of the 21st century. The central question which has global relevance echoes again and again: who creates wealth? for whom? how can the vast majority of people effect the direction of the economy? The raw energy and dynamism of the film arises from the passionate and vigorous views of ordinary people who are never taken into confidence with respect to decisions which effect their lives and who are considered illiterate, ignorant and incapable of thinking. At the other extreme such important figures as the finance minister and top industrialists hold forth on these reforms. Through the juxtaposition of these views and stark footage on the material conditions of life for the majority Lifting the Veil reveals the reality of the new India and its connections with the old In the final analysis it is a film about empowerment; about the majority of people taking their rightful place at the center stage of society.

India West
Filmmaker Wins Award at Her UCLA Premier
By Michel W. Potts
Special to India-West

Los Angeles-When her hour-long film "Lifting the Veil" premiered Oct.13 for the International Documentary Association at UCLA, filmmaker Shonali Bose was awarded the Julian B. Ely Award in recognition of its moral content.
Through interviews with striking workers, industrial leaders, and political spokesman, the documentary attempts to demonstrate how six years since the implementation of India's economic reforms the rich have gotten richer but the poor are no better off than before.
But Bose also has a surprise in store for the viewer. Eager to attract foreign investment, the Government of India has lately been advertising how its recently-emerged 250 million-strong middle class has developed an appetite for consumer goods. Yet the middle class consumers Bose interviews complain that most foreign products are beyond their means. Only the rich, the top one percent of the population, can afford those luxury items, they grouse.
If the middle class is disaffected, the workers are bitter. As economist Jairam Ramesh states in the film, Nehru's Five-Year Plans were dictated by Tatas and the Birlas, largely to the benefit of the state-controlled industries.
With the reforms, wages were expected to go up. Apparently nothing of this sort has happened and, according to Bose's statistics, since liberalization, real wages have relatively stayed the same. It's unemployment that has skyrocketed.
A leading Indian industrialist calmly explains away the disparity by arguing that the economic pie must first get bigger before anyone else gets a slice. Meanwhile, because they lack the backing of a political party or a union, workers are being downsized while company profits soar.
If the workers don't like the way things are going, "they can write a letter to the editor" or take the matter to court, we are told by K.R. Malkani, spokesman for the Bharatiya Janata Party and editor of the party newsletter.
"Wait," the workers are told. "Things will get better." but exactly how long they should wait, they are not told. All they can see, as a recurrent song in the film emphasizes, is that there are "Two Indias," where the rich get richer and the poor stay poor.
And what is the BJP response to this discrepancy? "As Jesus Christ said, the poor will always be with us," Malkani calmly intones.
A.B.Barthan sees things differently. As one of India's leading communists, he firmly believes that the plight of the workers has set the stage for the Left to step in and play a "significant role" in redressing the wrongs the reforms have wrought.
"I shot him before the elections, when he kept saying that (the Left) was going to reverse the reforms," Bose told India-West. "Of course they have gone much further than the Congress-I, actually going deeper into liberalization since they've been in power."
In light of India's 50th anniversary of independence, Bose felt compelled to make the film since it was "an opportune time to look at this question that now something was being posed as new and as fulfilling and answering the problems that India had."
She had heard all the claims being made by the Indian government, the benefits being reaped because of its policy of liberalization, "and I wanted to go and examine the question of the economy and whose aspirations does it really reflect," she said.
Bose shot the documentary over a two-month period, mostly in Delhi and Mumbai, and the film's only drawback is that she did not compare or contrast the plight of the workers in those cities with those in the communist-dominated states of Kerala or West Bengal.
A native of Calcutta, Bose came to see filmmaking as a way to incorporate her love for history, having received a bachelor's degree in the subject from Delhi University in 1987, and her interest in politics, after earning a master's degree in political science from Columbia University.
"As an activist, I wanted to use the medium to explore political and historical issues," she said.
During the year she spent in New York working for the Channel L Working Group cable television network and as an organizer for the National Lawyers Guild, Bose found her calling during a summer workshop in video and television production at NYU.
Enrolling in the UCLA Film School in 1992, she went on to make "Undocumented," a broadside against proposition 187 "and the dehumanizing experiences of illegal immigrants here in the United States," which aired on the Pubic Broadcasting Station and earned her the Edie and Lew Wasserman Award.
The $10,000 that accompanies the award essentially financed her 'Lifting the Veil," her thesis film. Bose managed to her her expense low by shooting on High 8 video, later bumped up to Beta broadcast quality, and was accompanied by another student from school who acted as her soundman.
The world premier of "Lifting the Veil" was held in Ottawa, Canada, last month, and future screenings are scheduled for Toronto, New York, Boston, London, Ireland, as well as in Delhi and Mumbai through the Committee For People's Empowerment.
"I doubt Doordarshan will show it but I'm definitely going to approach them anyway," Bose confided. "Mabye some cable television will show it, and certainly I'm going to take it around to universities, schools and slums and factories, since there are organizations interested in doing that."
Now that she has graduated from UCLA, Bose hinted that "I would really like to make a sequel on similar issues in North America, and right now I'm planning a series of documentaries called "Lifting the Veil" specifically addressing the question of rights in India."
"Lifting the Veil" is available on video cassette for $25 to the general public and $100 for institutions. Copies may be obtained by calling (310)391-0692, or by writing to 3110 Sawtelle Blvd., Suite 206, Los Angeles, Calif., 90066

Indian West Magazine
July 23, 1999

"Lifting the Veil" Depicts Other Side of Market Reform

By Archana Dongre
Special t India-West
Anaheim, Calif.-"Lifting the Veil," an hour-long film by Los Angeles-based filmmaker and teacher Shonali Bose, is a thought-provoking documentary set in contemporary India that dwells on the question: has the free market policy, introduced by the Narasimha Rao government in 1991, really helped the people of India?
Liberalization, privatization and globalization are wonderful concepts but how are they implemented in India in reality: The film, shown by the producer at the Jhupdi restaurant here July 18 before a 50-strong audience of mostly young Indian and American college graduates, lift the veil to reveal the stark reality. "That is the darshan or revelation I attempted to portray," Bose commented in explaining the title of the film. The film, for which Bose spent a year conducting research and interviews in India in 1996, is actually her thesis for her masters in fine arts in film direction at UCLA.
"We are living in an increasingly polarized society regarding the distribution of wealth and benefits," said Bose, and "the disparity between the rich and the poor gets wider every year; in 1960, the income gap between the richest 5 percent and the poorest 5 percent was 30 to 1. In 1997, it grew to 74 to 1. The United Nations Human Development Report points out another indicator; the three richest men in the world are worth more than the poorest 43 nations in the world.
"Today the poorest people have access to less resources, have to work harder and longer to eke out a living, and we, the urban elite, are not spared either."
The film depicts workers, tribals, students, teachers, homemakers, politicians and industrialists speaking forcefully on what impact the free market policy has had on them, giving a panoramic view of Indian society at the crossroads of the 21st century. The central question which has global relevance echoes again and again: Who creates wealth? For whom? How can the vast majority of people affect the direction of the economy? The documentary resonates with raw energy as people passionately express their views; the very same people who are never taken into confidence by the decision makers and who are considered illiterate, ignorant and incapable of thinking.
Textile mill workers in Mumbai and Delhi, whose jobs and meager living standards are jeopardized because the mills are about to be demolished by owners lured by skyrocketing real estate prices which the land, on which the mills sit, will fetch; the unjustifiably displaced workers at Moolchand Hospital in Delhi; laborers at the Sawan park slum in the same city, all speak with a passion that only personal pain can evoke.
At the other extreme are such influential figures as India's finance minister and top industrialists who hold forth on these reforms which they herald as their 'Vision 2020' for a new India. Jairam Ramesh, key advisor to then prime minister Narasimha Rao in 1991; P. Chidambaram, former finance minister and formerly of the Congress part; K.R. Malkani of the BJP; A.B.Baardhn of the Communist Party of India; Seetaram Yechury of CPI(M); Vikas Kasliwal of Shreeram Mills; C.K. Birla of Hindustan Motors, and many others are among them.
The juxtaposition of the views of these top echelons of society with the stark living conditions of the majority poignantly reveal two different Indias; the top 1 percent who get all the benefits, and the common people whose basic needs of food, shelter, heathcare and education are hardly met. Parties come to power, not the people, was the theme of the film. In an interview with India-West, Bose elaborated on the message of her film. Excerpts follow.
Q.What is the explicit and implicit message you want to convey?
A.There was so much fanfare of globalization, the opening up of the Indian markets, that I wanted to explore is that really so? As I conducted research, I discovered that neither the socialistic model, upheld by the late Pandit Nehru, nor the free market were designed to fulfill the needs of the common people. From the 1950s to the present, only the top 1 percent has been helped by the Indian government.
The implicit message is how can we change that? There is an imperative need for the political and democratic renewal of the society. The power stays with the party, regardless of which one it is. How can people come to power? In 1991, India borrowed from the International Monetary Fund Rs. 350 billion. But the expenditure on housing, health and education for the common people was cut down. The resources of the economy should be directed to ensure the well being of the people.
Q.What sparked your interest in this theme?
A.Growing up in India, in Calcutta, in Delhi and in Mumbai. I was always deeply aware of the stark contrast between the rich and the poor, saw how much some kids were deprived, and that injustice, unfairness always made me upset. My parents were social workers, my aunt holds an important position in the CPI(M). The seeds of my work were sown in childhood. I became an activist in college. In 1984, I worked in relief camps for the Sikhs, and put forth street theater against the carnage of Sikhs at the time.
During my days in New York from 1987 to 1991, when I was pursuing graduate studies in political science at Columbia University, I was active in the Association of Indian Progressive Study Groups, with special interest in people's rights to decide their fate, and wrote a booklet on Kashmir. We had also organized an Indian-Pakistan Peace Concert in 1991. We want to arrange one here in the Southland in late summer, in the wake of the Kargil war.
Q.What impact has the film "Lifting The Veil" had?
A.It has been shown extensively in India, many activists organizations have taken it up enthusiastically, with more than 50 showings, one of which was shown before 8,000 mill workers in Mumbai. It was shown in the Mumbai International Film Festival in 1998, and the Cuban Film Festival in Havana in 1997. In Britain it was shown at the London School Of Economics and many other places. In Canada, workers saw it and identified with the struggles of people, and a sense of marginalization from decision making process. In the U.S. there have been at least 50 showings, including universities all over the nation. The message for the need for empowerment has a universal appeal.
Q.Can you name any instances where people actually took the decision making process in their hands?
A.In south Delhi, there is an area called Chittaranjan Park, comprising the middle class as well as the poor class. The residents are passionately insisting that they will not let any political party candidate run in elections from their area, but will elect only an independent candidate who resides there.
In south India, an entire village has fenced off against any political party, in favor of their independent candidate.
"Lifting the Veil" is a graphic and effective film that ends suggestively, with a worker's family, after the day's perilous struggles, goes to sleep amid the hustle and bustle of the slums, and then a new day breaks with a renewed sense of activity. Who knows what promise the new dawn holds?
Bose's earlier film, "Undocumented," depicting the dehumanizing experience of immigrants in an INS office, made in the wake of Proposition 197 denying illegal immigrants health and education in California, won critical acclaim and was screened on KCET as part of a series on independent film workers. The recent showing at Jhupdi was presented under the auspices of Thimmakka's Resources for Environmental Education, headed by Ritu Premlane.

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