Archive for the 'review' Category

Jashn-e-Azadi in China!

Last week screenings of Jashn-e-Azadi took place in Beijing and Shanghai. This was part of the West Heavens initiative, developed, as its website tells us, ‘to foster closer understanding of India through contemporary art and scholarship, and develop cross-cultural dialogue based on visual culture and notions of Asian modernity’.

It’s probably appropriate that a contentious film on Kashmir should be part of a section called “You Don’t Belong”! (To be fair, the full title of the event goes on to say: Pasts and Futures of Indian Cinema & India-China Dialogue on Film and Social Thought.) Curated by the film-scholar Ashish Rajadhyaksha, the film event saw more than 30 films screened across 4 cities – Beijing, Shanghai, Guanzhou, Kunming – and at multiple venues in each city. Most remarkably, all the films had Chinese subtitles allowing the audiences a remarkable level of access.

In Beijing Jashn-e-Azadi was shown at the Beijing Film Academy, which hosted the section on The Documentary: Testimony, Home, City. The BFA, like everything that we encountered in this brief week in China, is huge, has massive infrastructure, and although modelled rather closely on the film school in Moscow (more properly known by the acronym VGIK), seems very much to be riding the boom that China is currently experiencing. First world facilities, and more than 3000 students. What was surprising for the documentary screenings was the turnout: students, faculty, and members of a film club that the BFA hosts, all showed up from the first day, and the vast auditorium (it was the “medium” one we were told) was always comfortingly full. The Jashn-e-Azadi screening was followed by what was billed as “Filmmakers’ Round Table 1: Documentary Images and the Language of Rights”, hosted by Zhang Xianmin, who is a professor at the BFA, teaching Screenwriting and documentary, and highly respected for his work in promoting the independent Chinese film. The other panelist was the very successful documentary film-maker Zhao Liang. (For more on him, you could read about his much applauded five and a half hour film Petition, or turn to this interesting profile in the New York Times).

In Shanghai Jashn-e-Azadi was screened at the Shanghai Film and TV Literature Library, a remarkable public institution where people are already queing up at 10am to enter, read periodicals and books, watch films… In a city made almost grotesque by its spectacular success with capitalism, its these last vestiges of a former socialist experiment that made one a little less despondent. The audience here was mixed too, some students, but a lot of what we would call ‘ordinary’ people. The post-screening discussion was hosted by the theatre director Zhang Xian, one of the earliest independent Chinese playwrights in the Post-Mao Era. (In the discussion he identified himself as an anarchist…)

While the audience at both back venues had negligible background on Kashmir, they responded with a remarkable openness, alert not just to the particular historical event they were witnessing, but also to the aesthetic form through which the film was trying to address it. One of the most remarkable conversations I have had about Jashn-e-Azadi was with a journalist from the Chinese language newspaper Oriental Morning Post in Shanghai. The paper has done almost a full page feature on the film, and although I would definitely NOT suggest Google Translate as a way of approaching the text, the incredibly nuanced questions put by Shen Yi made me feel that this piece of writing would really open out the film to a Chinese reader.

Finally, I cannot resist putting this picture in: forgive the vanity.


A screening report from Nottingham

A somewhat delayed report, of a March 2011 screening at Nottingham University, sent in by Safoora Teli. Although I was not present, it’s a screening that I’ll always remember, because I woke up at 1.30am here in Delhi, timed to the end of the screening in Nottingham, and dragged myself in front of my laptop, to do what turned out to be an hour-long discussion on skype!

For the second time in the history of the University of Nottingham, Kashmir came to town. It arrived in the form of a film screening and was the second event in the ‘K’ Word initiative. The first had been a confrontational panel discussion in November 2010 where representatives of Kashmir, India and the British parliament were able to explore the conflict in Kashmir as manifest in the events of summer 2010. Nicknamed the ‘year of teenage killings’, 2010 saw 112 youths die in clashes with state security forces during civil protests. Whilst the story of Kashmir begins much earlier, the lives of these youths and the tangible unrest, stems from the late 1980s where murky politics and a rigged election led to an armed uprising in the valley. This was in turn, matched by heavy militarisation by India. Not relegated to the last century, Kashmir is still the most densely militarised zone in the world today with the ratio of military personnel to civilians last calculated at 1:7. Whilst such figures are always disputed, it is agreed that tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and thousands disappeared, leaving behind a discordant society of the haunted, bewildered and traumatised. This is particularly apparent in the phenomenon of the ‘half-widow’. These women whose husbands and often sons have disappeared without a trace or an identifiable body are still calling for answers, recognition and investigation. The stigma around Kashmir is furthered by the generic advice in tourist guides to stay away from the troubled region and that particularly persistent would-be travellers should consult their embassy.

Whilst they may happily advise you on your travels, meaningful discussion on Kashmir has been actively bypassed by governments for years, with political envoys warned not to mention ‘the ‘K’ word’. India’s hyperbolic sensitivity means that comments on Kashmir are easily seen as interference with the ‘domestic problem’ of Kashmir. In the spirit of salvaging diplomatic relations therefore, most states keep silent. The UN too strayed into the firing line as in September 2010 Ban Ki-moon was forced to backtrack on a statement urging all sides to exercise restraint in Kashmir. This was- his office reassured India- an internal administrative error. In the spirit of countering the anti-logic of politicians and their institutions, the students involved in the ‘K’ Word decided to not only mention this ‘word’ but explain its contemporary relevance and expose the devastation on human life that sidelining Kashmir has caused.

We aesthetically pleased students always intended to use the medium of film to convey the story of Kashmir. Recognising its potential to express the message of the ‘K’ Word and draw the viewer closer to the reality of the people of Kashmir, I instinctively recalled the film Jashn-e-Azadi. Having had had the pleasure of being put in contact with the documentary’s film-maker Sanjay Kak in December 2010, I got a copy of the film, an endorsement for the event as well as agreement to a live-skype Q & A session at an awkward hour of the morning in India. So, on March 17th, I welcomed a melting pot of students and professionals hailing from regions worldwide including the Czech Republic, Hong Kong, India, Pakistan, Kashmir and Palestine to Jashn-e-Azadi. The twenty-strong audience was smaller than anticipated especially in comparison to the one hundred and fifty of the previous ‘K’ Word event. However meagreness in quantity was compensated by remarkable quality as demonstrated by the extent and depth of questions posed to Sanjay.

Rather than recount the narrative of Jashn-e-Azadi in deserving detail, a just reflection of the evening is evident in the responses to the film. Although one restless attendee was unable to engage with the documentary, complaining that it was too long and consequently seen to depart during the interval, for the remaining attendees the experience was an evocative and moving one. How the viewers were affected and what they were provoked to ask Sanjay is telling and does not need interpretation.

A few shared their thoughts.

Y Mir, Masters student from Kashmir: “Thank you for the screening of this movie, it was just amazing. That many graves in Kashmir bear just a number showed the extent of the devastation. Showing the rush at mental clinics too was vital to demonstrate the high demand faced by the only mental clinic in Srinagar by Iqbal park. There are at times so many patients awaiting treatment that they overflow onto the main road. I have been shocked by these scenes in reality and felt appalled once more when seeing them in the film. However, with its slow pace, I can imagine that it would be difficult for someone not from Kashmir to understand the beautiful way in which it was made and the beauty of the amazing poems and phrases used to frame it. I was glad that Jashn-e-Azadi still speaks of hope, and keeps that kashmiriyat alive in the traditions and customs of the Kashmiri villages. Everything was beautiful. I think the film was successful in spreading awareness about the situation in Kashmir but then I’m someone who accepts the message of the movie. The thoughts of non-Kashmiris should be given more importance. Overall an amazing movie.”

“The world has stopped thinking about Kashmir. How many more should die to for it to be enough to for the world to break out of its ignorance of these unjustified deaths? Without even looking at the legal issues, it is vital to address what humanity and freedom means to Kashmiris”

L Holmolkova, Masters student and Human Rights Activist, Czech Republic: “The film went beyond a narrow definition of the long-lasting conflict and showed the problem from the point of view of people, victims and culture, which was excellent since I have a feeling that this is exactly the dimension that most of the world does not know today since there is not enough attention paid to Kashmir. Leaving the political issue aside and jumping straight to the ‘feeling’ of people living for decades under the threat of terrorist on one side and army on the other was really great. It is exactly as one of the people in the film said: “The story of Kashmir has not been told yet.” It has not been told from the point of view of people and the movie is an important step to let the world know.”

“I was particularly struck by the fact that regular people as well as activists had their houses burned down. The persistent impunity for things that- may I say- often go often beyond the crimes against humanity threshold is terrifying and requires attention. In contrast, the director introduces the film with scenes from the great tourist summer and tourist seasons in Kashmir. I initially could not understand why this was shown but I soon felt that this was demonstrative of how India promotes the area as a great tourist destination whilst neglecting the problems that people face there. I liked how the film mingled the past with the future, taking the picture of the whole situation beyond just the political dimension.

“The movie showed the lack of space for civil society and human rights activists to function in Kashmir. As Sanjay said, the limited base for local activists means that the possible role to be played by organizations from outside is also limited as is the level of trust for these organisations. Ultimately it would be nice to have a follow-up discussion because personally, the movie introduced something new to me in which I started to be very interested. I really hope to learn more about Kashmir. This film can certainly be used to attract more international attention, not to the political issue but to the victims of the persistent arguments over Kashmir.”

A Practical Nomad and Kashmir

Writing in The Practical Nomad blog, Edward Hasbrouck writes:

It angers me when Kashmir is depicted in the news as the cause or site of a conflict “between India and Pakistan”, as though it weren’t a place and a people with their own culture(s), their own traditions, their own past and present, and their own desires for the future. If there is one precondition for peace in Kashmir, it is that Kashmiris themselves must not be pawns in a geostrategic game, but must have a central role in making the decisions about their homeland.

Then going on to write about Jashn-e-Azadi, he says:

Kak’s film is an important contribution towards a wider understanding of that imperative.

But that’s not the only reason why I quote Edward’s post. It’s to draw attention to another part of his Practical Nomad blog where he writes on “Why do I care about Kashmir?”. Because his interests and activism on issues of peace and human rights, and his work as a travel consultant and travel writer, first intersected for him, he says, on a 1989 trip to Kashmir. As a valuable account of a critical moment in Kashmir’s recent history, I would warmly recommend it.

blogflash: screening report in the “Rising Kashmir”

A young student at Delhi University has written a report of a recent screening of the film at Ramjas College. It was published in the Rising Kashmir a new English language daily from Srinagar, Kashmir.

For the net lazy, we’re pasting it below too.

Jashn-e-Azadi: A screening

Jashn-e-Azadi is a film made by noted film-maker Sanjay Kak. The film has triggered off a heated debate at all its screening-spots, whether in India or abroad, so far. Suvaid Yaseen captures the description of screening at Ramjas College, New Delhi

After planning and re-planning for quite a few months. Finally, the film screening was finalized. Somebody called the Principal in the morning. He asked for the film screening to be stopped as it would hurt some people’s ‘dharmic bhavnaayein’ (religious sentiments). The request, not so humble, was refused.
So, it started at the proposed time with around twenty-five people in the seminar room of Ramjas College. The number was good enough considering it was March as exams in DU are too close and students prefer to complete their assignments than watch a documentary film on some ‘Jashn’ of some ‘Azadi’ somewhere. No prizes for guesses now. The film to be shown, of course, was Jashn-e-Azadi. A film, impossible to ignore, even though people have had varied opinions from one extreme to the other extreme.
Two hours and ten minutes. Entirely new perspective for most in the audience. Shocking, disturbing like never before. Face to face with a reality unseen, unheard, unexpected till the play-button set the disc rolling. No surprises that many were clearly uncomfortable with what they were exposed to. Used to ‘we are the good guys and they are the bad guys cliché’. The film reached its end

Question time:
“Thanks for the bold perspective, the film puts forward.” a lady remarked.
Then the inevitable and oft-repeated question.
“Isn’t the film biased towards the Indian army?”
“Not at all…” was the firm answer from Sanjay Kak, the director of the film.
From being accused of being a Muslim (secretly), to a shame for Kashmiri pundits and the like, he has seen it all. He has been answering questions of all kinds ever since he started making the film. Quite experienced now, I guess. “I am not showing you the army killing, torturing and raping. I have just shown their mere presence and the after effects of violence which people face.” Well reasoned. If just showing of the army on screen seems biased, what would it be like amidst them? The question remained open for those who care to think, even if little and for just a while.

Then what followed was shocking, disturbing and irritating for those who know the ‘other side’ of the story. Kashmiris. A tragedy, anywhere, everywhere. A Kashmiri guy, who has studied outside the Valley from sixth class, at least, and now doing his business in Delhi only, spoke. The view was that Kashmiris are completely responsible for their miseries. The militants were all supported from outside. All were interested in moneymaking. (Later it turned out that somebody had taken money from his father at gunpoint so he had been nursing a grudge against the militant movement. Granted to an extent. But aren’t there black sheep everywhere around us? Is it a reason enough to malign the whole movement? No. Not at all. It’s myopic.)

So, again Sanjay presented the arguments. “The average life of a militant in J&K, who has taken up arms against the Indian state, is not more than one or one and a half years. Picking up the gun in the Valley is like signing one’s death warrant. The army presence is massive and overwhelming. To be a militant in Iraq is easier than in Kashmir. For less than a thousand (as claimed by the Indian govt.) at present there are at least seven lakh armed forces. Even then if you think that moneymaking is the sole objective of all fighters, you need to correct your understanding. Why do you think those people come out in such large numbers on the funerals of martyrs? Women wailing and beating their chests. People shouting slogans.”
“Couldn’t it be due to the fear factor?” asked a newly appointed teacher.
“Very possible that people come out due to the threat of militants. But how can you make them feign emotions? How can you make women cry by force? Passion cannot be generated artificially. People can’t be coerced into it. It’s so only when those killed are martyrs of just cause for the population.”

Questions, counter questions, answers. All continued for a while. Some very important issues were raised and discussed. The control of army over the people’s lives in the villages of Kashmir. The majority of Kashmiri people reside therein and it’s the villages of Kashmir where you can see the raw emotions against the occupation. Humiliation, torture, gazes. The interference in the village affairs is too much to bear. Peoples’ movement both to and from the villages is closely watched.

Hulk sits on the chest of the poor guy halting his breath, choking, suffocating him. Former India, latter Kashmir. That was the analogy given in response to a question on the future and alternatives provided by the call of Independent Kashmir. Azadi. You make normal life an unaffordable luxury for an entire nation unleashing a reign of state terror, torture and murder. And then you question the pros and cons of the movement and expect it to be hundred percent progressive, modern, non-violent and feminist. Plus you are the sole judge to give a decision after deciding what those terms mean and the compatibility of contesting replies to those definitions. Asking too much. Ain’t it?

Discussion over, the Speaker-Director and the audience both were thanked for coming. People who watched the film left. Thinking, pondering. Most disturbed, uncomfortable. Truth does disturb. More so, when it is unpleasant and related to you somehow.

For those who haven’t yet seen the film, some genuine advice. Must-Watch-it. It’s great.

Jashn-e-Azadi, Zakhm-e-Azadi

Jashn-e-Azadi, Zakhm-e-Azadi (Celebrating freedom, Wounded by freedom) is the title of a review of the film by Priyadarshan, the poet, writer and journalist. It was first carried by the Hindi newspaper Aaj Samaj, New Delhi 15 March 2008, and for those who can read Hindi, it’s also available on Priyadarshans’ lively blog

We are making available here an (unauthorised!) translation of the review:

Jashn-e-Azadi, Zakhm-e-Azadi (Celebrating freedom, Wounded by freedom)

Looking at the young faces present in that little room in the Arts faculty of Delhi University, I was more anxious than pleased. Brought up on the glamour of Bombay cinema, of films like Chak de India and Taare zameen par, would these boys and girls be kept interested by Sanjay Kaks’ two and a quarter hour long documentary? A documentary that does not have a clear story line, no actors, and a complicated conclusion which fuses History and Geography in ways that seem always ready to slip out of one’s hands and mind?

But Jashn-e-Azadi began, and all my doubts were dispelled. On that mottled white wall, as images and sounds emerged, the wall itself disappeared, the room vanished, and despite the ambient light in that room, so did the faces of those who had gathered to see the film. What emerged slowly was the truth about the valley called Kashmir, where freedom is an illusionary word.

This is that tattered Kashmir, where amidst falling snow a father looks for his sons’ grave – once a commander with HM, the Hizbul Mujahideen, now dead. The father has come on Eid day so that he can read a benediction in his sons’ memory. In this Kashmir people count their dead as if they are remembering things lost. In this Kashmir a young girl is terrified by her own recounting of an event. In this Kashmir, family members look for a lost child, a photograph in their hands. In this Kashmir young girls carry the marks of terror in their hearts, and even in their dreams they see their dying fathers… In the midst of this, a sadhu mendicant who has come for the pilgrimage of the Amarnath Yatra warns anyone who even lifts an eye towards Kashmir, that he will gouge their eyes out.

No, this is not a film that plays with your emotions. Sanjay Kak has probably intentionally kept away from that easy path. All these images you have to search for – to try and figure out that what it is in this apparently calm film that leaves you so troubled. For it does not give us the luxury of being emotional just for an instant, and then be allowed to forget about it. In this search, when you look beyond a deserted Lal Chowk, where soldiers raise the Indian tricolor and sing the national anthem, or when you see a huge crowd raise slogans of azadi, freedom, its then that you see these faces. That’s when you can see that behind the silence–or clamour–of Kashmir is sadness, we see that tragedy where there are burnt homes, the marks of what looks like dried out blood, and futile attempts to wash out the fresh blood.

Sanjay Kak does not show us too much or tell us too much. Incidents and characters are allowed to speak. On a beautiful lake in Kashmir floats the voice of a poet–binding lost times and places with its lament and its pain. And around this pain there is also the boorish tourist gaze, for whom Kashmir is just some snow upon which they may slide, or a beautiful garden: the excited screams of these tourists inform us that this Kashmir is better than Switzerland. Other than the tourists, there are the Soldiers– running schools for orphans at one place, distributing portable radios at another, and promising that more nice things will follow, and for everyone…

At every step of the film this maze of contradictions seems to hold us back, and often we feel that this film should now get over. But the film is not done even after it is over. While it is clearly a political film, its lessons are still not those of an easy politics. All that one can see is that with 700,000 soldiers, Independence day still has to be celebrated in silence, and events with school children too need to happen behind impregnable security barriers. On the other hand, when the Army kills someone in a so-called “encounter”, the funeral procession for the dead boy turns into a rally for the azadi of Kashmir. It’s quite clear that anger against India’s hegemonic politics and militarised policies has survived all the oppression.

The film raises several important questions about history and the present. Sanjay Kak sees the struggle of the Kashmiris as linked to 500 years of servitude. This leads to a kind of unmediated simplification in which its not easy to understand the dilemmas that have arisen after 1947, as Kashmir has swung between India and Pakistan, both in its society and its politics. Secondly this film does not attempt to articulate the kashmiriyat that is spoken of so frequently. If it did, it would perhaps make it even clearer that identities do not have just one definition, they have many layers, and kashmiriyat too is constructed out of just such layers.

In any event, Sanjay Kak does not seem to be in a hurry to raise the questions or provide the answers. Nor is he trying to weave some sort of story out of all this. Instead, between the scrambled dates and places, he shows us a Kashmir where in twenty years 70,000 people have lost their lives, he takes us to those graveyards where people are recognized not by their names or faces, but by numbers. In the entire film, no Kashmiri Pandits are visible, and this is also represented by Sanjay as a sort of emptiness, towards which peoples’ attention must be drawn. Like a blank space in a painting, which still adds meaning to that picture. Perhaps it’s due to this distant neutrality that the film doesn’t have a specific beginning or end. It seems to go on– and even after it is over.

By the time the film ended in that room in Delhi University, the numbers of those gathered seem to have grown suddenly, and Sanjay was faced with a pile of questions. Questions that tried to understand the extremely complex reality of Kashmir, questions related to the politics and neutrality of the film. Amidst these questions it was clear that Jashn-e-Azadi was successful in its aims–it touches you from a distance, and without your knowing it, goes deep inside of you. That is its major achievement.

blogflash: “Alternative Radio” interview

Alternative Radio, the independent weekly series hosted by David Barsamian, its award winning founder and director, will this week carry an interview with Sanjay Kak – Kashmir: The Struggle for Freedom. Taking as it’s starting point the film Jashn-e-Azadi, this is a free-ranging conversation about Kashmir, present and past, and follows Barsamian’s own travel in Kashmir in December 2007.

Alternative Radio is a unique experiment in radio journalism, a weekly one-hour public affairs program offered free to all public radio stations in the US, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Australia, and on short-wave on Radio for Peace International. It consequently reaches over 125 radio stations and millions of listeners. If you are anywhere in these parts of the world, then do go to the Alternative Radio site to check out the exact schedule.

David Barsamian, is a legend in independent radio, having done literally hundreds of interviews across the world in a career that spans 30 years. The many books that have emerged from this distinguished career include Targeting Iran, and What We Say Goes with Noam Chomsky; Speaking of Empire & Resistance with Tariq Ali; and Original Zinn with Howard Zinn. His earlier books include The Checkbook and the Cruise Missile with Arundhati Roy; Imperial Ambitions with Noam Chomsky; Eqbal Ahmad: Confronting Empire and The Decline and Fall of Public Broadcasting.

Jashn-e-Azadi in The Human Rights Collection

Here is a link to a recent article on
For ease of access, we’ve placed it below as well:

IndiePix and The Human Rights Collection

by Jef Burnham

IndiePix, if you haven’t heard of it, is an internet-based, video distribution company that specializes in independent film from past to present, featuring filmmakers like the neo-realist Robert Bresson (Pickpocket, Au Hasard Balthasar) alongside first-time filmmakers– their only prerequisite is quality. I spoke with Bob Alexander, President of the now three-year-old company, and he told me, “Our view is that, very simply, there are very many terrific films that very many people would like to watch. The problem is making that connection.”

IndiePix has made getting your film to a distributor foolproof for independent filmmakers. If you visit the IndiePix website, you’ll see a section for submissions labeled, “Filmmakers;” but they don’t distribute just anything. “I would say that we probably accept 20-25% of the films we get,” Alexander estimated. “What we look for in a film is that it has some festival history and that it has won some sorts of awards… If the film has some kind of credentials and is submitted to us, we’re going to get back to the filmmaker and put it on our site.” One film that was submitted to the site, having been selected by IndiePix for distribution, is a film called Skid Row by Linda Nelson, which follows a rapper living on Skid Row in Los Angeles for one week.

By recruiting independent filmmakers and gathering distribution rights from companies such as the prestigious The Criterion Collection, IndiePix has compiled a catalogue just shy of 3,100 titles. One duty of the manager of the IndiePix catalogue, Shreekant Pol, is to identify the natural groupings of films from within their catalogue to market as collections. Pol recently organized 9 films into the IndiePix Human Rights Collection, which covers topics from nations oppressed by military occupation to civil rights. “Human rights is a theme that independent films have explored in many different ways very effectively over the years. In fact, with great result,” Alexander said. “For example, The Trials of Darryl Hunt [one film in the collection] by Annie Sundberg and Ricky Stern is credited in part with having re-opened that man’s trial, leading to his release on a wrongful conviction.”

The 9 films that comprised in the collection are:

1. The Devil Came On Horseback (2007)
2. The Trials of Darryl Hunt (2006)
3. Words on Water (2002)
4. Jashn-e-Azadi – How We Celebrate Freedom (2007)
5. The Times of Harvey Milk (1984)
6. Sentenced Home (2006)
7. The Battle of Algiers (1966)
8. The Short Life of Jose Antonio Gutierrez (2007)
9. Iraq in Fragments (2006)

I had the opportunity to view two films from the collection. Jashn-e-Azadi – How We Celebrate Freedom (2007) is an unsettlingly subdued documentary about the daily struggle of the citizens in Indian-occupied Kashmir. The Kashmiri people adhere to their traditions even as their friends, family, and livelihoods are cruelly and unjustly taken from them by the occupying forces, which the Indian government admits outnumbers the Kashmiri militants by a staggering 7,000 to 1. The film is at its most effective when juxtaposing scenes of the Kashmiri people enjoying their coveted land of paradise with archival footage of Indian troops maliciously assaulting the homes of innocent civilians, leaving entire villages in ashes. The most telling scene in the film is when the totals of the first-ever “Survey of ‘Conflict-Related’ Deaths” are tallied. Although the occupying Indian forces admits to 5,000 casualties of their own, and claims that there are a mere 1,000 armed militants in Kashmir, the survey reveals that the occupation has claimed the lives of 60,000 Kashmiri with another 10,000 missing and presumed dead.

The Battle of Algiers is as Bob Alexander aptly described it, “an absolute classic,” and available on The Criterion Collection DVD with two bonus discs of documentaries. This extraordinary 1966 production from director Gillo Pontecorvo surprisingly features not a single frame of archival footage, though much of the film appears to be documentary as vast groups of protesting Algerians are parted by the tanks of the occupying French forces. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the film lies in the fact that Pontecorvo depicts the heinous acts committed by the French Army as well as the rebel National Liberation Front (FLN), who recruit children to participate in the random execution of French Officers. Pontecorvo leaves us jittering nervously as we anticipate the devastation caused by FLN explosive devices left in public places and what it will mean for the Algerian people. The terrorist attacks aggravate the situation, spawning French officer Colonel Mathieu, head of Operation Champagne. Operation Champagne was a Machiavellian mission of the French authorities to torture and destroy their way through to the top of the FLN’s Executive Branch, even if it meant leveling the entire Kasbah of Algiers. The Battle of Algiers is as powerful today as it was when it was banned in France in 1965.

When all-encompassing corporations like Amazon dominate the sales market, we need the smaller, specialized companies like IndiePix to give a forum to the as yet undiscovered talents; and for IndiePix, it’s not just a matter of finding a hole in the market and filling it. With the unveiling of the Human Rights Collection and the showcasing of so many unknown filmmakers, IndiePix has tried to show that it’s not just profit, but people they care about. This was obvious when Bob Alexander spoke of the company’s relationship with Sanjay Kak, director of Jashn-e-Azadi. “He is relying on us to provide distribution for that film to the expatriate [Kashmiri] communities in England and throughout Europe. I think it’s going to be an important project.”

For more information on IndiePix and the films in their Human Rights Collection, visit .

Jef Burnham is a writer and film critic living in Chicago.

Jashn-e-Azadi is available through various online outlets like amazon

You can now buy a DVD of the film, or Download it and watch
More than two years in the making, Jashn-e-azadi [How We Celebrate Freedom], is a feature length documentary by film-maker Sanjay Kak which explores the implications of the struggle for Azadi, for freedom, in the Kashmir valley.

Click here to watch the Trailer

As India celebrates the 60th anniversary of it's Independence, this provocative and quietly disturbing new film raises questions about freedom in Kashmir, and about the degrees of freedom in India.

And here is a short Interview with the film-maker.

This Jashn-e-Azadi blog is an open forum for conversations about the film, about Kashmir, and about Azadi itself.

For more information about screenings, sales and broadcast write to


For dispatches from the present

Voices of protest can be found here or call you from here

Stone in my hand

In the season of solutions, the late Eqbal Ahmad's wise words have to be remembered

Kashmir blog has the best one line blog take on Kashmir - they call it paradise, I call it home.

Zarafshan is a Kashmiri blogger whose blog (and blogrolls) are "just ways of dispersing news, views and feelings!"

For a considered discussion on the vexed issue of Pandits in Kashmir see Kasheer. And for more on this Ephemeral Existence

And a discovery called Paradise Lost

RSS Kashmir via Greater Kashmir

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Festival screenings

May 26, 2008 / International Video Festival of Kerala
Apr 28, 2008 / Dok.Fest
Feb 10, 2008 / Himalaya Film Festival
Nov 28, 2007 / International Documentary Festival
Oct 12, 2007 / Film South Asia
July 22, 2007 / Osian’s Cinefan film festival

Previous Previews

7 Dec 2007 / School of Oriental & African Studies & Sacred Media Cow
6 Dec 2007 / Workshop Theatre, School of English, University of Leeds
Egham, Surrey
3 Dec 2007 / Royal Holloway, University of London
New Delhi
26 Nov 2007 / Russian Centre of Science & Culture & Magic Lantern Foundation

New Jersey
Oct 5, 2007 / College of New Jersey
New York City
Oct 4, 2007 / Columbia School of Journalism
Oct 2, 2007 / University of Texas
Sep 28, 2007 / Temple University
Sep 27, 2007 / University of Pennsylvania
New York State
Sep 26, 2007 / Vassar College
New York City
Sep 25, 2007 / New School for Social Research
Sep 23, 2007 @ MIT
Sep 22, 2007 / SALDA
Sep 21, 2007 / University of Toronto
New Haven
Sep 20, 2007 / Yale University
Sep 18, 2007 / University of Minnesota

Aug 10, 2007 / Pure Docs, Prasad Preview, Banjara Hills

interrupted previews!! [[ MUMBAI ...
July 27, 2007 (Fri)
Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Bhupesh Gupta Bhawan, 85 Sayani Road, Prabhadevi
July 30, 2007 (Mon)
Vikalp: Films for Freedom @ Prithvi House, Juhu...]]

July 14, 2007 / Institute of Agrl. Technologies, Queens Road
July 13, 2007 / Centre for Film & Drama, Millers Road
June 13, 2007, Pandit Vishnu Digambar Paluskar Hall
June 12, 2007, National Film Archive of India Auditorium
May 29, 2007, Blue Moon Hotel
May 26, 2007, Assam Club, Laban
May 12, 2007, Hindi Bhavan Hall
March 31, 2007, Tagore Hall
New Delhi
March 23, 2007, Sarai-CSDS
New Delhi
March 13, 2007, India Habitat Center



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