How Kashmiri Filmmakers Reacted to Three Bloody Summers of 2008-10

The three bloody summers of J&K between 2008 and 2010 turned into a resource pool for budding documentary filmmakers.

5 min read
Posters of <i>Goodbye Mayfly,</i> <i>Eidiyaan</i>, and <i>Khoon Diy Baarav</i>. (Photo altered by <b>The Quint</b>)

Young filmmakers in Kashmir are increasingly ensuring that their angry and disenfranchised voices are heard through a series of short films and documentaries.

The awakening came after three bloody summers between 2008 and 2010. If it was the Amarnath land controversy in 2008, and the Shopian double rape and murder in 2009, it was the “Kashmir Intifada” in 2010.

The idea of Kashmiris telling their own story, however, found stronghold after Sanjay Kak’s 2007 documentary Jashn-e-Azadi.

Watch the film here:


Goodbye, Mayfly

24-year-old Muhabit-ul-Haq is the assistant director and script supervisor of the short fiction film Goodbye, Mayfly which won the Best Film award in the Indian segment at the Bangalore International Short Film Festival in September this year. The movie, set in the backdrop of the 2010 summer agitation, is about two children on a journey from which only one returns.

Watch the promo of Goodbye, Mayfly here:

This is Director Siddhartha Gigoo’s (40) second film. Gigoo, raised in downtown Srinagar, left Kashmir in the ‘90s and lived in a refugee camp in Jammu before subsequently joining JNU. His first film, The Last Day, released in 2013, was about a day in the life a Kashmiri Pandit family living in a tent inside a Jammu refugee camp.

According to Gigoo, the spurt of creative art in Kashmir “had to happen”. From 1990-2005, the valley was a “bad place” to be in, he explained.

It was like a war zone. Young Kashmiris – both Pandits and Muslims – were living with the burden of history. The younger generation was haunted, and 2008 triggered the profusion of poetry, short stories, novels, paintings, and films. One just has to scrape the surface to find the young are ready to tell their stories. It happens in every conflict zone.

Siddhartha Gigoo

Filmmaking No Longer Expensive

29-year-old filmmaker Irfan Dar would agree. According to him, the internet has played a “revolutionary” role in Kashmir in the last few years.

One would see signs of military operation and resistance. Jashn-e-Azadi brought all that out.

Irfan Dar, Filmmaker

But 2008-2010, Dar added, was “remarkable” in a lot of ways. “It definitely unsettled the younger generation with creative minds. Poetry, short fiction, films and music became tools of dissent.”

Filmmaking, in particular, flourished due to its affordability.

It is no longer an expensive medium and is also an escape for people like us – to vent out our anger and frustrations. A lot of these films are student productions.

Irfan Dar, Filmmaker

Dar’s 2010 film Eidiyan is a true story of an 8-year old girl’s never-ending wait for her brother, missing in custody. He was just 9 when he was picked up by security forces from Rajbagh and never seen again.

Watch an excerpt of the film here:

The story tells how this girl has grown beyond her years. The first scene shows the mother singing a lullaby to her. Towards the end, she is singing same lullaby to her mother. It is the night of Eid and there is rain outside. All through her life, she has been collecting her brother’s eidi, keeping it safely with her. And for this kid, the best eidi will be his return.

Irfan Dar, Filmmaker

On the Edge

28-year old Azhar Qadri’s 2009 documentary – On the Edge – was made while he was still pursuing a master’s degree at Kashmir University. The film, which won an award at the SAARC Film Festival, tells the story of journalists working in conflict zones. “It was the story of storytellers,” Qadri says quietly.

Qadri feels the agitations were not the only reason behind this documentary, but “could have” triggered it.

There is never a single point in life. It is not as if 2008 happened and everything changed. Every society has its own needs for storytellers. Mediums have now changed globally and it might have been a bit delayed here, but Kashmir is bracing up with the world. The 2008, 2009 agitations could have triggered this.

Azhar Qadri, Filmmaker

Pain Internalised

Uzma Falak, a 26-year old PhD student from Jamia University, believes that in 2008-2010, internet gave space for collective expression bypassing the “hegemony”. Her 2015 documentary, Till Then The Roads Carry Her premiered at PSBT’s Open Frame Film Festival in September at the India International Centre. Shot in parts of Srinagar, Dardpora, Lolab and other places, the 19-minute film challenges the prevailing narrative of victimhood associated with women in most conflict zones and explores the role of women in Kashmir’s resistance movement.

It all started flowing out organically, bringing back memories we thought were buried. It was not possible to be silent. People got a platform to write and there was an overflow of collective expression. A lot of it came online. There were mass protests and videos were uploaded. People wanted to become witnesses; maybe because our history was being hijacked. Our stories were starkly different from what TV channels were showing in the evenings.

Uzma Falak, Filmmaker

Uzma, probably, is better known for her poetry which is deeply haunting – reminding one of the Palestinian poets of our times. Her poems such as I love the Winter In Your Eyes and The Country On Your Hands reflect the longing for Azadi this generation feels.

Resonating Uzma’s views, veteran filmmaker Iffat Fatima told The Quint that people – after the summers of protest – have become the centre-stage.

Fatima’s own film – Khoon Diy Baarav – meaning blood leaves its trail, “shows its colour, it does not go waste”, was shot over nine long years and was screened in Srinagar on the International Day of Disappeared on 30 August.

Watch Iffat Fatima’s documentary Where Have You Hidden My New Moon Crescent here:


The Children of Conflict

Not just filmmaking, other creative arts that aid the medium such as short-fiction writing have also flourished in the valley. 27-year old Umair Gul, is one such short-story writer. Gul told this reporter that his generation – The Children of Conflict – never knew the difference between “normalcy” and “conflict”.

“For us, conflict was normalcy.” Given the situation, parents restricted children from stepping out. Cousins and siblings would then sit together, telling stories to pass time and that’s how the love for storytelling began.

The turning point in Gul’s life, however, came with 2008 when he witnessed protests all around. He began writing soon after.

Father was arrested today. Or may be yesterday; I can’t be sure. They took him away. They call it crackdown. I was circumcised two weeks before. I was clutched by three people and a blade was carved down my prepuce. I was excited about my circumcision. I was told to prepare for it. I did. But it hurts. He wasn’t a doctor but a barber who had circumcised hundreds of us. It hurts. Father had conspired for my circumcision. He ought to be punished.

Excerpt From Umair Gul’s Story

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