In my previous post about MICANVAS 2005, I briefly mentioned a Film Appreciation Workshop I attended. I also mentioned that the conductor of the workshop would require a whole article dedicated to himself to do him justice. This is that article.Abhiskek
and I turned up at MICA at around 10 am on Saturday. As it turned out, we had about six hours to kill, as the quiz (which we had come to attend) did not start till 4 pm. Seeing the schedule we were given, we saw that there was a Film Appreiation workshop that morning. Abhishek was interested in going, and I decided to go along as well. On the way to the workshop, we met Gaurav Sabnis
, who told us that the conductor of the workshop was a leftist, and fun would come. So, we went for the workshop.
The four of us (Abhishek, Gaurav, Ramanand
and I) turned up at the venue of the workshop and took our seats. Soon after, Prof. AF Matthew, who was to conduct the workshop, came in, and gave us a brief introduction to Film Appreciation (the standard bromides about how it is an art, with the equally standard warning that owners of ringing mobile phones would be castrated).
The good professor showed us the first film, Alain Resnais' Night and Fog
, a good, if gory depiction of Nazi concentration camps filmed in Auschwitz in 1955. It is an amazing documentary, no doubt, but is quite disturbing. To be fair, Prof. Matthew had warned us that he'd decided not to "play it safe" with his pick of two films, and told us to expect disturbing footage. But the long and short of it is, the audience were left quite mind****ed by the end of the first screening.
Night and Fog ends with an admonition to the viewer that the kind of people who built the concentration camps still exist even thought the Nazis were defeated and we might see the likes of Auschwitz even after the Fuhrerbunker
fell ( prescient considering that the Gulag system
endured another 45 years). Prof Matthew took this opportunity to remind us that capitalism (which he took to be the enemy in Resnais' warning) was still alive and kicking, and that every effort should be made to defeat it. He also mentioned that according to Indian Government statistics poverty in India has risen 3 percentage points (from 38% to 41%, IIRC) and that according to the Union Home Ministry, Maoist Rebels control an area from Karnataka to Nepal, the "Red Corridor". "Red Corridor?" he challenged, "I call it the Liberated Corridor". Then he went on to inform us that the Maoist publication People's War
has in fact a higher circulation than the Times of India (Aside: I wonder if he noticed that the ToI sales staff don't carry automatic weapons). He then made a few more unsubstantiated statements ("Indian advertising in the past 10 years has been anti-Muslim") before going on to a photo essay.
Now, as a preface to the photo essay, he mentioned that behinad all good art, there must be politics (I don't recall the exact words, but it went something like that). He went on to stress the importance of the "right" politics, which were embodied by the photgraphers his essay showcased, like the man who "inspite of a million dollar salary" went and photographed Iraqi insurgents in their own ranks. He showed us the photo-essay, which was admittedly quite good. The pictures he had selected were usually of people who were suffering "the effects of Capitalism". Each photo was accompanied by a little talk on the suffering of the subject of the picture, and it's cause (you guessed it, Capitalism). He did gloss over some
pictures of suffering, notably one of homeless people in Lithuania in 1979 (I wonder why
Then came the fun part. Our friend the professor started showing us slides of prominent US political figures (usually Republicans) making outrageoulsy right-wing comments. Some of the people featured (like Ann Coulter or Fred Phelps) were bonafide right-wing nut-jobs, but a majority of the comments were takeen out of context. In particular, he showed a particular US minister (I forget which one) saying that there was no need to protect the economy, because the second coming was at hand. Now Gaurav interjected to say that the comment had been a joke (can you provide me with a source if you're reading this), but the professor refused to listen. he went on to the next slide, that of Pat Robertson making his (in)famous statement on Hugo Chavez
. This was the point where Prof. AF Matthew, the peaceful leftist and avowed Nazi-hater said, "He shopuld be put in a concentration camp and gassed (for saying that)".
Now the audience, mostly quiet till then, began to speak up. One particular chap began to question him, mainly about his assertion that Pat Robertson represented US government views. The guy pointed out that Robertson was forced to apologise for his remarks, and lost quite some advertising and other evenue thanks to it. The professor, in response, deftly shifted goalposts. What about the Kasmiris, he asked. So many of them, Indian citizens all, have been killed. The dissenter (gamely, IMO, considering the abrupt shift of topic) countered that Kashmiri Pundits had been kicked out of their homes by their freedom-loving neighbours, to which the professor replied that a majority of the Kashmiri Pundits had not left Kashmir. That statement is a model of disingenuoity: Kashmiri Pundits have been driven from the Kashmir Valley
to refugee camps in Jammu, which lies in
the State of Jammu and Kashmir
. He then spoke about Indian government run concentration camps in Nagaland, where he said, "people are rounded up from their villages, put in camps along the Highway, and Carpet-bombed". Before anyone had time to respond, he moved to the LTTE in Sri Lanka, whose struggle, it appears, began way back in the 60s, when the majoritarian Sinhala government used crop-dusters to drop feces on the Tamils.
At this point, perhaps presciently seeing the surge of disagreement in the audience, he announced a ten-minute break, for, he said, us to cool down. Which was sad, because although I wanted to argue with him, going back into that room, with all the straw men, was beyond my powers of endurance. Abhishek, Gaurav, Ramanand and Amit Varma
, who'd joined the workshop midway, agreed with me, and we ran out.
All in all it wasn't a bad experience. I got a chance to see many fallacies, so far only encountered in boring Logic lectures, being used in a real-life argument. I also took hope in the fact that if the left stormed to power with arguments as verifiably false as these, Classic Liberalism/Libertarianism too has a chance. I'm totally looking forward to the next leftist rant I hear. Fun comes.¡Viva la Revolución!
(*Headline Quote originally by Gaurav Sabnis.)