November 3, 2015 Print

The web of regulation and licensing that governments tend to weave around all forms of economic activity impede opportunity and growth at every turn — but nobody is harmed more than those at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder. That’s why India-based Atlas Network partner Centre for Civil Society (CCS) sponsors the annual Jeevika: Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival, devoted to narratives that show the plight of entrepreneurs as they battle government restrictions and harassment.

“CCS has organised the annual Jeevika Festival since 2003, to capture the livelihood challenges and success faced by the rural and urban people in Asia,” said CCS Director of Operations & Outreach Manoj Mathew. “The festival brings to light policies and regulations that limit livelihood freedom of the poor, by encouraging documentary makers to find interest in livelihood issues and providing them a platform to share their experiences and creativity. Jeevika: Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival hopes to strengthen the freedom struggle of the poor and change the attitudes and minds of many towards inclusive and sustainable development and to advocate for liberalisations at the bottom of the pyramid.”

This year’s Jeevika festival, which attracted about 500 attendees, recognized three primary documentaries out of the 25 it screened:

Caste on the Menu Card delves into how India’s caste differentiations can lead to exclusion for food vendors in Mumbai. the idea of food as a site of exclusion by focusing on beef-eating practices in Mumbai. “By tracing the mythological and historical roots of the meat-eating culture in our country, the film discusses the hierarchy maintained by Brahminical preferences and its intended subversions,” the synopsis explains. “This is seen in the stand taken on dealing with the political economy of the leather and meat industries. The film follows the ruptured background of universities’ caste politics over the demand of inclusion of beef in institutions.”

Dancing Shoes narrates the story of a boy’s journey from dropping out of school in rural Bihar because his father could not afford stationary, to becoming the primary shoemaker of choice for movie stars and famous dance studios in Mumbai. “The son of a poor Bihari farmer, this young man never gave up on his Bollywood dreams,” the synopsis explains. “Today, from a tiny 10×10 foot room in Dharavi, Jameel constructs world-class dance shoes for celebrities, including: Katrina Kaif, Kajol, Priyanka Chopra, Abhishek Bachchan, Farah Khan, HrithikRoshan, Ranbir Kapoor, and international superstar Kylie Minogue.”

Last of the Elephant Men is a detailed portrayal of endangered livelihoods in the era of globalization through the stories of Bunong tribe, who are traditionally elephant caretakers, in rural Eastern Cambodia. “Filmed over several years in stunning and remote locations across Cambodia, Last of the Elephant Men is an elegy for the domestic elephant in Asia and a plea to protect the remaining wild population,” the synopsis explains. “The story follows three Bunong from different generations — each showcasing fascinating and moving aspects of the bond between people and elephants. Ultimately, the themes of these stories apply to many traditional cultures — a microcosm for the link between biological and cultural diversity and the pressures they both face worldwide.”