Poverty Woes

A documentary on the Pushkar Camel Fair offers an interesting insight about the event that often goes unnoticed

Written by Debesh Banerjee | Published: August 20, 2013 5:55 am

The Annual camel fair at Pushkar,Rajasthan,attracts thousands of tourists for a five-day period. But there is an undercurrent to the festival,which is overlooked — a community that depends on camel droppings for a living. “Some of the poorest families make a living during that period. Since there are 25,000 camels that gather at the festival,a huge amount of dung is produced. Women use it as bio-fuel,which lasts them 3-4 months. Camel dung,unlike cow dung,is not need processed,” says documentary filmmaker Vijay Jodha,whose six-minute film,Poop on Poverty,sheds light on this community.

The film was produced under an international collaborative project initiated by an NGO,Steps International,under the theme “Why Poverty?”. The NGO commissioned filmmakers from across the globe to make 30 short films and eight long-format documentaries on the theme. Jodha’s film forms one of the 30 short documentaries on the subject,which are currently being screened across 200 countries by 70 broadcasters — including BBC Worldwide,Arte in France,Al Nahar TV in Egypt,NHK in Japan,ORF in Austria and PBS in the US.

For the film,Jodha focused on 20 families as case studies to show how they rely on camel dung for fuel. “The producers did not want to focus much on the innovative methods,but on the media spectacle of the event,” says Delhi-based Jodha,who shot the film in November 2011. The film,which was made in a budget of Rs 8 lakh,was shot in real-time,showing the subjects in a candid fashion.

After almost a year on the editing table,the film was premiered at the United Nations headquarters in New York in November last year. With an experience of 20 years as a documentary filmmaker,Jodha’s earlier work includes films such as Healers for a Reason (2005),and Pedalling to Freedom (2007),which is based on women in a district in Tamil Nadu who are taught cycling.

Since this was a global initiative,Jodha had to submit six proposals to Steps International,and one of them was on Pushkar. “While such an initiative does not have an immediate impact on the ground for the community,the emerging filmmaking fraternity benefits from working with international producers,” adds the 46-year-old. He is currently working on a coffee-table biography on Mickey Jagtiani,a Dubai-based Indian businessman. Jodha’s next film is a project for Doordarshan,called The Rough Guide to Wholesome Entertainment,

about cinema and popular culture in India.

Though none of the 30 short films have been screened in India,the NGO is in talks with Doordarshan to sell the rights of all the films. “I have entered the film at Jeevika Asia Livelihood Documentary Festival and Mumbai

International Film Festival,” says Jodha.

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