Four-hour long film by Anand Patwardhan takes on 'casteism and Hindutva, the ideology of Hindu nationalism'
The Audience Award at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles has gone to Reason, a documentary by Anand Patwardhan that directly addresses the disturbing rise of Hindu nationalism in India.
The prize was announced as the 17th edition of the festival wrapped on Sunday at Regal L.A. Live in downtown Los Angeles. Patwardhan was present to receive the honor, as was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize, which went to the narrative feature Widow of Silence.
"Divided into eight chapters and told over four hours, Patwardhan surveys the history of and contemporary struggle against casteism and Hindutva, the ideology of Hindu nationalism," the festival notes in its program.
Since 2014... Indian politicians have normalized hardline Hindu nationalism through draconian cow protection laws, the renaming of cities with Muslim names, and the appointment of extremist Hindu nationalists to powerful positions.
Populism and nativism have become an increasingly stark feature of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which came to power in 2014. As such, the movement presaged the nativist/populist message of Donald Trump, elected as U.S. president two years later. (The push to define India as a Hindu state, meanwhile, finds an echo in Israeli politics where the subject of how Israel defines itself -- as either a pluralistic democracy or a Jewish state -- is a critical issue).
"While many Hindu nationalists claim an ancient history of Hindu ascension and power, Patwardhan examines the political, colonialist roots of this belief and the equally profound history of liberation and commitment to the values of democracy and secularism championed by the leaders and current day activists for a free, non-religious India," the festival writes of Reason. "He shows this conflict as one of literal life and death, from political assassinations to lynchings, for the very soul of the nation, with tentacles that reach nearly every level of life and society."
Prize winners at the 17th Annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. L-R Praveen Morchhale, director of "Widow of Silence"; Shazia Iqbal, director of "Babeek (Dying Wind in Her Hair)", and Anand Patwardhan, director of "Reason." Los Angeles, Sunday, April 14, 2019. Photo by Javeed Shaik/courtesy Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles
Watch excerpts from Reason here:
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.