Indigenous Film Ecologies in India

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Museum Studies


Indigenous Ecologies in South Asia aims to 1) consolidate, through practices of co-creation, an indigenous methodology for filmmaking; 2) develop a culture of indigenous research-based filmmaking that address asymmetries in the public sphere; and 3) research different ecologies of indigenous film.

The proposed project is based on a research partnership with a collective of indigenous artists and filmmakers belonging India's DeNotified Tribal communities (DNTs) and associated with Nomad Movies. These are communities who were labelled as 'criminal by birth' during the colonial period, who have been actively excluded from processes of knowledge production, as well as from citizenship, and who continue to be misrepresented in mainstream media through the frames of criminality, primitivism and victimhood. The project consolidates a methodology and form of filmmaking developed to document indigenous experiences of the global pandemic and takes it to different regions and communities at India's borderlands: the sea, the desert and the mountains. These are sites of ecological disruption that are becoming increasingly unliveable with rising sea beds, uncharacteristic rainfall patterns, increased heat and desertification- where traditional patterns of migration, of livelihood, nutrition and shelter are being challenged and where communities are having to adapt fast to new conditions of life.

The project is designed as an action-research intervention based on collective reflexive practice that comprises: 1) a training component involving technical training in filmmaking adapted to the needs of communities with low literacy and digital skills, in combination with training in research methods and collective reflexive practice to support communities in developing their own research questions and projects, while drawing on and transforming their creative practice; 2) a promotional component with the objective of developing a culture of indigenous filmmaking, consolidating Nomad Movies as a hub for indigenous film and at developing a 'Nomad Film Festival'; and 3) a research component focussed on the transformations in communities' artistic practices, both in relation to the training and in relation to the expansion of the digital as an imperative to participate in the country's creative economies.

The value of the project lies in the process itself - and in this respect its outputs and impacts, methodology and epistemology, are enmeshed. In terms of tangible outputs, the project will result in 1) the production of at least six fiction and non-fiction films that will be showcased as part of the Nomad Film Festival, alongside selected films produced by indigenous groups across the country; 2) the creation of a Nomad Film Festival as a hub for indigenous film publications in the country; 3) publications reflecting on the processes and methodology and on the transformation of artistic practices in these border regions. More broadly, the project will contribute to a transformation of collaborative research practice, moving beyond 'participatory' models and socially engaged art practices. It will also be an intervention into multimodal methods of knowledge production, while providing a platform for an emergent and vibrant community of praxis.


10 25 50