Running Out of Time
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by Abhijay Karlekar
color, 55/104 min, 2006
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In many ways the heart of indigenous India, mineral-rich Jharkhand is and has been at the core of India's industrial development after independence. There, the indigenous Adivasi people have borne the brunt of what is arguably India's most fundamental developmental conflict, which has pushed them to the verge of extinction as an agricultural people.
The monsoon crop is the last and increasingly precarious anchor holding Adivasi agriculture in place. If Jharkhand's rivers were not in bondage, its forests not so widely destroyed and, critically, if the State's irrigation system were not in ruin, the transformation that still takes place with every good monsoon could be more enduring. Instead the harvest is a rite of passage fraught with uncertainty; of hearths rekindled fleetingly and homecomings that cannot last. In 5 out of 7 years following statehood, the Government has had to declare drought in Jharkhand.
Running Out of Time locates the crisis of Adivasi agriculture in the larger context of Jharkhand's political and economic history, positing the indigenous Adivasi people and their ecosystem against overwhelming national interventions that have carved out an industrial and urban "state," fundamentally altering Jharkhand's environment and demography.
The lack of accountability of these interventions, the nation-state duality of Jharkhand, the sheer scale of environmental degradation, the conflicts in civil society, the failures of governance, abuse of human rights, the pauperization of the small cultivator are interconnected and cumulative in their effect.
Away from the charade of statehood and the stalemate of legislative politics, the resurgence of Adivasi movements to contain statist interventions and assert their rights to self-governance of natural resources, is the most effective path to making Adivasi agriculture sustainable. Though it is still not a path sufficiently taken.
Running Out of Time is Jharkhandi of voice and spirit. But in essence it is a story about India.
"It is likely (Running Out of Time) will communicate to people who are not already sold over to the tribal cause - most such ventures end up converting the converted. The tone and pitch of the film is such that the unconverted are likely gain a perspective. Especially on the numerous products and services generated by denying Adivasis the most basic rights. Go watch and think." — Sopan Joshi, Down to Earth
Film Festivals, Screenings, Awards
Association for Asian Studies Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, 2009
AAA/Society for Visual Anthropology Film, Video & Multimedia Festival, 2009