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Earth Animal And Human review: Moving documentary about a cruel practice

Release Date: 2022

Cinestaan Rating

  • Direction:

Suyog Zore

Though Suraj Seema Uddhav's documentary doesn't fully explore the emotional fallout of its shocking true story, it still does a good job of letting the viewer get the fair idea about the dilemma of these farmers.

Did you know that there is a village in Maharashtra's Kolhapur district where farmers collectively kill newborn puppies by throwing them down wells and in the river? You would also be surprised to know that they claim to love their canines just like their children.

Suraj Seema Uddhav attempts to shed light on this paradoxical behaviour in his documentary Earth Animals And Humans, which had its premiere at the 17th Mumbai International Film Festival.

The 95-minute film begins with unsettling visuals of farmers picking up puppies before dawn, stuffing them inside plastic bags and eliminating them using the aforementioned method. This short sequence leaves you shocked and perplexed. 

Then we move to interviews with locals who explain their baffling actions. Apparently, the farmers had begun using dogs to guard their crops against beasts such as boars, pigs and foxes. But a single bitch, which tends to breed every year, gives birth to a litter of seven or eight while one canine requires roughly the amount of food that is consumed by an adult male. Owing to deteriorating economic conditions, the farmers can't afford to take care of so many puppies. The documentary slowly makes it clear that these farmers are not intrinsically brutish, but are themselves victims of the system. 

The documentary doesn't have over-the-top re-enactments and eschews dramatic declarations. Sometimes the farmers reveal disturbing truths in a matter-of-factly manner. But Suraj also shows us that they feel remorse and they have come up with some strange and bizarre means to lessen their guilt. For example, there is a belief that if the puppy is killed within three days of its birth, it is not a sin. 

Suraj found out about this horrifying practice while shooting for his first feature-length film. And he along with his film crew decide to bring about change by introducing the villagers to the practice of sterilization. The documentary also depicts his attempts to get the locals to change their ways.

In an exclusive interview with Cinestaan.com, the filmmaker revealed that Earth Animal And Human, as it exists right now, is a rough cut that he had submitted to the festival in order to avoid missing the deadline. And this hurriedness is visible in the documentary.

The proceedings flow smoothly at the beginning, especially because of the interviews, but by the midway point where the sterilization camp is set up, the narrative gets rocky. Also, it's quite evident that a good amount of footage is missing which would make it even more coherent. Fortunately, Suraj said he plans to extend the film by 55 minutes.

Though Suraj's Earth Animal And Human doesn't fully explore the emotional fallout of its shocking subject matter, it still does a good job of letting the viewer get a fair idea about the dilemma of these farmers. 

Earth Animal And Human was screened at the 17th Mumbai International Film Festival on 31 May 2022.


Related topics

Movie Review Mumbai International Film Festival

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