Review

Rivers Beyond Borders review: An entanglement of nature, humans and politics

Cinestaan Rating

Release Date: 24 Nov 2018 / 18min

Prateek Rawat

The short documentary, co-produced by the IUCN and Earthcare Films, explores the transnationality of rivers in the Indian subcontinent.

Nadi, the Sanskrit word for river, refers to the triptych of soul, life and power. Krishnendu Bose’s insightful and topical documentary, Rivers Beyond Borders, delves into the status of rivers as a significant natural resource and the transnational hydro-politics around them in the Indian subcontinent.

Produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Earthcare Films, Rivers Beyond Borders was screened on the second day of the 6th Woodpecker International Film Festival in New Delhi.

Filmed in Nepal, India and Bangladesh, the film provides a succinct survey of the 10 rivers that originate in the Himalayan region of South Asia. The transnational origin and flow of rivers as they cross national frontiers gives rise to many regional conflicts and logistical issues, especially in the remote rural belts of the region.

A montage of interviews with academics, lawyers, activists and citizens combined with aesthetic shots of the rhythms of river flows and diagrammatic visual effects are deployed to synergize history, information and politics of the natural elements that sustain human civilizations.

The extensive breadth of the short film is owed to the skilful condensation of visual imagery and linguistic descriptions, thereby elevating the film from an informative short to a holistic experience of the multitudes of lives at stake in an ever degrading and irrevocably transforming ecosystem.

From the floods in Bihar to the ineffective treaties between governments, the loss of the Sunderbans to the poisoning of underground water, the range of issues covered from the Anthropocene to conservation and sustainable development engender a topical and timely documentary.

The 6th Woodpecker International Film Festival took place from 23–25 November 2018 at the Siri Fort auditorium in Delhi. The programme included an eclectic collection of Indian and international short films, feature films, documentaries and masterclasses centred on issues of gender, sexuality, environment, wildlife, immigration and other contemporary concerns plaguing the social order today.