The Telegraph
Wednesday , March 12 , 2014
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Film footage that fights for change

No comparisons with Farah Khan or Zoya Akhtar work here. This Ranchi woman is as unlikely a film-maker as you can ever hope to find. But she has a viewfinder and, more importantly, a viewpoint.

Meet Nirmala Ekka (32), a needy woman and mother of three from Ranchi’s Kadru Kumhartoli, ward No. 29.

Nirmala never had dreams beyond home and hearth. But, two years ago, a social worker changed her life.

Now, Nirmala is one of the 54 community correspondents in Jharkhand trained by US-based social outfit, Video Volunteers, to make short documentary films depicting problems in the community. So far, Nirmala has produced around 14 films, most centred on women and child issues.

“I’d never heard of the word community correspondent. Today, I am one. My phone never stops ringing as deprived persons want me to make films about their lives and problems,” says the unlikely film-maker.

In India, Video Volunteers is headquartered in Goa. It helps disadvantaged and marginalised people by capturing their stories in the form of short films and showing it online via portals.

On Tuesday, at a special screening held at Satya Bharti in the capital, a tribute was paid to rape victims and survivors of India through a film compilation Main Nirbhaya Hoon (I am Nirbhaya).

Sharing her experience as community correspondent, Nirmala said: “Earlier, I was just another woman who scouted for work as a household help in Kadru. But now, I am one of the voices of disadvantaged men and women of my community. My videos are tools that fight inequality and deprivation.”

For instance, her film on the lack of an anganwadi centre in her ward in Kadru is relevant to all mothers and children.

Explaining how she works, she said it was similar to both journalism and activism: “We talk to many people on a specific problem. Then, we meet respective officers and showcase the footage of people’s demands. That makes officials sit up and take notice in most cases,” she said, adding her next film is on lives of old women of her community.

Nirmala isn’t the only one. Chunnu Hansda, the community correspondent in Hazaribagh, made a film on two primary teachers deprived of salary for four years. When the video was shown to then DC of Hazaribagh Manish Ranjan, both received their cumulative salaries within a week.

“When you see something, it sticks. That’s how videos of community correspondents make an impact,” said Jessica Mayberry, founding director of Video Volunteers.