As I had lived a major part of my schooling and higher education life in Delhi, I always wondered how symbolic it is that a major river flowing through India is declared ‘dead’ by the United Nations once it enters Delhi. I decided to use the power of films to shake people’s conscience and made the film Yamuna ke Gotakhor, and have since then continued to document the struggles of the Yamuna river and its people,” says Meghatithi. His recent documentary, Voyage for Change (2020; 72 mins), an ongoing series, produced by French producer Didier Bonnet, is selected to be screened by Positive Cinema Week 2020.
The film, a labour of love that took three years, documents the views of 20 children across Asia, Europe and North America, pertaining to environmental crises. Also, 35 inspiring experts and change makers, talk about how children are affected by this global phenomenon.
Last year, the short 30-minute version of the film won the Coup de Coeur Award at the 4th Positive Cinema Week 2019 at Cannes under the 72nd Cannes Film Festival. An interview with Meghatithi, who calls the making of this film “a truly transformative experience”:
Tell us about your engagement with environmental films.
It deeply disturbs me how our current civilisation is hell bent to self-destruct and destroy other life forms. My storytelling and cinema journey has been shaped by my childhood connections with Himalayan forests. It’s like my subconscious inner child had long ago decided that my storytelling universe will revolve around stories that stand with and protect the river, forest, land and life on it. My very first tryst with documentary filmmaking was on Himalayan waters and its deep connection with the native forest, land and culture. Then, I directed a film series Himalaya Man & Nature in 2011-12.
What led you to make this film?
All environmental sciences tell us that we have entered a decade which is critical for survival of our civilisation and all life on earth. The real devastating impact of this will be felt by the children. So, in this film children inspire us as they don’t make excuses for politics and economics and choose short term profit over long term loss; their actual future.
How does this film create an impact on our environment?
Voyage for Change gives inspiration, a sense of connection and easily understandable knowledge on how to take action to mitigate the critical issues of our times like environment and climate change. This film creates a global platform and community of children who are the voters and leaders of tomorrow in their own right. It is meant for the families to watch together leading to children, parents and all other adults who care about future generation’s well-being while taking action.
Could you reflect on the overall process of documentary filmmaking with children?
Voyage For Change has had two parallel journeys. The first voyage is where the children meet experts/change makers, travel and learn. The second voyage is through the external journey their inner voyage is nourished. These children are the leaders of tomorrow and through this experience the seeds of change are sown within their hearts and minds. What also makes the film a compelling viewing experience is the candid conversations between the children and other committed humans towards the environment.
What are your future projects?
I will continue to dedicate my cinematic journey telling stories close to the environment. Under the Voyage for Change film series will travel to the three continents with many more exceptional children as well as inspiring dedicated change makers. Furthermore, I am working on projects in documentary and fiction mediums about the stories of farmers across the world. Also, capturing the deep connections between forest, land and water issues is going to be a very important focus area where I plan to invest my energy towards. In the next few years, I will make films on the two issues very close to my heart: the rivers of India and sustainable farming movement in India.
ON: December 12