This new film is a communal voice comprised of what filmmaker Adam Curtis describes as a series of “complicated, fragmentary and emotional images [that] evoke the chaos of real experience.” Ocean in a Drop is a sensory fusion that brings to the screen those voices moved and mobilised by an organisation taking a bottom-up approach towards an informed and digitally literate society; communities living on the margins of India’s rural and information divide.
My approach is to evoke rather than demand the attention of audiences. I am seeking to emphasise empathy through sensory experience, through images that connect ourselves to each other and by way of carefully articulated sound and motion; to sense the unseen and listen for the unheard.
Additionally, I’m creating spaces within this film for audiences to take in, to pause and comprehend what is being shared. Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer says, “We can inundate an audience with facts and hopeful possibilities and not dare to let them think and pause and reflect on what they’re seeing.” Or we can immerse them in our stories, letting them sit quietly in them and then make it little easier with beauty and poetic imagery and sound so that our stories can sink in.
2015 has become a critical and momentous year for all Indian’s finding their voice nationally and internationally. A voice protected by recent threats to dilute its Information Technology Act – judicial recognition of amendments drafted in Section 66A as unconstitutional.
This has emboldened organisations to further their outreach to remote communities where many are seeing the value in sharing local knowledge and know-how with national and international audiences. It is at the cusp of these changes that my film is being made.
Ocean in a Drop bookends the first PAN Asia Network Report commissioned by the International Development and Research Association (Garton, A. Parikh, J. Nanda, S. Fernandez, L. 1994, ISBN 981006389X). Where the PAN Asia report reviewed the impact of pre-web information communication technologies (ICTs) across Indochina, South and Southeast Asia, this film, 22 years on, tells of the ripple effects of broadband into communities that have barely seen a television; and India where the Digital Empowerment Foundation aims to nurture one billion individuals online by 2020.
It is a critical time where one may observe the early effects of this transformation, to document and tell these stories so that they may provide another layer of confidence to all those who are at the margins of the information divide standing up to prejudice, corruption and exploitation.
This film is a space in which we can look at ourselves, where we see ourselves in each other, each an ocean in an ocean of drops. It is as much about informing an audience as it is an experience; stories of triumph against innumerable odds via intrigue and curiosity in such a way that we draw and align the viewer to our subject(s), a route to empathy perhaps. “Empathy,” Oppenheimer says, “is a practice. A practice that’s worth practising.”