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AAFT Student’s film in Toronto International Film Festival

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AAFT Alumni Haobam Paban Kumar was born in Imphal, Manipur, India. He studied filmmaking at Asian Academy of Film and Television. He has directed several television programmes and the documentary AFSPA, 1958 (06). A Cry in the Dark (06), his most recent film, won a FIPRESCI prize at this year’s Mumbai International Film Festival. Film Title: A Cry in the Dark Producer: Haobam Paban Kumar Screenplay: Haobam Paban Kumar Cinematographer: Saikhom Ratan Editor: Sankha
It was a standoff that barely made the world news. Two summers ago, in India’s eastern state of Manipur, a young woman was arrested, then reportedly raped and killed in police custody. She was a village girl of no particular prominence ? but the popular movement that rose up in the wake of Thangiam Manorama’s death shook the foundations of a government. Filmmaker Haobam Paban Kumar was in Manipur at the time and found himself in the thick of the conflict. A Cry in the Dark captures showdown after showdown between unarmed protesters ? often led by women’s groups ? and the officers of the Assam Rifles. In plain view, police beat protesters with staffs. They fire tear-gas canisters into crowds and bullets mere inches from protesters’ heads. In one especially humiliating clash, they force young men to beat each other, then make them roll somersaults down a muddy road. Through it all, Kumar’s camera keeps rolling. The film captures an extraordinary succession of abuses of authority and culminates in a horrifying, desperate act ? but it is clearly powerless to stop what it sees. In one scene a journalist is brazenly beaten by police, his press badge splattered with his own blood. (So much for media scrutiny.) Kumar brings a quiet, resolute force to putting his argument forward; he lets no viewer off the hook, offering an object lesson in documentary ethics. But this film’s most resonant image might be the protesters on yet another march after yet another police attack. Their banner reads simply, “Arrest Us. Beat Us More.”

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