With this documentary, we want to raise awareness on the adverse effects of industrial growth on rural agricultural communities in South India, and we need your help for that.
How our story started
After receiving her engineering degree, Sushma Kallam, the director of the film, moved from India to the USA, the land of unlimited promise for many Indian youngsters. She was climbing the corporate ladder as a supply-chain consultant when she came to realize that complex global supply chains conceal what happens to those who pay the price for our cheap consumer goods. Kallam wanted to go behind the computer models and supply-and-demand economics to discover more about the traditional communities and environments that are disappearing due to fast-paced modernization. In 2009, she traveled back to her family home in Andhra Pradesh to see for herself what was happening at one of the many first links in a supply chain. A journalist friend introduced her to a widow who had lost her husband after the government had seized their village’s land to give it to a foreign company and had sent in riot police to put down protests. State and federal governments and large companies have been aggressively acquiring land to build many “Special Economic Zones” (SEZ’s) around India to provide hassle-free environments for overseas investors. Because villagers in rural farming and fishing settlements do not speak English, they are sitting ducks for manipulative, deceitful middlemen. They are losing their fertile land, which means they are losing their livelihoods and way of life. In return, they are receiving empty promises and are often being exploited.
“I found that this is not just their story — we are all involved. I could not just sit back and watch it; I have been back each year since that first return visit. I quit my job and started making this film. I and my colleagues are working hard to bring awareness about the film and issues covered because we strongly feel that this story — which is certainly not the only one of its kind — needs be told. With this documentary, we aim to draw a picture of a complex human-rights issue that needs urgent attention and understanding.”
About the film
The documentary is a six-year account of the strife of a rural community in Andhra Pradesh, India, to reverse the merciless grabbing of their fertile land by the government and corporations in the name of development, and of how they have survived by uniting, cooperating, and not losing faith. It is a moving, inspiring testimonial.
What is this campaign about?
While farming communities are the backbone of India, they have been struggling for decades. Dwindling water resources, drought, and failing soil that requires ever-increasing chemical inputs have all driven a massive surge of farmer suicides. But another grave threat has arisen; India has been gripped by an industrial growth mantra that is pushing aside all else. To accommodate large international corporations, India’s state and federal governments are snatching fertile land from rural communities. While officials boast of impressive growth figures, millions of subsistence farmers have been displaced from their lands, and ruined. In the name of “development,” natural resources are being destroyed by pollution and ill use.
In Walls and the Tiger, one farmer asks: “If there are no people left, why this earth and why this sky?”
Such developments are not unique to India. Corporations are similarly acquiring land in the name of development in Africa and Latin America, causing environmental damage, and demolishing traditional cultures.
Walls and the Tiger shows the effects of these developments, but also brings a positive message. It raises global awareness about these issues, gives a voice to people who are fighting for their lives and environment, and brings empowerment to all who view it. We want the film to motivate people to take responsibility as concerned citizens. We want them to realize that, to provide our comforts and goods, many people are pushed to a corner under the premise of development for all.
We are all implicated in the harmful effects of globalized economic activity. We are all responsible. And we can all make a difference in the name of humanity.
What other people say about the film
“Walls and the Tiger doesn't just tell one of the (too) many epic stories of resistance. Director Sushma Kallam gets under the skin of the main characters and beams the audience to the colorful world that is rural India. By bringing the audience to tears for the fate of a small Indian farming community, she does more than connecting the dots in our mind. She connects our hearts.” — Nick Meynen, European Environmental Bureau
“This film illustrates so many sustainability issues: from government to environment and consumerism. Outreach is powerful but it needs substance — to show both the problems and the solutions. That's what makes this film so powerful.” — Maryam Niamir-Fuller, executive director, United Nations Environment Programme
Why crowd funding?
We have been working on this film for more than six years, during which we financed all related expenses ourselves, because we felt we had a goal that matters, and we wanted to get this film to people who might share our concern. Today, we need more financial support to keep the project moving forward, and we need your help for this. We really hope you will help us lift this project to the next level!
Kickstarter exists to help creative projects find funding. We only get funded if we reach our goal. The money you donate will only be taken out of your bank account when we reach our funding goal.
Where will the $50,000 go?
Currently, we are traveling a lot to spread our message as widely as possible. We have been invited for presentations and screenings across the world including events in partnership with the UN/Ciné-Onu. Funds will be utilized in the much needed outreach coordination in the US, India and other countries where possible, and to work with organizations to reach rural communities that are facing similar situations. Funds will be used in creating different video campaigns to suit the specific needs of organizations with whom we will be collaborating. Submission fees for festivals and cost of theater rentals. Traveling expenses to universities and reaching our potential partners in various states in the US. Logistical expenses like: printing costs, replicating DVDs, mailing costs, and website maintenance. A small portion of the funds will be utilized in funding an outreach coordinator to create strategic planning and development to reach various world organizations that have similar goals.
We and the villagers thank you wholeheartedly!
Hot off the press!
After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent (May 2015) trip to China to seek investment to help India address its $1-trillion infrastructure spending needs, China will set up a company in the Kakinada SEZ, built on the land of the community shown in the film. After the struggle they have gone through in recent years, their troubles might start up again and they might be forced off their land. So, we really need your help more than ever!
According to land-acquisition laws (which date back to the British presence in India, say no more), once land is taken, governments should set up industries and provide employment within six years. In the case of the Kakinada SEZ, that six-year period ended in 2012. The villagers’ land should have been returned to the community, but that has not happened. With your support, the villagers can afford a good lawyer, take this to court, and set an example for the rest of the world! Now is the time to act!
Why are the documentary and our project so important?
This is not a story of what is going on in a rural village in India, instead it is a story of what people can do when they are faced with larger-than-life obstacles; it is a story of how people can bring change against all odds; it is a story of people joining together to do something, to make true democracy work. We want to be part of a change that has already begun, and is based on growing awareness.
Here are some simple actions we can take in our own, everyday lives:
- We can buy locally grown food as much as possible or support community farming.
- Before spending just because we can, we can think twice about whether we really need the product, the new pair of shoes, the nth sweater.
- Instead of buying two sweaters from chainstores, perhaps buy one from a smaller or local store, and one from a charity shop.
- We should ask ourselves what goes into products and whether the company reduces its environmental impact.
- We can think about alternatives to buying from companies that dehumanize their workers and exploit children.
The more we, as consumers, hold companies responsible for how they produce their goods, the more they will have to comply. The number of companies taking these issues into consideration is growing, and we have to support them. Most importantly, we have to realize that we have that power in our hands, by making conscious choices and by insisting regulators stop unfair practices. We'd want our film to make more people aware of that. As the widely respected sustainable food advocate Anna Lappé said: "Every time you spend money you’re casting a vote for the world you want."
Other ways you can help
Supporting our project by picking one of the perks is a great and effective way to support this cause, and you’ll receive our eternal gratitude. We do, however, understand that financial aid is not an option for everyone and we appreciate any other help you would be willing to offer (you’ll get our eternal gratitude for that, too). Our main challenge with this campaign is spreading the word and here are a few effective ways you can help us to do that:
- share this campaign on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social network
- forward the link and information by email to your family and friends and ask them to do the same
- tell us about blogs or other media channels that could be interested in writing or talking about the cause. Our team will be happy to provide them with everything they need to spread the word.
We would be very happy to hear your thoughts on the project, and on ways to improve our outreach. The more brain cells we have, the better off we’ll be!
THANK YOU SO MUCH!
The film crew
Sushma Kallam (director) descends from a long line of Indian farmers in villages close to the Krishna river in Andhra Pradesh state. After earning an engineering degree in India she came to the US in 2001 to work. She became an independent IT consultant specializing in supply-chain management. In that world, she learned about the ways in which neoliberal economic development (“globalization”) was disrupting traditional rural life in India. She has been working on Walls and the Tiger since 2009.
Liam O’Connor (producer and associate director) is a counselor to the state of Washington, a musician, and an artist.
Peter Monaghan (associate director) is a journalist who has been covering academia, music, and film conservation for 30 years in the US and Australia. He wrote the libretto for Space in the Heart, an opera by Rome and Paris Prize winner William O. Smith that ran in Seattle in 2008 and NY in 2010.
Maria Gargiulo (associate producer) is an Emmy Award-winning producer and director. Her one-hour television pilot, The Collectors, was named Best Drama at LA’s ITVFest.
M.L. Narasimha Reddy (chief consultant), an award-winning journalist in Telangana, India, is principal correspondent to the largest daily newspaper in Telugu.
Director's cut sneak peeks
Risks and challenges
The big challenge of this project is getting the documentary to as many people and organisations as possible. The entire team is made up of volunteers who are very dedicated to this project, but we would really appreciate any guidance support from professionals to help us with improving our outreach. Finally, since the recent developments in the community depicted in the film (mentioned under “Hot off the press!”), time is pressing… We want to be able to give them substantial support from the international community so that they stand a good chance in their fight, before it is too late!Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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