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Documentary that showcases Kashmir’s battle against addiction wins Best Director at Srinagar’s International Film Festival

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 Srinagar: Addiction is a disease, so they say. And, it takes more than a village to raise children in a region laced with drugs, instability, and fear. In Aatish-e-Tilism, journalist and director Anil Kumar Singh takes you through Kashmir’s united fight against drugs that have created havoc in the lives of scores of adolescents and ripped families apart.

The 16-minute documentary was screened at The International Film Festival of Srinagar on 26 October. Anil Kumar Singh was bestowed with the award for Best Director by Lt. Governor Manoj Sinha. Films from seventeen countries were screened at the fest, including Cuba, the United States, Iran, and Palestine.

Through interviews with students, doctors, local NGO activists, and the administration, the film sheds light on how civil society and common people have joined hands to create a growing ecosystem against addiction. The root cause of the problem, described in the documentary, is the massive quantities of drugs smuggled from across the border through tunnels. The amount generated through these narcotics is then used to fund terror activities. This is termed as ‘narco-terrorism.’

While the use of cigarettes and plant-based drugs like marijuana is common in the region according to Kumar, it is the synthetic drugs that are peddled from across the border that have caused vicious damage in the lives of the youth in Kashmir. The documentary incorporates poetry to delve into the psyche of these young addicts.

Singh, who was traveling in Kashmir as a journalist, happened to see groups of school students indulging in substances in dark alleyways and open gardens alike. The widespread and seemingly common use of drugs in the region prompted him to make a documentary on this. He explained that addiction, especially among adolescents is more complicated as it widens the gap between them and their parents, leaving them vulnerable and alone. The stigma around drugs isolates these young adults from asking for help and further pushes them down the line of addiction. Afraid to be caught, they lie and steal impulsively. Here’s where NGOs like Chotay Taray come in to provide a safe space for them to receive the necessary care and help in raising awareness in children and parents alike for a more stigma-free society. The efforts of these organizations are slowly bearing fruit. More rehabilitation centers have opened up, more addicts are receiving early essential care in hospitals and families are joining this movement to reduce the stigma.

The documentary, shot in Kashmir and made alongside Turkish filmmaker Ozge Uyar, maps these collective efforts and brings out the powerful stories of the people behind them. Through the film, the appeal of the people on the ground, whether it is a survivor or an activist remains the same: stay as far away from the reins of drugs as possible, and if you are grappling with addiction, always ask for help.

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