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The small yet developed town of Jadugoda (in Bihar) is known for having the only underground uranium minefield of India. Yet, even as the resource plays an important role in the country's nuclear development for the last 30 years, the town's Adivasi population has been suffering the repercussions of radioactive waste being dumped in their rice fields. National Award-winning documentary filmmaker Sriprakash Prakash has explored genetic mutations and slow deaths in the community through his nine-minute film, Jadugoda: The Black Magic, one of the few Indian filmmakers to touch upon the topic of nuclear fuel chain and radioactivity. Prakash is now among the members of an international platform that screens similar films from across the world — the Travelling Uranium Film Festival, which reached India on Friday.
An offshoot of the annual International Uranium Film Festival, which started in 2011 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, the festival has already travelled to Lisbon and Berlin and will later go to New York. The Indian line-up of 32 films — from animation and short films to feature films — deals with issues such as uranium mining, nuclear power plants, atomic bombs and even Chernobyl and Fukushima.
Among the films that will be screened are an internationally acclaimed documentary, The Return of Navajo Boy, by American producers Jeff Spitz and Bennie Klain. The film is about uranium mining and the mystery of a long-lost boy taken away by missionaries, which reunited the Navajo family and triggered federal investigation into uranium contamination. Another film, The Red Button by Ewa Pieta and Miroslaw, tells the story of Russian soldier Stanislav Petrov who saved the world from an atomic war in 1983.
The three-day Indian leg of the festival will be coordinated by Prakash, who has showcased his films at two previous editions as well. "I have made a series of films on uranium mining and, when I was called to Berlin for the festival, I had my own questions about the people who live around uranium mines — their anxieties, government policies and so on," he says, adding, "But the real issue is that all this involves technical knowledge. Aam aadmi kaise samajh paega? I thought it's important that through this platform, opinions be made and discussions be held."