Jalal-u-din Baba, a Kashmir-based environment and science filmmaker, has won Palamdale Vision Award 2017 at the 5th WATER TAKE 1 Film Festival at Ventura, California, USA. Earlier, he had won the Gold Beaver award for his documentary Saving the Saviour at the recent 6th National Science Documentrary awards. The film spotlights thedegradation of Wular lake through the story of a 13 year old boy who makes his living by cleaning the trash from around the banks of the lake. In an interview to KashmirInk, Jeelani talks about the challenges involved in making the film and his concern for Wular.
How did you get the idea to make Saving the Saviour?
My first documentary film was made in 2000-2001. It too was on Wular. As a human being what you see and experience in your life gets reflected in your work.
First, I come from Sopore town which is situated on the peripheries of Wular. So Wular is in my blood. In fact I have lived Wular and been brought up on its bounties. Our drinking water in Sopore comes from the lake. I have seen how people from my village Adipora and the habitations stretching up to Bandipora draw their livelihood from Wular. So caring for Wular comes naturally to me. So the reason for me to go back to making a documentary on the lake after 15 years.
How did you meet your protagonist, the 13 year old Billa
It was by chance. I met him while he was collecting trash from Wular. He said it was his livelihood. He told me his story. It was tragic. He was the only bread earner after the death of his father. And he fed his family from the trash collected from the banks of Dal and therefore, in the process helping clean the lake.
How much time did you spend in Wular shooting the film?
I spent two and a half years on the story. It was challenging to shoot the movie. We followed the boy on his daily walks around the Dal. It was not only about capturing his work but in the process reflecting the pathetic plight of the lake.
The documentary casts a much needed spotlight on the degradation of Wular.
What Nile is to Egypt, Wular is to Kashmir. Billa’s Wular Lake is a world heritage wetland site under the Ramsar Convention charter of UNESCO.
We need films to focus attention on the lake’s degradation. Almost around 80,000 people directly or indirectly are benefitted by the Wular. Be it fishing, lotus harvesting, sand extraction or willow plantation, people derive their livelihood from the lake. Wular’s flora and fauna is an essential part of our ecological balance. And this is not to ignore its great tourism potential. So, my film was an attempt to spotlight the deteriorating condition of the lake through a powerful visual story.