The Shared Footage Group

Like most of this collective effort, even the name is not a single person's brainchild- all we know is that somewhere along the way, people started referring to our work as such. And since it was an unpretentious, practical term, which did represent what we were doing in a direct manner, we just stuck by it.

The beginning of this effort was quite small. In the Indian state of Gujarat, in a place called Godhra, on the morning of 27th February 2002, some people set a railway train compartment alight. Unfortunately, the reasons for this event cannot be described in this short note. From the first of March, within Gujarat started a genocide, where the minority Muslim community was targeted openly- the administrative machinery was inert in some cases, and totally in collusion with the miscreants most of the time. Many of us, outraged, read about this and saw it on television.

The violence continued unabated for months. All sensitive people in the country were appalled, and struggled to formulate responses to the events.

In the month of May, a few of us, film practitioners of varying specialisations, decided to go to Ahmedabad in Gujarat to look at the situation for ourselves, and to see if a secular, sensitive, politicised cinematic response was possible. It was supposed to be a trip of eight days- but on reaching there, we realised the need to stay longer and attempt to do something more substantial. We never knew for sure how long we would stay, but took decisions as the need for them came along.

We shot a little with the equipment we had taken along, and after that, a lot of rethinking, strategising, formulating, discussion took place. The end result was the decision to sustain the effort (consisting of documentation on video) for some time. This meant we needed resources. Appeals were sent by email, phone calls were made, letters were sent- this is how it transformed into a larger effort than initially conceived of, and became a collective. The idea of a collective documentation- collecting footage and creating a archive of it, which would be made available to people free of cost, this emerged out of the discussions. We knew we did not want it to be funded by any institution- that stand was taken at the beginning, and continues till date. Donations from individuals started coming in, offers of equipment, consumables, facilities, time.

Some preliminary general shooting was done. Then, when it started looking like we would be there for a while, focus was brought into the work- what would be covered and what would be left out. We set up workplace-cum-living space for all directly involved with the effort. Volunteers started coming in from different regions, with varying skills and time- we put together plans to have productive collaborations with all of them. Many things happened, and we kept on at it, shooting what we could, with what was available at the time- in terms of equipment, energy and time. We also tried to collect amateur records- photographs, articles, video footage etc. Alongside, we also evolved ways and methods of organising the material to make it accessible to anyone who wanted to use it.

The shooting went on till February 2003. The organisation of the material continues till date. We had 45 people who came personally to Ahmedabad and contributed their time and effort, scores sent equipment and money. We have about 250 hours of material, shot on various formats, mainly DV and hi-8.Some people have used the material in their films, three short films have been made exclusively from the material.

Once the material is fully organised, we intend to spread it around- throw it open for people to make films out of them- of various kinds, films which speak about the events, reasons and perspectives. We also intend this material to be a part of various archives, to increase accessibility. The Shared Footage Group is not a project or an organisation- it has been a collective- different people at different times have contributed in different capacities. It does not have a clear beginning, and definitely not an end. We continue to be involved in it as long as necessary. Most importantly, the Shared Footage work is not a meaningless, purely academic or cinematic activity, undertaken for the personal gain of the people involved in the work, but a creative, political response to a certain event, towards a vision of a more human, just and peaceful world.