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Is this just a story? Friendships and fictions for speculative alliances. The Yugantar film collective (1980–83)

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Idhi Katha Matramena/Is this just a story? (1983) is one of three short films made by the feminist film collective Yugantar (1980–83). Through a collaborative process with members of the activist and research collective Stree Shakhti Sanghatana, the film developed into an improvised fiction. The collective’s self-reflective debates, or activist ‘study’ (Harney and Moten 2013) on the manifold layers and subtlety of physical and emotional violence within the family, including their own hitherto unspoken experiences, brought forth novel aesthetic vocabularies affording new female subjectivities on-screen. Those in turn offered a new political language that entered the autonomous women’s movement in India, off-screen. I argue for the political as constituted in the interstices between activism, research and the creative collective process of film-making, rather than political film as either advocacy for a set political agenda or a position of autonomous creative/artistic practice and thought. I particularly stress legacies of feminist fiction’s ‘passionate constructions’ (Haraway 1988), i.e., experimental film practice that is specifically cultivated out of collective study and the complexities of feminist friendship, forging a process of collective imagination as speculative politics. Thinking from Yugantar’s contextually situated practice as an expansion of the possible, I join arguments for fiction and speculation as modes of feminist intervention in South Asian film, activism and discourse. Rather than stressing an authentically Indian legacy of feminist film, however, this exploration of Idhi Katha Matramena highlights collective aesthetic practices that build solidarities within the context of India, and through speculative cinematic friendships across space/time localities of radical change. The text thus probes Yugantar’s past practice as a pertinent spectre for our present future.

Keywords: cinematic friendships; domestic violence; feminist documentary; fiction; living archives; women’s movement in India

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Goldsmiths, University of London

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • The Moving Image Review & Art Journal (MIRAJ) is the first international peer-reviewed scholarly publication devoted to artists' film and video, and its contexts. It offers a forum for debates surrounding all forms of artists' moving image and media artworks: films, video installations, expanded cinema, video performance, experimental documentaries, animations, and other screen-based works made by artists. MIRAJ aims to consolidate artists' moving image as a distinct area of study that bridges a number of disciplines, not limited to, but including art, film, and media.
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