Indian Rahul Jain shakes with shock pollution film


I wouldn’t call it a movie “no future”, but it’s a film about the fear of not having a future Says Indian director Rahul Jain, 30. Selected for the new “Cinema for the climate” section of the Cannes Film Festival, Invisible Demons documents the terrifying pollution of soil, water, air and bodies in New Delhi.

RFI : Invisible Demons starts in a park, we hear the birds, look at the plants, but very quickly the pollution will have invaded everything. Why was it urgent for you to make this film ?

Rahul jain : I think I’m a little late for this date [le mouvement écologique, ndlr], but it is high time to find ways to express feelings, impressions, experiences about the loss of our relationship with the natural world. I grew up in one of the biggest cities in the world, New Delhi, believing that my water came from a tap, not a river. When I was growing up, we started asking questions like: we are the species that is so fundamentally disconnected from the things that have made us for the last millions of years. This change has happened so rapidly over the past century.

Have you also had a personal experience that made you evolve ?

When I got sick on my way back to Delhi after a month of hiking in the mountains, I saw Delhi from the plane – which also produces a lot of pollution. I saw my hometown covered with a thick blanket of gray and black smoke. It did something to me.

When I was young, each trip to school was an hour. I used to see rivers filled with foam. As they grew older, the size of these scum islands on the river also increased. I still thought the world was going to do something, but today I became an adult and it got even worse. So I try to express myself as a filmmaker, maybe that’s the way to help in my own way. Today I am young, if there is a time when I can do it, it is now.

Rahul Jain at the Cannes Film Festival 2021. The documentary “Invisible Demons” by the Indian director has been selected for the new section “Cinema for the climate”.
Rahul Jain at the Cannes Film Festival 2021. The documentary “Invisible Demons” by the Indian director has been selected for the new section “Cinema for the climate”. © Siegfried Forster / RFI

In the film, you introduce yourself as an air conditioned kid who has never in his life seen a clean river. Unvisible Demons, is it a movie no future ?

I wouldn’t call it a movie no future, but it’s a film about the fear of not having a future. The fear of not knowing if I will have a place to breathe and eat healthily from the world around me.

In the film, a reporter for the New Delhi News Channel (NDTV) reports on pollution every day, but nothing changes. What a documentary presented at the Cannes Film Festival can do or change ?

I don’t know what a film at Cannes can do or change. On the other hand, I would like to believe maybe in what a film can do to the individual, just taking into account how films have affected me deeply. In my opinion, this is the biggest change a work of art can bring about. It can cause the individual to think and feel differently.

The film reveals an apocalyptic reality : mountains of garbage, rivers of chemical bubbles, air pollution as heavy as fog, five-lane highways totally clogged with cars. Why do you only make simple or poor people react to pollution, why haven’t you also questioned politicians ?

If you point one finger at someone, you are pointing four fingers at you at the same time. I do not intend to explicitly involve a person. I could also blame an organization or a company, but I wanted to approach the problem in a more systemic way. It’s not like one person is responsible. I wanted to find a way for people to ask questions. This is where the film is coming from. He doesn’t say: they did that. The film is born from this kind of helplessness.

We see people suffering, but also praying. At the same time, a man warns us : “ Everything has changed, even the gods have changed. »Do you have the feeling that people have changed too ? People who are suffering, are they mobilizing to change things ?

I would like to believe that we live in a world where people change. For the simple reason that I too have changed over the past five years. I hope we all have the capacity to change. Otherwise it would be a sad world.

Pollution scene in New Delhi in “Invisible Demons”, by Indian director Rahul Jain, selected for “Cinema for the climate” at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival.
Pollution scene in New Delhi in “Invisible Demons”, by Indian director Rahul Jain, selected for “Cinema for the climate” at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. © Toinen Ktse Oy / Ma.Ja.De Filmproduktions Gbmh

Your film is part of the first selection of seven environmental films at the Cannes Film Festival, the program Cinema for the climate. At the same time, the National Cinema Center (CNC) in France announced a plan Action !. In the future, only films that publish their carbon footprint will be eligible for subsidies. Are you for an obligation of a carbon footprint when preparing or shooting a film ?

Absolutely. I think the way we behave should be driven by climate change. Everything we consider essential to be alive needs to be reoriented and adapted to the laws of the endangered biosphere. A lot of the things that we grew up with in the 20th century seeing them as “normal”, we have to let go of them as a bad habit.

You will display the carbon footprint of your films ?

Absolutely. Of course, as Jean-Luc Godard says: “ Filmmakers like to be hypocrites “. But I’ll do my best to find a way to release as little carbon as possible when making a movie. I am really happy that the CNC has taken this step. I can only be delighted to see that France, which has had such a great influence on the history of cinema, is taking this bold and crucial new step.

In Cannes, professionals from all over the world see your film. Who will see the film in India ? Will it be distributed on platforms or in theaters ?

It is not yet decided. But I am convinced that the place, the people and the way of seeing a film are also part of the film itself. This is an essential question, but gravely beyond my control.

Is it difficult to sell a film about ecological crises in India ?

I’ve never seen a movie like this. So, I hope it won’t be difficult to sell a movie like this. I hope people want to hear and see the truth about what they are going through every day.

Read also : Cannes 2021 and ecology, a pioneering film festival?

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