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Testimony of Ana, a tale of witchcraft allegations in the hinterlands

Filmmaker, Sachin Dheeraj Mudigonda directed short film ‘Testimony of Ana’ chronicles the tale of an elderly woman, Anaben Pawar, accused of being a witch. The film received its world premiere at Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and received its European premiere at Krakow Film Festival.

Frontier India conducted a short interview with Sachin Dheeraj Mudigonda.

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What made you select this story? Do you have any personal experience as a participant or witness to such an incident?
After reading many articles about “Witch-Hunting” happening in modern India, I was curious as to why these things were happening. Hence I decided to do some fieldwork regarding this, and in the process, I met Anaben Pawar, who was one survivor of such vicious attacks. Once I met her, I had decided that I have to tell her story. And no, I do not have any personal experience as a participant or witness to such incidents.

Sachin Dheeraj Mudigonda
Sachin Dheeraj Mudigonda

What is your take on the prevalence of Witchcraft in India?
I don’t think there is a prevalence of “Witchcraft,” but rather there is a prevalence of “Witch-Hunting.” And yes, I think the prevalence of “Witch-Hunting” in modern India is mortifying — that even in this 21st century, such primitive practices have been happening.

What is the position the movie takes of witchcraft in the modern era?
Again, there’s no witchcraft happening in the modern era, but rather there is a lot of accusation of “Witchcraft” that’s been happening. The film speaks for itself and answers the question of accusation pretty well.

The story

The story intimately essays the trials and tribulations of an Adivasi elder accused of practicing witchcraft by village locals. The story is set deep in the heart of rural India and depicts the protagonist’s undaunted spirit and resilience in the face of societal ostracisation and scathing attacks orchestrated against her. The film sees the woman live in an area beset by widespread logging and highlights her refusal to be driven off the land sets up a conflict deeply rooted in patriarchy and capitalism waged on women’s bodies—the witch-hunt.

Anaben Pawar, Testimony of Ana
Anaben Pawar, Testimony of Ana

The crew

The experimental documentary filmmaker’s earlier short, ‘The Bubbleman’ has premiered at SXSW Denius Longhorn Showcase in 2019 and had been premiered in several renowned film festivals across the world, the most notable of which were the 22nd Annual Cine Las Americas International Film Festival, 2020 Edition of Cinequest Festival & the 13th Annual Lone Star Film Festival in the USA.  

The director is a recipient of the prestigious President’s Award for Global Learning for his upcoming Untitled Thesis Film, and he is also a recipient of the Austin Film Society Grant for his pre-thesis film Testimony of Ana. The documentary director has maintained his core filmmaking philosophy which is to strive to tell stories which call for an immediate conversation and seek to engage with people, places, and communities known to be steadily disappearing.

The film’s Producer Janani Vijayanathan holds the belief that art and technology can bring about a positive influence in people’s lives and that cinema, be it fiction or non-fiction can raise poignant questions, far beyond the capabilities of any other artistic or mass medium. Her work as a producer has been shown at various prestigious film festivals worldwide, including Hot Docs, SXSW, and Krakow. She aspires to combine her software skills with cinematic experiences to produce meaningful work in alternate mediums such as Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality.

The film’s Cinematographer Rohin Raveendran Nair has seen his short film ‘Little Hands’ screened at several reputed film festivals and has premiered in front of both domestic and international audiences. His work has prominently been displayed at Curtas Vila Do Conde, Dharamshala International Film Festival.

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Testimony of Ana, a tale of witchcraft allegations in the hinterlands
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