Sundargarh’s tryst with life and sports in The Tribal Scoop at Woodpecker

The Tribal Scoop belongs to a genre of stories we are all too familiar with.

Encroachment upon tribal land, displacement of indigenous tribes and their ways of life, constitutional or legal respite with no real executive force, false promises of industrialization and modernity, extreme competition for life itself through a bottleneck sport.

Beeswaranjan Pradhan’s topical documentary was screened at the recently concluded 6th Woodpecker International Film Festival in Delhi.

Hockey is the national sport of India. It also happens to open a pathway to social mobility for many young adults and their families in Sundargarh, a district of impeccable talent where institutional and social support systems are available to hone skills, nurture talent, and produce exceptional players in significant numbers.

A quick statistical round up of history will present a staggering number of hockey players on national international fronts to have belonged to Sundergarh.

Sundargarh is also home to a rampantly growing mining industry that is alarmingly drilling away the region to dust, polluting or diverting natural water, and gnawing away at the ecosystem which sustains the everyday lives of the indigenous tribes.
Promises across MoUs [memorandums of understanding] between state and industry about majoritarian employment of the locals remain unfulfilled and fueling the resentment the natives and their unions have towards the skilled labour migrating to the region from elsewhere. A significant part of the population lives under tumultuous BPL conditions.

Pradhan attempts to weave an extensive yet intricate network of the many crises plaguing the region and its people through a series of cross-sectional views of the social order, interviews of people across different social backgrounds, state representatives and activists.

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Constant juxtaposition of hope and suffering, success and failure, sometimes in the same shot/scene, lays bare the relationships between problems and avenues in the region. The links between modern politics, exploitation, law, economy, ecosystem, sports, and indigenous tribes are enmeshed in varying scales of power and representation. Pradhan’s film scoops up a representational cross-section of the Sundargarh condition.

Despite abundance of natural resources and possibility of opportunities in the region, acute mismanagement and failure of the state to endorse the rights and lives of the natives, worsens their socio-economic position. The film comments on this ironic state of affairs in Sundargarh where availability and access are gradually getting farther away from each other.

The Tribal Scoop is a straightforward, strong and clear indictment of the parties at fault — a visual analytical essay of a complex and unsettling social condition.

The 6th Woodpecker International Film Festival took place from 23 to 25 November 2018 at Siri Fort in Delhi.

The programme included an eclectic collection of Indian and international short films, feature films, documentaries and masterclasses centered around the issues of gender, sexuality, environment, wildlife, immigration and other contemporary concerns plaguing the social order today.

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