Africans in Khirki Extension use cinema to tell their story

New Delhi, April 6: A group of five young Africans from south Delhi’s Khirki Extension – where the infamous midnight “raid” targeting them took place almost three months back – have come out with a film documenting their lives and daily struggles in the working class neighbourhood.

The film is an effort to reach out to the locals and clearing the air.

From harassing landlords to fleecing shopkeepers to racial abuses, the over 75-minute documentary, “Cry out loud”, tells the story of African nationals who are accused by the locals of “ruining the atmosphere of the locality”.

Considered “outsiders” and targeted with racial abuse, these Africans come from countries like Ivory Coast, Somalia, Nigeria, Cameroon etc.

Some of the African nationals, present at the screening in the studios of Khoj International Artist Association, situated in one of the many narrow bylanes of the colony, said actions of some “bad elements” had miffed the locals and led to the ugly midnight incident three months ago.

The then law minister, Somnath Bharti along with his supporters ordered police to search houses rented by Ugandan women in the area, claiming they were being used for drug trafficking and prostitution. The hurt caused then runs deep.

“There are some bad elements but they are in minority…I think it’s the cultural difference between the two groups that has led to many misunderstandings, but boycotting all of us is not the way,” said a national of Somalia requesting anonymity.

Apart from depicting their woes, the documentary has provided an insight into the thinking of the locals of Khirki Extension as well.

It shows how some of the residents dared to defend the Africans and were even willing to take on their neighbours and friends of years for the innocent forigners.

“I admit there are differences but these people are our guests… there should be mutual respect for each other so that everyone can live in peace,” said an elderly gentleman in the film as he got a thunderous applause and cheers from the Africans in the hall.

“If the government has allowed them to come here, who are we to stop them?” he added, reacting to reports that Africans were being denied rented accommodations by the locals in the area.

According to the producer of the film, Ethiraj Gabriel Dattatreyan, an Indian filmmaker who shot the film along with the African nationals, the shooting began in January 2013, an year before the controversial “raid” took place but the timing of the release couldn’t have been more perfect, said Dattatreyan.

“We had started shooting before the incident but the film has come out at an appropriate time,” Dattatreyan told IANS.

“Delhi is a place which attracts a lot of people from outside, including Indian states. Why this friction and intolerance? We have to start asking these questions,” he said. “I am hopeful things will change now.”

In its climax, the film asserts that increased interaction and mutual respect for each other’s culture was the only solution to defuse tension between both the groups.

IANS