Streaming reality: Hard-hitting documentaries that touched our hearts in 2020

From disseminating in-depth information on diverse subjects ranging from socio-economic issues, arts and culture to conservation and climate change, watching documentaries is a different experience altogether. Feisty filmmakers travel far and wide to bring issues plaguing the society to our screens, without letting any fictional element crop up in their works. 2020 too produced certain hard-hitting documentaries that left a mark on the viewers. Here are a few of them.

Elephants in my Backyard

The conflict between animals and humans has resulted in tragic deaths on both sides, even as human encroachment on their natural habitats continues unabated. Who could remain unmoved by the sight of elephants mown down by speeding trains or left to die slowly, agonisingly, (like tragic rhinos are), after their tusks (and horns) have been sawn off? In Hassan, Karnataka, the conflict is particularly antagonistic. Not to be confused with two books by the same name, Vikram Singh's film showcases the pioneering efforts of a conservationist Dr Anand Kumar, who leads a team which is looking at new approaches to deal with the conflict, based on strategies of co-existence.

For the Stripes

Aayush Dudhiya and Divy Bhagia chronicle the relationship between people and the tiger population (62 at last count) of Ranthambore, the royal hunting ground turned National Park in Rajasthan. History, art, wildlife and humans cross-connect here — a deaf-mute artist initiates tiger conservation through his paintings as the struggle between humans and tigers becomes tense. Presenting a nuanced view of the human response to the big cats (Ranthambore is home to leopards and crocodiles as well) the Ahmedabad-based duo explores how the human connection between endangered species and nature can be improved.

Peng Yu Sa

Who has not been thrilled by the sight of giant Manta and mobula rays bellyflopping on the sea and leaping high up into the air? Twenty-two-year old Malaika Vaz’s investigative film traces the depletion of these magnificent creatures from India and Southeast Asia due to illegal trade involving fishing vessels in the Indian Ocean, the Indo-Myanmar border and trafficking hubs in Hong Kong and Guangzhou, China where they are marketed by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners as an immunity booster. En route, Vaz interacts with fishermen, middle men, traffickers, military personnel and wildlife traders, as she strives to discern solutions to protect these endangered species.

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Free Press Journal