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International Programme 2015
Floating Life Haobam Paban Kumar

The fishermen of Lake Loktak in India have always lived on floating islands. Until the government ordered their evacuation … A moving document of desperate resistance.

Floating Life

Documentary Film
54 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Films Division
Haobam Paban Kumar
Lake Loktak is the biggest freshwater lake in northeast India and unique because of its floating reed islands. For centuries, fishermen have used the floating biomass as building ground for their huts. But this ended in 2011, when the government decided to resettle the approximately 4,000 people living on the lake on the grounds that the fishermen were responsible for the increasing ecological pollution of Lake Loktak. During a first evacuation operation that year the police burned down 300 huts. Many of the people who subsequently left returned because they had no alternative.

About three years later, Haobam Paban Kumar started to follow the events on the lake in his film which won a number of awards in India. He shows a sure grasp of the fears and needs of the people as he starts by observing their busy lives. The events of 2011 are present everywhere, as is the island dwellers’ determination not to be driven out again – because the state is once more getting ready to drive away a traditional lifestyle for alleged higher interests. The film depicts the evacuation of the settlement in touching scenes. The fishermen and their families defend themselves with the power of desperation. Where they win the police withdraw – for the moment. Where the huts are burned down they rebuild them.

Matthias Heeder