01 Technopolitics and Materialism through Films of Chetna Vora


The year is 1976. A shortage of raw stock of films in India becomes intensified under the conditions of emergency imposed by the Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi. On 4th July 1976, prime minister Indira Gandhi visited the German Democratic Republic. This is the same moment that Chetna Vora, an Indian student and film-maker arrives to study at Film institute Babelsberg in  GDR while making a number of films amongst them Frauen im Berlin and Oyoyo. From 1977 onwards almost all Tamil color cinema is shot on the ORWO color stock films made in Bitterfeld-Wolfen plant in GDR. A 1984 satire film (Let it go Friends, dir. Kundan Shah) talks on the fictional character of two photographers applying to an international photo competition organized by ORWO becomes a metaphorical witness to a technopolitics of time that runs amongst various interconnected loops of Past, Present and future under a socialist ambition and internationalist ecosystem.

Does the ‘favoring green color’ film material of ORWO films become a visual telling towards the shared imaginary of the focus on green revolution and self-sustaining crop production for a country growing on a rapid scale under postcolonial conditions? How does the gender politics of socialist feminist solidarities between students from various countries of globe be recounted in film? Where does this loop meet and what emerges on this junction?

Towards an investigation of films such as OYOYO, we find that there is a ‘coming together’, in desire, politics and economics of not only the students from these countries but also of anti-colonial, post-colonial, anti-capitalistic and international concerns. Internationalism is formed and processually constructed frame-by-frame in these films as a possibility. A possibility that remains as liminality. A possible liminality that does not disappear as soon as the two ends between which liminality resides disintegrate, but is sustained by its constant escape from realization (-x and +x, a cold war binary displaced by socialist solidarities in anti-colonial struggles and post-colonial reimaginations).

The research has been presented as a contribution by vinit agarwal for Hidden Labour Across (inter∞note 01), at KV Leipzig 23 August through 17 October 2020, as a spatialized printed matter [download]; furthermore, it constitutes the framework for a conversation between vinit agarwal and militant historian Sónia Vaz Borges.

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