‘Bombay Our City’


Sean Cubitt, London, Nov. 1985
For this reviewer at least one of the most important films in the festival (London International Film festival). Completed this year in different countries, shot under appalling conditions by the prize-winning director of ‘Time to Rise’ and ‘Prisoners of Conscience’, this is more than just a document of the urban shanty dwellers of Bombay, the attacks on them and their struggle for survival and the right to live. Patwardhan goes beyond the always relentless agitprop of his earlier films to question the film crew’s right to make it, and the role of the making of the film in building a powerful association of slumdwellers to fight on their behalf.Not shying away from on-camera criticisms of their work, the crew become actively engaged in fights, and veer away from Panorama-style gloss (dramatic shots of bulldozers roaring in over people’s homes) to serious questioning of the social structures that have produced this scandalous regime, and an engagement with the subject that converts sympathy into political action. At the same time, it raises the important question for the Western viewer – by what right do I watch tales of Third World poverty, of Third World agitation? Simply one of the best documentaries I have ever seen.