31 October,2014:Â In a rare distinction for the country, a Kolkata girl has become not only the youngest, but the only woman from India to ever win a Green Oscar in a global category.
Ashwika Kapur, a natural history filmmaker, won a Green Oscar recently in Bristol, UK. Also known as the Wildscreen Panda Awards, it is one of the most influential and prestigious events in the wildlife and filmmaking calendar. The 26-year-old has won the award in the Best Newcomer category for her documentary, ‘Sirocco: How a Dud Became a Stud’. The category, which was open globally, featured three nominees worldwide.This year, the Wildscreen Film Festival received 488 entries from 42 countries.
Ashwika’s film focuses on the critically endangered Kakapo parrots -a flightless species native to New Zealand. The bird, which looks like a cross between an owl and a parrot, is nocturnal and can live up to 100 years.
It is also the world’s heaviest parrot, weighing as much as three kg. Among the rarest of birds, only 125 Kakapos are alive today and most of them live on a single, quarantined island in the south Pacific. There are so few left that all of them have been named individually. One of them, Sirocco, is perhaps the only bird in the world with a government job. He is so popular in New Zealand that Prime Minister John Key gave him a job Official Spokesbird for Conservation -in 2010.
“The Green Oscar is a validation of my efforts.The journey so far has been highly enriching as well as challenging. My non-science background background has been a handicap, but science journals and research papers help me overcome the disadvantage,” said Ashwika. She added, “The film is the delightful, rags-to-riches story of this unique Kakapo -a loveable bundle of feathers -which betrays human-like emotions. Sirocco is a VIP, and acts like one, in New Zealand and has a reserved seat on aircrafts when he travels to meet his fans.”
What makes the win all the more special for her is that the documentary was literally a one-woman project. “From scientific research and script ing, all the way down to camerawork, editing and music, the film was an entirely solo project. Apart from film festivals, I have taken the film to schools, col leges and clubs across Kolkata,” Ashwika said, adding that over 14,000 people from 162 countries voted the Kakapo the world’s favourite species in 2013. The tiger and the African elephant came second and third.
Ashwika, who completed her postgraduation in science and natural history filmmaking from the University of Otago, New Zealand, said the film aims at spreading the message that there are no better ambassadors for conservation than the endangered animals themselves.She has travelled extensively across Africa, Asia and Australia with her camera and worked on films for the WWF and hopes to raise awareness about wildlife through her work. She is currently involved in the filming and production of two television programmes for international blue-chip companies in India.
Previous winners from India in the Green Oscars include wildlife filmmaker and conservationist Mike Pandey, the Bedi Brothers (Ajay and Vijay) and Dusty Foot Productions.
Source:The Times of India