India recorded its hottest March this year. This triggered an early onslaught of heatwaves across several states like Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Punjab Haryana, Jharkhand, and Delhi. In totality, 280 heat wave days were reported from March 11 to May 18, 2022 — the highest in 12 years. With record-breaking temperatures like these, larger cities faced the worst heat in ages, with Delhi among them. The air pollution in Delhi has been deteriorating since October 2020 and it has only gotten worse; becoming particularly unbearable in the summer.
Acclaimed Indian filmmaker Rahul Jain is best known for his Cinema Eye Honors Award nominee project ‘Machines’ (2016). He recently shot a documentary following the same theme of global warming, capturing the devastating living conditions in the nation’s capital. ‘Invisible Demons’ is an insightful documentary on the environmental state of his home in Delhi. It’s an immersive journey through the lives of some of its residents and their outlook on the degrading conditions their city is going through.
Acknowledging his own wealth and privilege, Rahul refers to himself as an ‘air-conditioned child’. He focuses on the impact of the unchecked industrial complex and the inaccessibility of the poor to any recourse but to stoically soldier on as the situation grows worse. Exploring the dramatic consequences of India’s growing economy, he also not only captures a city in crisis but magnifies our collective climate realities.
Invisible Demons, oddly, has stunning slowed-down shots of the busiest and grimiest places in the city. We see the wide roads packed with cars barely in motion, dogs, cows, and various birds struggling to find solace in a burning city, its citizens trudging about their lives in discomfort and water that’s either white and full of foam or black and slimy; neither fit for human use. The images are visceral and communicate a horrifying realism.
The testimonies of people are engaging as well. Some talk about gods and how we have failed them by ruining the resources they gave us, while others defeatedly explain that sustainable choices are beyond their financial capabilities. We see people neck-deep in water on roads that turned into lakes due to monsoon rains and inefficient drainage systems, and the dry smog that fills up the space so intensely that it causes traffic accidents and even permanent lung damage in children. The threat of a collapsing climate and the distress of living beings facing its wrath are palpable throughout the documentary. Rahul ties up the eye-opening accounts of the people to the backdrop of a dying city in a captivating and thought-provoking visual production. If this is a sign of development, he urges us to imagine what a world without it would look like.
‘Invisible Demons’ is a MUBI release and it streams worldwide starting today.
You can watch it here.
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