Odia filmmaker Lipika Singh Darai’s documentary “Some Stories Around Witches” depicts the humanitarian crisis surrounding instances of witch hunting, taking us closer to the people who have been accused, ostracised and tortured for being ‘witches’.
Through stories from some parts of Odisha, it enquires into the circumstances that lead to witch hunting: a teenage girl kills an old woman, one of her relatives, for being a witch and the cause of her father’s death; a village turns into a mob overnight to kill three people – a man and two women identified as witches by a witch doctor; a family believed to bring ill fate, is excommunicated and threatened after it cooks meat.
The Film explores the politics of witch hunting – how superstition, greed, ignorance, fear, insecurity and power work together to cause immense violence and suffering.
It has many quietly devastating moments, but few are as heart-rending as the one in which a five-year-old girl in a school uniform says she was accused by her teacher of turning into a cat at night and sucking the blood of her fellow students.
Some Stories About Witches is bereft of the tabloid sensibility that usually marks investigations into the ancient practice. Lipika Singh Darai and cinematographer Indraneel Lahiri merge into the rural landscape, whose emerald beauty and neatness makes it a startling stage for such barbarism.