Stanislas Giroux made a visually appealing video on Kashmir that went viral on the social media. The 3-minute video showed various aspects of Kashmir and has been positively received and acclaimed for an honest viewpoint by various audiences.
Tell us about yourself
I am a French medical student, about to graduate in a year in the neuro-rehabilitation field. I spend all my free time to explore and discover foreign countries, and I mostly focus on misunderstood places, such as the Middle-East. My goal is to make people change their mind about the clichés that mass media bring and reality on location, by making ultra-short movies about it.
What made you come to Kashmir all the way from France?
I started to gain interest in the problems of borders and grey-zones during my visit in Palestine last year: I naturally came across the Kashmiri issue. I started to study the groundings of this conflict and was surprised that a struggle that started such a long time ago didn’t get more attention.
I am sensitive about human rights issues and I am fascinated by the negative impact of humans in antique and magnificent places on the planet, especially in this zone that poets used to describe as heaven on Earth.
What was going on in the back of your mind when you decided to visit Kashmir considering the reasons that have put Kashmir in the news for the past decades or so?
I wanted to fill my mind with stories of people that want political change in this region, and try to understand why do people rise up in the streets. Local news and even some international newspapers paint this zone as very dangerous: Even Indians met on the train from Delhi to Srinagar told me that I was a bit crazy to explore this place alone.
After years, I realized that most of the humanity is found in troubled areas. Same for pure sentiments and raw feelings.
I wanted to meet with locals to feel that way of life, hear them, follow them, and capture them on tape in their land, as I was invisible.
How was your stay in Kashmir? What did you grow fond of?
I spend about a month in the valley, and it felt like two or three. That’s what I like the most, and I think that’s because Kashmiri take life easy. Some admit being lazy in a funny way, but I was amazed to see it’s a time distorted area. People work from 10 am, to 4 pm, and can easily skip an afternoon if they meet someone to chat with. Solving a big problem in a month should sound stressful for a westerner. Here: Ok, we have time, let’s have a nun-chai and talk about it later. This easy way of life that I liked, was also about the friendliness of locals: Driving in the street and see a friend? No problem, just stop the car in the middle and go out to give a hug. Don’t have a house big enough to organize a wedding? No problem, just put a massive tent in the middle of the street, and block half of the road; Everyone around will send them greetings, nevermind for traffic jams.
Was it hard for you to take photographs of the protestors on the streets?
Not at all in the frontline, because people were face covered. A bit trickier behind them, where some are around without a mask. You have to explain them your intentions quickly so that they understand that you won’t betray their privacy (“cover your face”). It’s also a good occasion for small talk with protestors, and with the civilians that cross the troubled zone.
I kept in mind the motto of James Nachtwey: If your pictures are not good enough, you’re not close enough. Everything goes quick, and a few minutes before a protest, the inhabitants, bus drivers, and locals already know that something is going to happen. Being ready and set is the hardest part of taking photographs there. Making friends help.
You must have had memorable experiences in Kashmir, can you share a few of the most remarkable one?
I’m a resident doctor in neuro-rehabilitation medicine. I randomly met hundreds of patients to help them with what I had. A family offered me their house for two weeks to take care of the grandpa that recently suffered a stroke. The family was golden. After a lot of medical advice given around, I figured out that opening a clinic here would be a great idea to make a living. But quickly, I learnt that only Kashmiri could own a property on their land. The funny grandmother suggested me to open a floating clinic and get rich.
How do you think of the parallels of the video that you have made?
I wanted to show a neutral point of view about the situation. My role is not to blame either Hindus or Muslims. Actually, some military were really friendly, and the same was for stone-pelters. In that context, my parallels between opposites were set in the most neutral way. I think that it wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t stayed in the same city for my whole trip. Staying a long time in a zone makes you melt in the mood, to capture it in the most accurate way it deserves.
How do you compare the’ heaven and hell Kashmir’ that you mentioned in the video?
The hell pictured on TV should be compared to the truth: Living in a troubled doesn’t mean that people want to stab and kill you, especially in Kashmir. People are the most welcoming on earth (even more that Iranians who were on my top-list), and they are part of the heaven side of the valley. For me, hell might be media and politics. TV shutdown should replace internet shutdowns in the valley.
How has the feedback on your project been so far?
It was a first attempt to try a journalistic approach for me, and I was surprised how people liked and shared it in the very first days after being online. I’m now stumbling upon all the reactions, discussions, and debates that flows away from it: some people are quite aggressive when the discussion switch to politics. I let people make their opinion about such aggressivity.
It was the first time my work was described as beautiful and ugly at the same time, and it’s good news for me: i discovered I was able to play with people guts with something different than medications!
Would you come back to Kashmir?
Invite me for a Wazwan!
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