‘Drowned Out’ is a powerful documentary film charting the Indian government’s undertaking to dam the River Narmada – and its consequential humanitarian crisis. It is the story of the Jalsindhi villagers, told by Franny Armstrong, who choose to drown rather than leave their ancestral homes and the only way of life they know.
The film has been playing to packed audiences at film festivals worldwide, attracting numerous positive reviews since 2002. It was selected as runner-up in the audience award for best documentary and got a special jury mention for being a film of "enormous heart, grit and insight that is both taut political essay and enormously moving plea" at the prestigious San Francisco International Film Festival. The film (now three years in the making) investigates the mounting causalities to big dam developmental projects.
Franny Armstrong displays the glaring injustice of the Narmada project and the pain it has inflicted by featuring a tribal family. Luhariya Shonkiyara, the protagonist in the documentary, is one of the many tribals that have decided to stay and defend their homes and whose house was the lowest on the riverbank and the first to be submerged. The film tells of the struggle to prevent a dam project in the Narmada valley, which will displace thousands of families and exposes the government’s so called “rehabilitation” programme. These villagers are offered a pittance in terms of rehabilitation for giving up home and hearths and sometimes only in paper. Note – Luhariya Shonkiyara’s second home built to replace the first one that was submerged met the same fate.