The documentary film ‘HOCKEY IN MY BLOOD’, features the most awaited event on the local calendar in Coorg, the Kodava Hockey Festival. Coorg (Kodagu) is a small, hilly coffee growing region in South India. Its people, the Kodavas, are a martial-tribal community known for strong ties to land and family. It is said that if a Kodava is not working on a coffee plantation, he is likely either in the Indian army or playing field hockey.
Every summer, Kodavas of all ages get ready to compete in the unique inter-family Hockey Festival. In 2013, the Madanda Family plays host to the 17th straight edition of the annual event, with over 200 families in contention. The chief organizer is a former rugby player. A proud sportsman, he wants to set world standards in Coorg and works hard to transform barren hinterland into a hockey field. In this background, the film moves between Coorg and Bangalore, exploring the Kodavas’ historic love for the game. We see players from many families, young boys and girls, fathers, uncles, mothers, professionals and even former Olympic heroes. With the families playing for bragging rights for the rest of the year, victories are hard-fought and competition can get heated. At the end of the month-long event, there will be just one winning team but many winners – the sport and the sense of community not least among them. Welcome to The Kodava Hockey Festival!
Sandhya Kumar, the Director of ‘HOCKEY IN MY BLOOD’ said as she explained about the documentary and love of Kodavas for Hockey, “Hockey is India’s national sport, yet the nation is obsessed with cricket. From winning 8 Olympic Gold medals, we now struggle to even qualify for international tournaments. In every open space and alleyway the sport played is cricket. Coorg (Kodagu district) is a notable exception. Ask any Kodava why he plays hockey and he will simply say – because it’s in my blood. Even now, every town in Kodagu has a hockey stadium and every village has a school ground or a paddy field that doubles up as a hockey field. In 1997, in response to the changing status of hockey nationally, a unique event was conceptualized – a hockey tournament pitting Coorg’s families against each other. With age and gender being no bar, the only condition was that all team members had to be from the same family and, every year, a different family was expected to play host to the tournament. Now in its 18th year, the Kodava Hockey Festival has over 200 teams.”
Initially, Sandhya was curious when she heard about the Kodava Hockey Fest and later got fascinated, “When I first heard about the Festival, my initial reaction was of curiosity. What would attract such a large number of family-based teams to play this tournament each year? As I researched more, my curiosity turned into fascination. I found a community that was neither complaining of the declining status of hockey, nor looking for any outside help in keeping its love for hockey alive. They had started their own festival, leveled their own playgrounds, raised funding and run their own tournament year after year. Family members who didn’t know each other a decade ago now took the field together. Young boys and girls who were toddlers in the crowd during the early years of the Festival were now not only playing for their families but also for the state and national teams. For one region to continue to be so passionate about the game is a story in itself. How the Kodavas have used sport as a social glue is uniquely another.”
She thinks that this story of India’s National Sport has to be told, “For me, this is a story on India’s national sport that just has to be told. With the backdrop of the Kodava Hockey Festival, the film will feature conversations with players of all ages from several families, including former Olympians who have been coming home to Coorg from all over the country to play on their family teams. The film will also document the scale and structure of the tournament, the hard work it takes to organise a one-month long community-based event and, most importantly, the passion for hockey that unites the Kodavas.”
The project so close to Sandhya that she has completed most of the shooting with her personal funds and resources. But, she is looking for funds to be able to edit the 60+ hours of footage and turn it into a feature length documentary film. Click here if you wish donate. Note: All donations will be eligible for tax reduction receipts under Section 80(G) of the IncomeTax Act.
About Sandhya Kumar, the Director of ‘HOCKEY IN MY BLOOD’:
Sandhya Kumar is an independent filmmaker based in Bangalore, India. She has been making documentary films since 2008. All her work is rooted in the non-fiction and inspired by the desire to make visible the poetry of everyday life. Sandhya holds an MFA in Film from San Francisco Art Institute, and an MA in Mass Communication from Jamia Millia University, New Delhi. Her work has been shown in international art and film contexts, such as The Pacific Film Archive, Berkeley; SF MOMA; The 3rd I South Asian Film Festival and International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, among others. Sandhya is the recipient of a film grant from India Foundation for the Arts in 2010, and has been an ATSA fellow (ARThink South Asia) in 2011. She can be reached at email@example.com