Movies have a profound influence on societies worldwide, shaping opinions and reflecting various aspects of life. They possess the power to address social issues, revolutionize perspectives, spread truths, and even promote propaganda.

Given their potency, can movies be effectively utilised as tools for risk communication, specifically in the context of disaster risk among communities?

This discussion explores how a Malayalam movie named “2018” from Kerala, the southernmost state in India, endeavors to communicate risk to the people of Kerala and the wider Indian audience. It delves into the film’s portrayal of the 2018 Kerala flood, which resulted in the loss of approximately 480 lives and displaced over 1 million people across the state.

Disaster risk communication entails the exchange of relevant information and knowledge between communities, experts, officials, and other stakeholders. The objective is to enable communities to make informed decisions during and prior to a disaster, thereby reducing its impact and associated risks.

The analysis focuses on the risk communication aspects in the film from the perspective of a disaster management professional rather than a film critic.

  1. Historical context: The film begins by imparting the history of previous disasters in the state, such as the flood that occurred a century ago. This initiative is commendable as understanding the past and documenting it is crucial for comprehending the landscape in which people reside. Examples like the flood marks and pictorial representations in old houses in Germany depicting floods from the 1800s exemplify the significance of historical awareness.
  2. Scientific explanations: The movie incorporates a character who discusses scientific factors contributing to the disaster, such as low-pressure formation in the Bay of Bengal and the rise in average global temperature. It also highlights human interaction with the environment as a major factor in the climate crisis. By integrating these scientific explanations, the film raises awareness about the causes and implications of such calamities.
  3. Celebrating heroes and unity: During crises, humanity and volunteerism often shine through, transcending differences. The movie celebrates the contributions of ordinary individuals who, despite not being experts in rescue and relief operations, offer their help. This portrayal serves as motivation for people worldwide to take action during times of crisis.
  4. Emotional journey: The film takes audiences on an emotional journey, delving into individual stories and experiences. Each character’s story has been portrayed skillfully, establishing a strong connection with the audience as they navigate the situation of a flood. The depiction of each person’s role during the crisis prompts us to contemplate the notion that everybody has a vital part to play in times of adversity. It powerfully conveys the profound impact of crises on human lives, underscoring the importance of unity and compassion during challenging times.
  5. Fishermen community and stakeholder engagement: The film emphasizes the efforts of Kerala’s fishermen community and effectively portrays their journey. It highlights the importance of resourceful thinking and the efficient utilisation of various stakeholders’ potential during crises. This aspect underscores the significance of community engagement in disaster response and recovery.
  6. Utilisation of communication tools: The movie showcases the rapid use of communication tools like WhatsApp for information dissemination and crisis communication. It also portrays various methods employed to mobilise volunteers, emphasising the role of technology in coordinating relief efforts.

Though the movie failed to accurately portray the government systems and their role in risk communication. It is crucial for people to understand the capabilities of the government structure and how it effectively channels information during disasters. The film missed an opportunity to shed light on these aspects, leaving room for improvement.

2018, the Malayalam movie, effectively communicates the concept of risk to its audience. It skillfully combines elements of entertainment, such as captivating songs and subtle humor, with a compelling narrative to convey the challenges faced and the valuable lessons learned from the devastating 2018 Kerala flood. Additionally, mentioning “Malayankunju,” a 2022 Malayalam film that explores the importance of timely evacuation and the seriousness of warnings through a survival thriller in the background of a landslide, further illustrates the film industry’s attempts to depict risk and crisis management. Crises serve as reminders of our collective responsibility to support and care for one another, necessitating a humane and collaborative approach.

Durga Mohanakrishnan