Film Education


My Short film “Mamaiji” (Grandmother) at the 7th IDSFFK International Documentary and Short Film festival of Kerala

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It is always a joy to be traveling with your film and I feel that a work of art is always in the making, it is never really complete, you discover it a new way through the eyes of the audience each time and your work takes a rebirth.

Recently I was invited with my short film “Mamaiji”(Grandmother) to the 7th IDSFFK International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala.  I received a personal email from the Artistic Director Bina Paul Venugopal , who is the heart and soul of the festival(and has sadly retired from the festival this year) and I quote This year along with IAWRT we are programming a section of Short Fiction Films by Women  and would very much like to screen Grandmother in this Special Focus which was to be curated by Anupama Sreenivasan, Festival Director IAWRT (The International Association of Women in Radio and Television) Asian Women’s Film Festival. I am also very grateful along with Bina to Anupama for taking interest in my little film and giving it a beautiful platform starting with the IAWRT festival itself held earlier in June 2014. So it seemed Kerala was calling and I packed my bags to visit the beautiful land.

Once I reached Kerala I was in the care of Bandhu Prasad who was in charge of the Festival Filmmakers’ Liason & Artists’ Facilitation Desk who made all the necessary arrangements for us to feel at home and enjoy the festival. As I drove from the airport to the hotel I cannot forget the first impression of leaping white waves dancing to their bliss of existence, so complete so powerful a vision that stayed with me and one of the regrets of this visit was that I did not find the company in others or myself to come back to the seashore but my wish was fulfilled in a cinematic experience latter in the festival itself so that was some consolation. I quickly proceeded to my hotel and reaching on July 18th was in time for the Opening Ceremony of the festival which had an inspiring speech by Rajiv Mehrotra, Managing Trustee PSBT(Public Service Broadcasting Trust), who I made a mental note of to meet in the near future. He was not quiet the person I had in mind who would head a government organization like PSBT as he passionately advocates the cause of the independent documentary in India.

Opening ceremony

 

I met a few friends, one of who was on the Jury ( no, I  would not be breaking any rules if I met him as my film was not in competition and was part of a Special Focus section) but he was kept so busy by the Festival authorities during the festival that I could not spend any time with him on the remaining days which was disappointing but was compensated by other activities and films and there was always something exciting to do.  The two opening films “La Estancia” and “Nelson Mandela, The Myth and Me” both were a good beginning to exploring new perspectives. There was dinner thereafter and a good night’s rest followed.

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19th July and I open my hotel door to be greeted with headlines from the festival. It felt like company  to be welcomed by the newspaper of the state mentioning your film. That was the day my film was to be screened. It was an almost packed house for the Special Focus session. There was a special Q and A arranged with the filmmakers but what was a slight damper was that each film did not get its focus in the Q&A as it was after all the 4 films screened and some of the audiences started walking out of the auditorium after the screenings. But that is always the case and why do I complain, there are so many films to catch in a festival like this.

Standing for the Q&A with Anupama and the other young woman filmmakers Anoodha Kunnath, Arya Rothe in the special focus ‘Films by Women’ an interesting question arose about the perspective of women filmmakers, the question put to Anoodha who had directed her short film ‘My Grandfather’s Yakshi’  was that why did she not use a young girl as the protagonist and instead a boy as the film was born out of her own personal life and something her grandfather use to tell her. What was more interesting is when the topic came to the discussion what really consisted in the film which was unique as a woman director’s perspective and I in turn asked the audience what they felt in her film was not a woman’s perspective. We were told that the cameraman must have been a male gender as the way he captured the female ‘Yakshi’ was sensual and more like a man.

This opened a very interesting question to explore in all our films. What is it that a woman filmmaker can do or say in a film, is she just more sensitive and can we really find a particular vocabulary in women filmmakers’ in modern times and is there a need. Of course there was Laura Mulvey and a lot of independent women filmmakers before and after her who fought the traditional grammar of filmmaking to represent the woman as object and made radical shifts but are there nuances that are subtle yet obvious in a woman filmmaker. In fact its always sensitive men filmmakers like Satyajit Ray that we talk about in relation to powerful women sensitive films and many commercial women film directors today don’t like being slotted as a woman filmmaker. Can you really tell the difference is something that I have not yet found a definite answer for and am still searching as an audience and artist.  It’s interesting that my film never set out to be about a woman but yes the feminine gender does hold an important place in my identity and search as an artist which subconsciously surfaces itself in my work. The film for me was about making the ‘ordinary’, ‘extraordinary’ which is all around us and in its simple existence is so beautiful and rich. There were some questions about my film which I was most happy to discuss and the film had a fan (who had most of the questions to ask) in one charming young lady who was a young filmmaker herself,  Vaishnavi and was participating with her film “Doll” dealing with the metamorphosis of a relationship between a young girl and a barber, there was a passion and excitement that I saw in her eyes and I am sure she will go places, we connected and remain so.

Oo in audience

I did shortlist quite a few films but just managed to see the following which I was richer by the experience and touched me in more ways than one.

I would like to make a special mention of the documentary “The Invisible wars”. I was choked  by the Investigate Documentary directed by Kirby Dick dealing with the epidemic of rape within the US military and its cover up. Here are these strong women who are broken from within and their lives are not the same. Sitting at a comfortable distance from the trauma I could not even begin to understand their pain and justice was in the waiting. I felt I needed to follow the story in real life and hoped justice would be delivered soon, here is one film which goes into the real world and can make a difference. The documentary premiered at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, where it received the U.S. Documentary Audience Award and was also nominated for the academy awards.


Trailer “The Invisible wars”

My desire for the sea was soon fulfilled and I experienced cinematic pleasure for 81 min seeing the “Coast of Death”  – a poetic ode to the Galician coast in northwestern Spain in which a fly on the wall camera observes the magical land of ‘meigas’(witches) where fog and drizzle prevail. The filmmaker says We adopt a slow and poetic view, letting time going by within the image´s frame, this allows us to observe landscape´s movements. To convey the idea of dialogue and relationship between landscape and people we use wide shots where the human figure is seen distant but his voice is heard close. The story suggests the experience of Finisterre´s landscape. A journey that will go away from reality to a dreamy look immersed in the mythical representation of the Coast of Death. This experimental feature was judged the best New Director at the Locarno Film festival 2013.

Trailer “Coast of Death”

I was introduced to the personal and professional world of Sukhdev by his daughter Shabnam Sukhdev who takes us on a personal journey coming to terms with her famous father after his death, trying to find the man and father she never understood all her childhood and a coming of age film. It was a beautiful discovery  titled “The Last Adieu” .

Trailer “The Last Adieu”

I took this opportunity not to miss seeing the animation film “True Love Story”(18 min) by Gitanjali Rao sensitively and creatively capturing a Bollywood style love story as a theme which was part of the 2014 Cannes Film Festival 10 selected short films at the Critics Week. I would like to quote below from an interview done by Animationexpress.com

True Love StoryTrue Love story 2

 

What inspired to make ‘True Love Story’?

I had been toying with the idea of first love for a while. And being a Bombayite I spent a lot of time in traffic jams watching at life unfolding on the street sides. I began to get interested in the lives of street boys who work hard selling flowers and books at traffic signals but are looking for love by impressing girls all the time.  I loved observing the small flirtations that happen between these flower sellers. I wished to tell the story of these young boys and girls who have complicated migration stories yet their spirit survives in the chaos of the big city, and then, emerged a first love story between two people living on the streets of Bombay.

 

Another charming world opened up with the documentary “Songs of the Blue Hills” by Utpal Borpujari. It is a feature length documentary, the first ever film (mentioned by the filmmakers) to present a wide range of Naga music and musicians to take the viewer on a journey through contemporary forms of Naga folk music.  

During the course of the festival I happened to enter a screening of a film in progress by a young filmmaker Tanushree Das. I was impressed by its contemplative style and self-reflection which used image, sound and the medium of sms text messages, “For You and Me” is a film of yearning and the struggle to sustain relationships in a society steeped in both physical as well as technological distance. Since I reached almost at the end and missed it I made it a point to communicate with the director at the festival and managed to make contact and now await to see the film which she has so kindly personally shared with me.

Bina Paul Venugopal introducing the Impact Campaign Workshop conducted by IDF

Bina Paul Venugopal introducing the Impact Campaign Workshop conducted by IDF

One of the other highlights of the festival were the workshops and one of them attracted me was titled ‘Impact Campaign Workshop’ Conducted by the IDF Indian Documentary Foundation which is a Not-for-profit organization co-founded by Jaaved Jaaferi and Sophy VSivaraman for the Promotion, Development and Funding of Documentaries in India and about India. I felt the workshop was targeted for young filmmakers and some experienced filmmakers felt out of place during some of the activities but however it was nice to be introduced to this platform which is very encouraging for the medium of documentary and non-commercial film. So I might catch up with Sophy and the gang in the near future and see if worlds meet and if it interests you do have a look at their website and work.

Sophy VSivaravan Co Founder of IDF

Sophy VSivaravan Co Founder of IDF

Javed Jaaferi talks about IDF

 

The festival for me was coming to an end and it was not possible to attend everything and one of the many things I missed were the films and talk by Saba Dewan, who was the Filmmaker in Focus at the festival, and will explore her work shortly. She says  Paradoxically, more creative documentaries are made in the of darkest times and during the most oppressive regimes… Funding and distribution of documentaries are important, but if the film has nothing new or creative to convey, it will all be useless.

Saba Dewan

I did not go to the sea but I managed to pick up some traditional mundus for my dad from a Kerala emporium from the main market close by and ended my day with beautiful company with two spirited lovely lady filmmakers – Shashwanti Talukdar and Kavita who were put up in the same hotel as myself and were attending the festival with their film “Wall Stories”.

Wall Stories

I was leaving the next day and they had just arrived, we shared a meal and we parted, I came to Mumbai and they continued to savour the pleasure of being in the company of cinema.

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