Archive for January 29, 2011

Well, Sumit Purohit just did that at the ViBGYOR International Film Festival. A pucca pahadi by heart and filmmaker by passion, he is a graduate  from Faculty of Fine Arts, MSU (Baroda). His short film “I Woke Up One Morning And Found Myself Famous” was one of the opening films of the festival. A lesser known festival but it’s all about the issues that matters…read on…

Welcome to the sixth edition of the ViBGYOR International Film Festival.

This is just one of the unique things about the film festival which started 6 years back in Thrissur, the cultural capital of Kerala. For me the community kitchen and the dish washing exercises reflect the spirit of the festival. It disrupts the glamorous image which surrounds the world of cinema and urges filmmakers to connect to the grass root realities. The festival goes beyond merely screening films and brings some of the important social activists together. It also provides space for debating about some of the most relevant issues in today’s time and how cinema can play important role in spreading awareness while the news media runs behind TRPs. And with such discussions happening, I found it hard, as a film maker, at times to choose between listening to them and watching a film.

This year ViBGYOR showcased around 100 short films and documentaries from all over the world in five days, with Anand Patwardhan as the festival director. The connecting thread between all these films is the fact that they kick open the doors to the worlds most of us have conveniently forgotten existed. These worlds have no place in popular filmmaking because they disturb your preconceived notions about reality.

‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, a short film, directed by Bishwash Bala in 2010, has obvious connections to Sergio Leone’s cult spaghetti western. Bala’s film tells the story of the class divide in our society. His visuals remind you of Charlie Chaplin films, he uses the signature background music from Leone’s original film and in the end credit proudly declares it as ‘Music Theft’. Bala has a mischievous smile when you talk to him about his film and end credits. But, there is sincerity in his theft, which I find missing, back in the commercial film making circles in Mumbai.

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The filmmakers I met in Thrissur are more human. They are more accessable, eager to talk about their films honestly and ready to listen to criticism. And the stories behind each film are as interesting as the films. They have braved financial, political and social pressures to tell these stories. As I interacted with some of these filmmakers I realised that commercial filmmakers have no idea what censorship is all about. For them with every censor cut comes more publicity. ViBGYOR gave me insight into a different kind of censorship – when state acts as a censor, it doesn’t ask for cuts but goes far ahead. What happens when a Srilankan filmmaker shows his film which tells the real story behind the LTTE crackdown in Srilanka? He struggles to extend his Indian visa because the Indian government has deep rooted interests in post-war Srilanka and the Indian national media wonders if his film screening is an attempt by LTTE to regroup.

A filmmaker from Manipur is denied an American visa because his film will embarrass both India and USA on an international stage about their stand on Manipur. As a result this young filmmaker misses the chance to show his film and take part in a UN conference. There are other filmmakers who are facing false criminal charges or death threats because their films question the way state functions and have made lot of people in positions of power uncomfortable. ViBGYOR is a brave attempt to give these filmmakers an ideal platform to showcase their work and share their stories.

This 26th January when India celebrated its 61th Republic Day, I wondered are we really a democratic republic? Where your freedom of expression is censored, where if you stand for indigenous people you are charged with sedition charges, where the army is forced to fire on its own people… The festival was a way of reconnecting with the realities of the world, I had left far behind. Most films shown at ViBGYOR didn’t end for me when the end credits rolled. Those images have stayed with me to haunt me, to force me to ask questions and explore beyond the make believe world we live in. And because these films can make a difference there will be lot of people making sure they never reach you.

After my film was screened I had a small conversation, with Saeed Mirza, who inaugurated the festival. As we were discussing about the film he said something which sounded random to me at that moment. “I hope that with every film, the filmmaker becomes wiser”, he said. Why does one need to hope for it? Shouldn’t this be a natural process? Saeed Mirza has worked closely with the commercial Hindi film industry. He knows how some of the most promising filmmakers here have lost the track completely. How when the maker becomes bigger than his story and subject the dishonesty creeps in and makes the film look stupid. That’s where film festivals like ViBGYOR are very important. Yes, the audience are limited here but they are keeping the other cinema alive – cinema of people by the people. Where, every time a filmmaker makes a film he gives away part of his life to that film. He lives and grows with that film and in the process becomes a little wiser every time.

To know more about the festival, click here and here.