Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Of brothels, Oscars and censors...

It's unlikely you haven't heard it. The Oscar for the best documentary this year has gone to Born Into Brothels, which tells the story of children of prostituted-women in Kolkata's red light district. Take a look at this search on which throws up nearly one-third of a million references to the film. MPAA, the Motion Picture Association (earlier, of America), has apparently rated it R for some sequences of strong language. Deccan Herald believes that "the film, in its present form, will have a problem with the censors as it contains profane language". Of course, the other point is that the film's producer says she had promised the prostituted-women that their identity will not be revealed....

To the Garos, in Meghalaya

Robin De of Kolkata's Robin's Visual Concepts produced a film in May-June 2004 on the Wangala dance of the Garo tribe in the Garo Hills of Meghalaya -- in the little-understood North Eastern region of India. De belives that film could play a role in recording for posterity the life-style, cultural practices and beliefs of the tribals of India. His film is in DVCAM format, and 39 minutes long. It's in English. He can be contacted via email at Robin De

Taking films to the beach... and beyond

Bring Your Own Film Festival is a fascinating concept from the eastern Indian state of Orissa. Organisers explain it thus: "For a while some of us,a motley bunch of film makers, felt the need for some free space where independent film makers could gather and show their work to each other, exchange thoughts, ideas, information and experiences. True, there are a few film festivals with such opportunities, but mainly in the oppressive atmosphere of big cities and sometimes under the cloud of a bureaucratic government machinery. No place where we could let our hair down and just be ourselves. So we zeroed in on PURI, for a start we decided to have a film festival right on the beach. After an initial reccee we found the place ideally suited for our purpose." They going on to make a more crucial point -- that "the current scenario of independent film making in India (particularly for documentaries) is in a state of flux". They feel that such attempts made by film makers themselves "will go a long way in giving a boost to the cause of the small, independent documentary, short fiction and feature films". BYOFF says it is also an attempt to take the ‘independent film’ to smaller places, outside of the big cities. We would specially like to encourage younger film makers, who find it difficult to find platforms for themselves." This is an "open-ended five-day" event with some screenings in the night. It works in a simple style: "Participants will mail us about their intention to come and if they are bringing films, they will inform us about the duration and format of the films. We request even those who would like to come but are not sure yet about their ability to attend, to inform us so that we can anticipate the numbers." This year's event was from February 16 to 20. BTW, their blog is here.

Films that focus on the fight for a living

Jeevika describes its goal as that of "show caseing films which focus on peoples' struggles in earning a living in a vocation of their choice." It this time highlighted "15 stories that depict legal and regulatory restrictions, bureaucratic process of approvals and licenses with attendant extortion and harassment as well as social and cultural norms and religious practices that prevent or constrain people from earning an honest living". These -- and the lack of rule of law, absence of transparency and accountability in governance, and poor enforcement of individual rights including property rights -- jointly conspire to "take away the freedom to earn a living". Announced in January 2005 this time round, it called on people to "be a part of the livelihood freedom movement". Programme co-ordinator Manali Shah announced that the films being shown included Dhanya Pilo's Bhuj 40, Rupashree Nanda's Harvest of Hunger, Pankaj Kumar Rishi's Gharat, Biju KC's ...3...2..1..0? Who Can Change Me?, Suhaik Bukhari and Piyush Pushpak's Zarina, Kapilas Bhuyan's Breathing Without Air, Amudhan RP's Pee (Shit), Raza Haider and Kaukab's Pedal Soldier of India, Rakesh Sharma's Aftershocks: A Rough Guide to Democracy, Swati Khatri's Peruwale Gaikwad, Mousmi Bilkish's Kobi (The Versifier), Gurpreet Singh and Justin Jolly Samuel's TRAN, The Three, Meenakshi Vinay Rai's ... and the Nomads Took Root, Balaji Mohan Rajkumar, Rita Chaudhry, Saharika Suri and Ipsit Patel's Chhakda, and Nimish Desai's A Life of Motion and Commotion. It's venue has been the Centre for Civil Society at K35 Hauz Khas Enclave in New Delhi, which is also linked here.

The Indian documentary... historical background has this two-part commentary on the Indian documentary. It begins thus: "The Indian documentary may be traced back to the 'Factual films' or Topicals as they were called, of Harishchandra Sakharam Bhatwadekar (Save Dada) who in 1899 shot a wrestling match and between two well-known wrestlers Pundalik Dada and Krishna Navi at Bombay's Hanging Gardens. A short followed this on the antics of monkeys - the first Indian 'documentaries.' In 1901 he made perhaps the first Indian newsreel of the public reception accorded to Ragunath P Paranjpye who had won a special distinction in Maths at Cambridge and in 1903 covered the great Durbar held in Delhi to celebrate the coronation of Edward VII." Part II of the article here concludes thus: "With the advent of video and particularly DV, today the entire scenario of documentary filmmaking of India has changed. More and more independent filmmakers and organizations are making their own documentaries. While continuing to make documentaries, Films Division organized the inauguaral International Film Festival for documentaries, short films and animations in both film and video formats at Mumbai in 1990, where much of this work was seen along with short films, animations and documentaries made internationally. The Festival, competitive in nature, also includes retrospectives of Master Documentary Filmmakers the world over and has an International Film Market to help filmmakers sell their films. The Festival has become so successful that it is now held every two years in Mumbai with the 7th edition scheduled in February 2002." Too bad it didn't take note of the initiatives of film-makers, particularly their fight against archiac censorship concepts.

Film-makers in Delhi

Via Media introduces itself thus: "We are independent filmmakers based in New Delhi, India, involved in the production of documentary films and other electronic media products on topics of science, technology, art, society and culture for last ten years." Films they have worked on are listed here. One of the films on this page includes Buddha Weeps in Jadugoda. They've edited and voiced this hour long documentary about the effects of Uranium mining on the tribal people of Jadugoda in Jharkhand (Bihar). Directed by Sri Prakash of Ranchi (April 1999). Participated and won the third prize at the Himal South Asian Film Festival, Kathmandu, Nepal in September 1999.

Database of documentary film in India... only an attempt

Here's an attempt to build a listing of Indian documentary films. Only 22 as of date. Obviously huge gaps in information...

From Mumbai (Bombay): Anjali, Jayasankar's work... and more

Naata, or "The Bond" is a touching film about how we can learn the message of peace and tolerance from Asia's "largest slum", Dharavi in India's commercial capital of Mumbai (formerly Bombay). If you want to know more about the team that made it, look at the Unit for Media and Communications of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. Incidentally, the UMC and their longish listing of work done in documentary is also here. One of my writeups on this film is here and also here on Meanwhile, this is a post made to the Nettime mailing list about films from the UMC. ... out a battle against censorship calls itself "an action platform of over 300 Indian documentary filmmakers. The filmmakers came together as Campaign Against Censorship in response to an attempt by the Mumbai International Film Festival to impose censorship on Indian films." Some more background: "In February 2004, Mumbai became the location of an unprecedented act of cultural resistance, Vikalp: Films For Freedom, a six-day long festival of documentary films. Running parallel to MIFF 2004, Vikalp was run by the filmmakers themselves, and the festival screened all the films rejected by MIFF 2004, as well as more than a dozen films withdrawn from MIFF by their filmmakers in protest of the covert censorship-by-selection"

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Films Anonymous? Yes, from Hyderabad

Found which calls itself a platform for short films and documentaries.. It explains the concept thus: "Short films - though neglected in comparison to full-length feature films, can be as informative as educational, as entertaining as topical as any other medium. Recent developments across the world have established the fact that short films and documentaries can have large appeal and substantial commercial value. We believe that it is about time there was more viewership and interest amongst Indian filmmakers and audiences as well to give short films its due credit." Its goal? To bridge the gap between the film industry and short film filmmakers by showcasing their works in an informal ambience, to an audience that can make a difference. ... gender, human rights from Kolkata

Quote from the website: Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborti is a filmmaker, television journalist, writer and activist based in Calcutta, India. Ananya's areas of specialisation are Gender and Human Rights. Ananya is a member of Vikalp (an association of film-makers who are opposed to any form of censorship), IAWRT (International Association for Women in Radio and Television, Norway), NWMI (Network for Women in Media, India), Bengal Network and PIPFD (Pakistan Indian People's Forum for Peace and Democracy). Has links to documentary films, feature films, activism, etc...

Infochange film forum (from Pune)

Check out this Infochange Film Forum which has some interesting links to documentary films coming out of India.

Links to documentary in India, censorship

Docuwallahs2 is a network that discusses documentary films in India. It was launched in its earlier form of Docuwallahs by Stalin, a film-maker based in Ahmedabad. It is run on the network. Other groups of film-makers discussing some interesting censorship and alt-documentary related issues are CACDelhi and Vikalp. Quote from Vikalp: Vikalp - Films for Freedom is a platform to defend freedom of expression and to resist censorship..