Saturday, November 25, 2017

19th Madurai Film Festival - Alpavirama, Student films from Asia : curated by Arun Gupta


‘Alpavirama’ is comma in Sanskrit - a precious pause - a brief stretch of time reclaimed for reflection and repose.

At the Film & Video Communication department in the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India we have been promoting short filmmaking for over quarter of a century. Short films are like life itself, with multiple colours and nuances, each transient yet forever. But a lot of short films never reach the audience as their authors neither having the will nor the wherewithal to proceed further. Through these years our students and faculty have created numerous short fiction and documentary films, and the artistic quality and social relevance of these films have been recognized the world over. Thus it’s natural that we play an active role in establishing a credible exhibition platform for short films – especially those given life by the under-30 youth, in these disparate yet uniquely alike lands of Asia. The previous three editions (2011, 2014, 2016) of Alpavirama were significant steps in that direction.

In Alpavirama 2016 we celebrated the vibrant Asian spirit; the diverse yet converging flavours of Asian Cinema in all its short form glory. This package is a selection of eight films from Alpavirama 2016.  It is curated by Prof. Arun Gupta (Principal Faculty and Discipline Lead, Film & Video Communication, National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad.) 

The films present in the package are :

1)    A Political Life (Docu/Award Winner/Myanmar)                          20 min
2)    Aina (Fiction/Award Winner/Bangladesh)                                    19 min
3)    Anjaan Raastey (Docu/Pakistan)                                                24 min
4)    Bilori (Fiction/NID)                                                                       21 min
5)    Pottu (Fiction/Award Winner/KRNNIVSA)                                   06 min
6)    Sagar Manav (Docu/NID)                                                            21 min
7)    Sarus (Fiction/Award Winner/FTII)                                              20 min
8)    Unusual Summer (Docu/China)                                                 29 min

Friday, November 24, 2017

19th Madurai Film Festival 2017 : Filmmaker in Focus - Gitanjali Rao

19th Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival 2017

Filmmaker in Focus – Gitanjali Rao

Gitanjali Rao graduated with honors as a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Sir J. J. Institute of Applied Art, Mumbai, in 1994. She is a self-taught animator, film maker, illustrator, teacher and theatre artist. She has since, independently Produced, Directed and Animated three Award winning Short films, ‘Orange’, ‘Printed Rainbow’ and TrueLoveStory.

‘Printed Rainbow’, premiered at Cannes 2006, Critic’s Week, in Competition.  It went on to win the three Awards for the best Short film, at Cannes 2006.
It was also short listed in the last ten films for the Academy Awards in 2008, besides winning 25 International Awards and traveling to over a hundred festivals worldwide.

‘TrueLoveStory’ also premiered in Cannes Critic’s Week 2014. It has been screened at various International Festivals and won four Awards.

She also has a string of very popular and award winning animated commercials to her credit. As well as a graphic novel. Gitanjali also conducts workshops and presentations and has been in the jury at various International Film Festivals including The Cannes Critic’s Week 2011. She is currently pursuing her next animation film Bombay Rose. She has been teaching storytelling, design and 2D animation, in various animation schools in India.


Directed, Animated, Produced by Gitanjali Rao
‘Printed Rainbow’ is a journey of a lonely old woman and her cat into the fantastical world of her matchbox collection.

Directed, Animated, Produced by Gitanjali Rao
‘Orange’ is a conversation between two women about love and the loss of it

CHAI is a short film exploring the lives of four tea sellers in India. Merging the mediums of documentary, fiction and animation, ‘Chai’ is a part of 5 films that describe India.

Animation/01 min/color 
Director : Gitanjali Rao 

'Blue' is a little girl's dream about exploring space, with her cat. 
'Blue' was an exercise in story telling without using words. 
It was created in the traditional style of progressive animation using colored pencils on colored paper. 
It was made in the days were computers were not used too widely for animtion in India.


Animation/80 min/color 
Director : Gitanjali Rao 

'Girgit' ( Chameleon), is a tale of three friends who migrate from different villages to a city like Bombay. The animation style is inspired by the folk and traditional art and crafts of rural India and pursues the task of elevating it to a level beyond that of the kitsch and the exotic. The film is an 80 minute visual spectacle telling a story without words, cutting across boundaries of age and language. 

This is also an attempt to bring together modern animators with folk and tribal artists of india, in an effort that they interact and learn from each other, as well as create a new medium for the folk artists to express and monetize their art forms through film and subsequent merchandize. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

19th Madurai Film Festival 2017 : Marupakkam - Director's Cut

19th Madurai  International Documentary and Short Film Festival 2017
Marupakkam - Director’s Cut

18 Feet
Dir: Renjit Kuzhur; 77 min; Malayalam with English subtitles; Documentary; India

Karinthalakoottam is an indigenous band that propagates the music of soul to connect people with a sense of historic resolution. 18 feet symbolizes the holy distance dalits, the downtrodden, were to ensure for the sanctity of upper castes. P R Remesh, a city public-bus conductor, is the man behind the exuberant squad that drums empathy for all in denial of historic untouchability attached to the disused community. The troop is the vanguard in redefining the identity of people who are battered by senseless incorrectness through centuries. The downtown Kerala band rekindles the sense of sanity for all with a massage of love and harmony.

Nicobar, a long way
Dir: Richa Hushing; 65 min; Nicobarese, Hindi and English; Documentary; India

Deep in the Bay of Bengal, the Nicobar archipelago, a tribal reserve protected under Andaman and Nicobar Protection of Aboriginal Tribes Regulation, was worst hit by the Tsunami of 26th December 2004. Self-subsistent and relatively isolated, post Tsunami the aboriginal world was suddenly invaded

I am Bonnie
Dir: Farha Katun, Satarupa Santra, Saurabh Kanti Dutta; 45 min; Bengali with English subtitles; Documentary; India

Bonnie (33) is again on the run. He has been on the run from his family and sports fraternity since failing 'sex test' before the Bangkok Asian Games, 1998.
A born intersex, raised by poor, illiterate and confused parents as a girl named 'Bandana', s/he became one of the finest strikers of Indian Woman's football team in her/his short career.
A Sex Reassignment surgery later transformed her/him to a man but left him without home or career. He left home, took up idol-making for a living. He met Swati (F24) then; they fell in love and married soon but had to move once again fearing social backlash.
His fight to establish his identity, struggle for existence is met by a sarcastic society which is yet to learn to take 'other genders' seriously.

Mod (70 min)
Dir: Pushpa Rawat; 69 min; India; Documentary; Documentary; India

'Mod' is an attempt by the filmmaker at communicating with the young men who hang out at the ‘notorious’ water tank in her neighbourhood in Pratap Vihar, Ghaziabad. The water tank is a space that is frequented by the so-called ‘no-gooders’ of the locality, a place where they play cricket, play cards, drink and smoke up. When she enters the space with her camera, the boys are curious and at the same time wary of it and her. They sometimes resist, sometimes protest, and at times, open up. As the film unfolds we get a hint of the lives the boys lead and the fragile world they create for themselves at the water tank.

Dir: Divya Bharathi; 108 min; Tamil with English subtitles; Documentary; India

The documentary, shot in 25 districts for over a year, conveys the message that even though manual scavenging was banned in India in 2013 it continues to exist and conservancy workers are involved in removing human waste. The film is dedicated to those who maintain a “false silence on manual scavenging”.

Miryavar Kahi Mahine (Many Months in Mirya)
Dir: Renu Sawant; 3 hours 50 min; Marathi with Eng subtitles; Documentary; India

In 2015, I stayed and shot in my ancestral village in western coastal India, and the film is a record of this village during that time. The resulting film flows into stories of people and events happening in the village. The subject's canvass demanded the scale of the longer narrative form, like a novel in digital video.

Special Service
Dir: Ujjwal Utkarsh; 18:30 min; English, Hindi, Telugu; Documentary; India

Rohith Vemula committed suicide because of problems he was facing in the institute he was studying by the virtue of being from a particular caste. With his demise, there was a wave of protests that happened across the country. The state did try to repress a lot of these protests. The state, as it is turning out to be, is becoming more and more authoritarian and the space to dissent is being squashed systematically.
This piece, special service, revolves around a candle light vigil that was organised in respect of Rohith Vemula in Delhi. Surprisingly, the vigil was also NOT allowed by the state and people at the vigil were detained.

This is like Gold Only
Dir: Ujjwal Utkarsh; 78 min; Maithili/English/Hindi; Documentary; India

Makhana farming is a specialized and painstaking process practised by farmers of the Mallah community of North Bihar. A species similar to the lotus family, the fox nut plants are cultivated in ponds and their seed of are collected from the bottom of the lake. Through an elaborate process of popping by hand on high heat we get 'makhana' in a state which can be packed and sold. Despite health risks to them, makhana cultivators continue to follow this process. The conventional, gruesomely laborious process has the farmers and their families' lives revolving around it. Due to the seasonal nature of this process, these families live a migratory way of life and almost everybody in the family is involved in the process.

In making of an observational piece on the makhana harvesting and production, there were lots of production issues which made the filmmaker question the filmmaking process and the idea of the ‘observational’ film. Ee toh sona chhe (This is like Gold only) film juxtaposes the production process of the film and of makhana making in order to get a deeper insight into his own ideas of filmmaking, through the particular experience of making this film.

Survey Number Zero
Dir: Priya Thuvassery; 31 min; Gujarati with Eng subtitles; Documentary; India

Story of three women from Little Rann of Kutch, Gujarat. The Salt they make and a Land which has never been surveyed.

A Walnut Tree
Dir: Ammar Azis; 92 min; Documentary; Pakistan

An old man reminisces about a distant homeland. He wants to return. Internally displaced as a result of the ongoing war between the Pakistan army and the Taliban and forced to live in a camp, the family is caught between memories of what life was, an insecure present and a bleak future.

Silence in the Courts
Dir: Prasanna Vithanage; 57 min; Documentary; Sri Lanka

Two women from rural Sri Lanka, sexually abused by a Judge nearly two decades ago, try in vain to seek justice.  As their plea is turned down and subverted by the country’s highest authorities, noted journalist Victor Ivan begins to write in-depth stories highlighting their plight, the state of the justice system and its lack of commitment to the downtrodden – to no avail.  This film traces stories of these hapless women and the journalist twenty years on, and attempts to understand this shocking miscarriage of justice and how the powerful can sometimes be above the law.

Camera Threat
Dir: Bernd L├╝tzeler; 30 min; Hindi and English; Short film; Germany and India

Somewhere in the rather dreary spheres of Mumbai's film industry, stuck between star-cult, superstition and the daily gridlock, Camera Threat explores the ambivalent and sometimes paranoid relationship that this film city has with the moving image as such. Seated on a casting couch, two actors are getting trapped in their impromptu conversations on the unwanted side effects of a world that no longer bothers to tell facts from fiction. An expanded multi-genre film within the constraints of the so-called Masala Formula popularly known from Indian cinema.

The Simple Day
Dir: Maria Khristoforova; 21 min; Hindi and English; Documentary; Russia and India

The simple day in the life of rickshaw driver in Delhi, India.

Highway Rest Stop
Dir: Isabelle Ingold; 80 min; Chinese, English, French, Italian, Lithuanian, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish; Documentary; France

This film traces out the portrait of a motorway rest area located in the countryside in the North of France. It looks like a dream, filled with the whispers thoughts and the lives of those who work here, as well as those who are just passing through. It is also a very concrete place, a perfect spot to observe today’s Europe, the violence carried by the free competition of a single market, the nostalgia carried by uprooted lives, and all the solitude engendered by our modern world.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

19th Madurai Film Festival - Patrick Rouxel Retrospective

19th Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival 2017
Retrospective II – Patrick Rouxel

Patrick Rouxel is an independent filmmaker dedicated to rainforest conservation and animal welfare. His films are about giving a voice to the rainforest and the inevitable victims of deforestation. They are both a tribute to beauty of rainforest and its wildlife, and a means of raising awareness of the suffering and loss inflicted by human development, corporate greed and consumerism.

Films to be screened :

Alma : 65 min

Alma is an insight into the Amazon forest and the industries destroying it. The film is a poetical ride on beauty of the Brazilian rainforest and the suffering that accompanies its destruction. Alma is a reflection on the value of life. It reveals what lies behind products such as meat, leather, dairy foods and exotic hardwood. The film invites us to question our consumer habits, to open our eyes and hearts, and allow room for empathy. 

Green : 48 min

Her name is Green, she is alone in a world that doesn't belong to her. She is a female orangutan, victim of deforestation and resource exploitation. This film is an emotional journey with Green's final days. It is a visual ride presenting the treasures of rainforest biodiversity in Indonesia and the devastating impacts of logging and land clearing for the palm oil plantations and the pulp and paper industry. 

Tears of wood: 26 min 

A visual essay on the extraordinary biodiversity of the Indonesian rainforest. This silent film follows the peaceful wondering of a dominant male orangutan, showing the forest from his point of view. It also underlines the link between tropical hardwood and the trees of the rainforest. This is the first film I made when I decided to do my part to help rainforest conservation in 2003. The title of the film is also the name of this website because it seems to capture the essence of all my films.

The Cathedral Forest: 45 min

In Gabon, Africa, the Minkebe Conservation Project team is dedicated to the preservation of a vast forest of 32 000 km2 which holds the largest population of forest elephants in the world. This forest is undergoing many threats: logging, mining, bush meat hunting and the poaching of elephants for ivory. The Cathedral Forest is a call to the citizens of the world to help WWF Gabon in its efforts to preserve the Minkebe forest.

Life is One: 52 min

“Life is One” is the story of three orphan sun bear cubs from Indonesia and their return to the wild. The story is told by the foster parent of these cubs who accompanied them to their independence. The viewer is placed in total immersion with the bears in the rainforest and discovers how beautiful, joyful and energetic they are. The film is a tribute to life on earth, a reminder that we are all connected and that we owe respect and compassion to those we share the planet with.

19th Madurai Film Festival : Sameera Jain Retrospective

19th Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival 2017
Retrospective 01: Sameera Jain

Sameera Jain is a filmmaker and editor, and has worked for over 30 years in the arena of film and video. Sameera has edited several award winning documentaries and some fiction feature films. Her directorial ventures ‘Portraits of Belonging’, ‘Born at Home’ and ‘Mera Apna Sheher’ (My Own City) have been acknowledged for cinematic excellence at national and international festivals. 

Sameera has been on film juries and participated in curriculum formulation at various institutions. She has been mentoring film students and filmmakers at diverse platforms and has been invited to teach filmmaking at many places, including her alma mater FTII. She has conceptualized, and is Course Director of a unique Creative Documentary program at SACAC (Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication) in New Delhi.

Films to be shown:

Portraits of Belonging: Films on two people in the old city of Delhi : Bhai Mian, a kite maker, and Sagira Begum, an ancestral zari (golden thread) embroiderer. Their life, work, habitat, skill, memories, thoughts and presence.

Bhai Mian
Dir : Sameera Jain ; 30 min; Hindi with Eng subtitles; 1998

Bhai Mian is a kite maker who lives in the last historic Delhi – Shahjahanabad, the city built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan in the 17th century. The film is a portrait of the man in his context, a man whose ordinariness barely conceals his imagination and resilience.
Like many others of the Muslim minority community in India, Bhai Mian’s life is a struggle against all odds. It was in his youth that he first found magic in his hands, while learning to make jewellery under the tutelage of his Ustad. But later, inflation made it impossible to keep up the practice. New courses had to be navigated, creative solutions found. A favourite pastime was turned into a serious profession. Kite making and kite flying took him to several competitions in different parts of the world.

Bhai Mian continuously adapts the craft to new tastes. A portrait of a man who is a survivor – existing with dignity, humour, even grace.

- Awarded certificate of merit At MIFF
 participation in
- The International Competitive section of the Cinema du Reel, Paris, 1999.
- FIFMA 2000, Belgium.
- The Silver Images Film Festival, Chicago, USA.
- Film South Asia '99, Kathmandu, Nepal.
- Sakshi Film Festival, Bangalore, India.
- Prakriti '99, Bhopal, India.

Portraits of Belonging: Sagira Begum
Dir: Sameera Jain; 30 min; Hindi with Eng subtitles; 1998

Sagira Begum is seventy five years old, and does zari (golden thread) embroidery. She practices an ancestral profession, like many others in the last historic city of Delhi - Shahjahanabad. Her memories are of better times – an environment more open and friendly, an easier lifestyle, better wages.

In Sagira’s world, there were friendly ghosts that used to play with children in the lanes and bylanes of the old city. These have been replaced with strange new ones, such as television. Ghosts that take away the power of prayer.

The National Museum set in the manicured greens of New Delhi has ancient zardozi (zari embroidery) on display. Sagira recognises all the old stitches when she sees the collection in the museum. Her own old city chokes with congestion, and craftspeople sell ancestral handiwork for money to live on. Sagira Begum's community will have to take up other work to survive.

For the moment, she continues to embroider, and life in the old city somehow goes on.

Participation in
-          Prakriti 1999, Bhopal, India
-          Mumbai International Short Film Festival (MIFF 2000), India. (International Competition Section)
-          FIFMA 2, Belgium.

Mera Apna Sheher/ My Own City
Dir: Sameera Jain; 56min; 2011

The experience of a gendered urban landscape - where the gaze, the voice and the body are at all times under surveillance. What if the multiple surveillances were to be turned upon themselves to observe what is contained in the everyday. The film explores whether there is a sense of ownership, of belonging to the city. Can a woman in the city, as she continuously negotiates the polarities of anxiety and comfort - be free?
Somewhere just under the surface of the `normal’ and in the lives of women cab drivers lie signs of reclamation of space and the gaze.

Participation in
-          Yamagata International Documentary Festival, Japan
-          PSBT Open Frame film festival, New Delhi
-          SWIFF (Samsung Women’s International Film Festival), Chennai
-          Persistence Resistance Film Festival, New Delhi
-          6th Gorakhpur Film Festival
-          FTII (Film &TV Institute of India), Pune
-          IIHS (Indian Institute for Human Settlements), New Delhi
-          Studio Safdar, New Delhi
 Among several other screenings

A Quiet Little Entry
Dir: Uma Chakravarthi; 44 min; 2010
Edited by Sameera Jain

The film is about an unknown woman, Subbalakshmi who lived between the salt pans and thousands of other places in her mind and left behind a trunk, a diary and scraps of paper. She had participated like many others in the movement for independence in the 1920's and 30's but was forced by circumstances to withdraw from active participation. It is a film about the choices women are denied but who struggle to find other ways of expressing their resistance.

The film was shot on location in south India and uses archival material from both the public and the family archive. It experiments with form by evoking the protagonist through suggestion; it uses photographs, camerawork, music and a voiceover to tell the story of Subbalakshmi.

A Season Outside
Dir: Amar Kanwar; 32 min; 1997
Edited by Sameera Jain

There is perhaps, no border outpost in the world quite like Wagah, where this film begins its exploration. An outpost where every evening people are drawn to a thin white line… and probably anyone in the eye of a conflict could find themselves here. A Season Outside is a personal and philosophical journey through past generations, conflicting positions, borders and time zones.

A Night of Prophecy
Dir: Amar Kanwar; 77 min; multiple Indian languages; 2002
Edited by Sameera Jain

Through poetry emerges the possibility of understanding the past, the severity of conflict and the cycles of change. The film travels in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and Kashmir. Through poetry you see where all the territories are heading towards, where you belong, and where to intervene, if you want to. The narratives merge, allowing us to see a mere universal language of symbols and meanings. This moment of merger is the simple moment of prophecy.