Saturday, March 24, 2007

went to the afternoon discussion a the nova-vikalp 'Let it Be' film festival.
some very good films at the festival today by the belgian filmmaker called benedict lienard.
She showed us one shot yesterday- here is a still from that shot. It was stunning moment.

one of the most interesting questions that came up was 'what is independent cinema'? It was a question asked by a Beligian filmmaker to all of us. In India, what is independent filmmaking? Is it being independent of the mainstream distribution and financing machine? Is it independent in the sense that the filmmaker makes the film she/he wants in terms of the form/theme/concerns/duration irrespective of marketability?

Can a commissioned film be called independent film? (irrespective of who has commissioned- a tv company/ngo etc)

I have made only one commissioned film, it was commissioned by a NGO working on labour issues. They gave me full freedom to everything except the duration, they wanted a half hour film - I refuse to see it as a independent film. It was a film that needed to be a longer film only then could i continue to explore 'my' preoccupation with the documentary language. Thats my view.

But it did open up an interesting discussion yesterday. But to me it seems unfortunate that we have begun categorising documentary into narrow genres. So overtly political film that attempt to 'expose' a certain truth are necessarily without any engagement with form. And all other films are 'soft' films. Filmmakers are most to blame for this very banal viewing of film.

I have been an old fan of many of these so called propoganda/ agit prop/ aestheticless/ issue based film. And more often than not my excitement is not only the political position the film takes but the form it employs. One of Anand's early films during the emergency has only interviews of political prisoners- the interviews are held on for ever - the camera remains static, unflinching in its record of brutal testimonies. ( i know that raw stock shortage forced this form but that does not take away from the impact of the formal shape that the film takes)

Final solution remains a very disturbing film. But not only for its 'content' but in the manner in whoich the maker constructs it. All the sequences are structured like a cold hard arguement - akin to a legal arguement. The use of the much abused 'juxtaposition' to heighten the emotion is never deployed. In the version i saw, if i remember correctly there is only one place where the a shot is slowed down for the longest possible time. Its is the village where the filmmaker waits with the villagers for Modi's election rally. The rally and Modi finally arrives. The shot is a normal descriptive shot of the appoaching car. At one point Modi looks straight into the camera - and the shot is slowed down for what seems like an eternity. Its a chilling moment- more chilling than any of the horrifying interviews.

Within this genre of political expose' there are terribly films. There is an expansive on caste- i think its called resilient rhythms- made by friends of mine. The film has the most amazing footage shot over a long period of time- over five states. This film reveals how fantastic footage can be destroyed to make an 'issue' based film because of the way its structured. I would go on to say that the material loses all its potency. Ofcourse there are many films like these. Unfortunately the importance of these films lies in the fact that these are the only documents of our contemporary reality. Mainstream media is far from removed from this engagement.

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