A Festival of Contemporary Political Films
Magic Lantern Foundation & India International Centre
Venue: India International Centre
40 Max Mueller Marg, New Delhi 110003
Films in Auditorium 2
25 February 2010
11:45 to 13:50
FILMS BY MANJIRA DATTA
Sacrifice of Babulal Bhuiya
(Babulal Bhuiya ki Qurbani)
Dir: Manjira Datta
64 min, 1988, India
A thousand Indians drag a meager living from the black swamp where ash and fumes from the power station corrupt the air as surely as the coal dirt blights the land. Nothing grows in Mailagora which means the place of dirt. This painful and poetic film is a portrait of the undead and an investigation of the murder of local martyr…Babulal, who was shot dead by industrial security guards employed by owners of the coal washery. The guards are accused of running a protection racket among the slurry-sifters, of harassing the women and attacking the men. Explanations of the incident differ….Babulal was killed…So, Babulal becomes a hero, his ashes scattered on the coal black river. His concrete monument painted a blood red.
FILMS BY KESANG TSETEN
We Homes Chaps
Dir: Kesang Tseten
59 min, 2002, Nepal
A unique Scottish Presbyterian home was founded by a missionary at the turn of the century in British India, which used to take in orphans, mainly destitute Anglo-Indian children and subsequently, children of Tibetan refugees and other Himalayan people in strife. Providing an all-round education with old-fashioned and colonial Christian values, it is a home for many; a universe unto itself, a “total institution.” For a “Homes chap,” the institution is a surrogate parent, an anchor and source of life-long attachment. It is a love with an edge, a difficult love. Why that is so, Tibetan filmmaker and Homes alumnus Kesang Tseten attempts to answer, on his return for the institution’s centennial celebrations.
14:30 to 16:30
Conversation with Filmmaker: Kesang Tseten and Samina Mishra
Kesang Tseten is a filmmaker based in Kathmandu, Nepal. He wrote and co-directed ‘Listen to the Wind’ with Tsering Rhitar, a fictional short for teenagers. His original screenplay ‘Mukundo’ (Mask of Desire), co-produced by NHK/Japan and Nepal’s selection to the Academy Awards (2001), was given the Best Script Award by the Nepal Motion Pictures Association. He wrote the screenplay of ‘Karma’ in 2004. ‘Yudha Chitra’’ (Frames of War), with co-director Prem B. K., won the Best Film in the Nepal Panorama section of the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival ’08. His most recent film ‘In Search of the Riyal’ is about Nepal migrant workers in the Gulf. His films have won several national and international awards.
Samina Mishra is a documentary filmmaker and writer based in New Delhi. Her work include ‘The House on Gulmohar Avenue’, a film that traces the filmmaker’s personal journey to understand what it can mean to be a Muslim in India today, ‘Stories of Girlhood’, a series of three films on the experiences of being a girl child in India, ‘Hina in the Old City’, a photographic book for children on the Walled City of Delhi and ‘Home and Away’, a multi-media exhibition on British Asian children in London.
17:00 to 19:00
Conversation with Filmmaker: Manjira Datta and Brinda Bose
Manjira Datta has been an independent documentary filmmaker since 1986. Her award winning films have focused on environment, rural and industrial labour, labour in the entertainment sector, Iyengar yoga, politics, agrarian technology, and discrimination against women among others.
She has also conceptualised and been a line producer for a 26 part drama serial on Adult Education for UNICEF and Directorate of Adult Education. She has been a director and producer for BBC2, Channel 4 (UK), ARD Germany, One World Broadcasting Group, UNDP & TVE, Mayavision (London), MacArthur Foundation (Chicago), Commonwealth of Learning(Canada), UNIFEM, O&M and Tata Steel and other State Government Departments in India.
Manjira Datta continues to make films as an independent filmmaker and lives in New Delhi.
Brinda Bose is Associate Professor of English at Delhi University, and has recently been a Fellow of the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. She has published widely on postcolonial, gender and cultural studies, with a focus on South Asia. She is the editor of ‘Translating Desire’ (2003), ‘Gender and Censorship’ (2006) and the co-editor of ‘The Phobic and the Erotic: The Politics of Sexualities in Contemporary India’ (2007).
26 February 2010
10:00 to 11:30
FILMS BY BISHAKHA DATTA
In the Flesh
Dir: Bishakha Datta
53 min, 2002, India
‘In The Flesh’ provides an intimate insider’s account of what it is really like to be in prostitution – by following the lives of three real life characters. Through its cinematic quest to represent the lived experiences of men and women in prostitution, the film provides a more nuanced view of prostitution – one in which, violence and victimhood sit side by side with a relentless drive to survive. The inclusion of a transgendered sex worker breaks prevalent stereotypes of prostitution as a women-only twilight zone and builds a deeper understanding of the way in which gender and sexual identitie play out in the daily lives of individuals.
Hot Off the Press
Dir: Bishakha Datta
31 min, 2006, India
Are free and fair elections being held in Nihi gram panchayat? How does the quarrying of a hill affect farmers in Bharatkup village? Why have eight people died of tuberculosis in Sukhrampur village? In today’s media-saturated world of celebrity hype and overdrive, ‘Khabar Lahariya’ is almost an anachronism. This 8-page newspaper, published every fortnight from a small town in Uttar Pradesh’s Chitrakoot district, covers all the news that mainstream media forgo. The film follows the all-woman team of journalists at ‘Khabar Lahariya’ on a breathless journey through police stations, polling booths, power cuts, printer failures, and sleepless nights, all part of a determined effort to ensure that Issue 62: Election Special reaches its rural readers right on time.
11:40 to 13:45
FILMS BY SABA DEWAN
Dir: Saba Dewan
63 min, 2006, India
Riya dances in the beer bars of Mumbai to make a living. The documentary follows her from her home in Delhi to Mumbai, where hundreds of working class girls come in search of work and a future. Riya’s future is unpredictable and the present is marked with its own difficulties. The police harass her family in Delhi, there is constant pressure from her agent in Mumbai to attract more tips and the work itself is demanding. However, there are other girls to have fun with, there is money to dress well and then there are men… admirers promising the moon. The documentary is an intimate portrait of the everyday in the life of the girls, their agents and their neighbourhoods.
14:30 to 16:30
Conversation with Filmmaker: Bishakha Datta and Veena Hariharan
Bishakha Datta is a documentary filmmaker and writer with a passion for representing people and points of view that are invisible. Her first independent documentary, ‘In The Flesh’, explored the lives of three people in prostitution from their own perspectives. Her first book, ‘And Who Will Make the Chapatis?’ focused on rural women’s participation in politics. She is currently researching ‘Selling Sex’, a full-length book on the struggle for sex workers’ rights in India. Bishakha is the programme director of ‘Point of View’, a Mumbai-based not-for-profit organisation that promotes the points of view of women through a creative and sustained use of art, culture and media.
Veena Hariharan is a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California Los Angeles. She has just completed her dissertation “Private Modernities: The “I” in Contemporary Indian Documentary and Visual Culture” on the first-person documentary in India. Currently, Veena is Visiting Faculty at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
17:00 to 19:00
Conversation with Filmmaker: Saba Dewan and Sabeena Gadihoke
Saba Dewan is a documentary film maker based in New Delhi, India. Her work has focused on communalism, gender, sexuality and culture. Her notable films include ‘Dharmayuddha’ (Holy War, 1989), ‘Nasoor’ (Festering Wound, 1991), ‘Khel’ (The Play, 1994), ‘Barf’ (Snow, 1997) and ‘Sita’s Family’ (2001) and have been screened extensively in India and at international film festivals. For the past few years she has been working on a trilogy of films focusing on stigmatized women performers. ‘Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi’ (2006) on the lives of bar dancers was the first film of the trilogy; the second being ‘Naach’ (The Dance, 2008) that explores the lives of women who dance in rural fairs. Both the films have been screened widely and have generated critical acclaim. The third and final film of the trilogy is ‘The Other Song’ (2009) about the art and lifestyle of the tawaifs or courtesans.
Sabeena Gadihoke is an Associate Professor of Video and Television Production at the AJK Mass Communication Research Centre at Jamia University in New Delhi. She has also been an independent documentary filmmaker and cameraperson and has published a book on India’s first woman press photographer in 2006. She is currently working on her dissertation on a cultural history of photography in the decades after independence.
27 February 2010
9:45 to 11:50
FILMS SHOT BY AVIJIT MUKUL KISHORE
John & Jane
Dir: Ashim Ahluwalia
83 min, 2005, India
A fresh new blend of observational documentary and tropical science-fiction, ‘John & Jane’ follows the stories of six “call agents” that answer American 1-800 numbers in a Mumbai call center.
After a heady mix of American “culture training” and 14 hour night shifts, the job soon starts to take its toll. Counter pointing the fluorescent interiors of late night offices and hyper-malls with the uneasy currents swirling around the characters, ‘John & Jane’ discovers a young generation of urban Indians that are beginning to live between the real and the virtual.
However, this futuristic world of American aliases and simulated reality is not science fiction, these are the times in which we live. ‘John & Jane’ raises disturbing questions about the nature of personal identity and what it means to be “Indian” in a 21st century globalised world.
Made in India
Dir: Madhusree Dutta
37 min, 2002, India
A rural artist paints her autobiography, Bollywood movie icons’ images get erased after the weekly run of the film, the national flag flutters on 150 kites, an installation artist paints pop icons on the rolling shutters of shops, religious icons jostle for attention with plastic flowers on the vendor’s cart, metaphors of life cycle adorn the mud wall of a home, neighbourhood boys craft the tale of WTC and the sale of toy planes goes up. Symbols of nationalism become a fashionable commodity. Popular visual culture explodes into our consciousness.
12:00 to 13:50
FILMS BY SUPRIYO SEN
Hope Dies Last In War
Dir: Supriyo Sen
77 min, 2007, India
54 Indian soldiers taken as Prisoners of War during the Indo-Pak war of 1971 are yet to return home – yet both countries deny they have any prisoners of war. While waiting for them, some of their parents died, some of their wives remarried and some children lost hope and committed suicide. But the real ordeal has been for those who did not give up. For them, life has become a tight rope walk between hope and despair. This film is a saga of these families’ struggle, spanning three generations, to get their men back. It records a tragic political stalemate, sufferings of love and shining moments of humanity, courage and hope.
Rupban – The Beautiful
Dir: Supriyo Sen
26 min, 2008, India
The film follows the journey of Rupban, a traditional scroll painter, who faced many obstacles in her life but always turned to the art itself for answers. It celebrates the undaunted spirit of Rupban, who has broken the prototype of a veil clad Muslim woman and emerged from the local to the global.
14:30 to 16:30
Conversation with Cinematographer: Avijit Mukul Kishore and Shankhajeet De
Avijit Mukul Kishore is a film director and cinematographer based in Mumbai. After a course of cinematography at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune in 1995, he came to Mumbai. In a short span of time, he has worked as cinematographer for a number of documentary films, most of which have been shown at international film festivals and won critical acclaim. Mukul also teaches documentary film-making and works for television.
Shankhajeet De teaches at the department of film and TV production, Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts & Communication, New Delhi. He started his career in 1996 working for the cultural TV programme “Surabhi”. He is also an independent filmmaker and freelance script writer. Shankhajeet organizes Twilight, a festival of Short films that promotes filmmaking culture amongst the youth.
17:00 to 19:00
Conversation with Filmmaker: Supriyo Sen and Ira Bhaskar
Supriyo Sen is a journalist turned independent filmmaker and an alumni of Berlinale Talent Campus. He has produced and directed feature length documentaries like “Wait Until Death”, “The Nest”, “Way Back Home” and “Hope Dies Last in War”. His films have been widely screened in India and abroad andhave won several national and international awards at film festivals including Amsterdam, Nyon, Berlin, Pusan, Yamagata and Mumbai. He has also received prestigious grants like the Sundance Documentary Fund, Jan Vrijman Fund of the International documentary Festival of Amsterdam and the Asian Network of Documentary Award of the Pusan International Film Festival.
Ira Bhaskar is Associate Professor of Cinema Studies at the School of Arts and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University. She has critical interests in “historical poetics” cinema and modern subjectivities, literature and film, and historical trauma, violence, memory and representation. She has recently co-authored Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema (Tulika Books, 2009) with Prof Richard Allen of New York University.