A Festival of Contemporary Political Films
Organised by Film & Television Institute of India
and Magic Lantern Foundation
Dates: 15, 16 & 17 September 2009
Venue: FTII, Law College Road, Pune 411001
In the last decade or so Indian image-makers have crossed new boundaries, carried out different formal experiments and also recast the notion of political film making. Women have played a significant role in this and have given a new formal twist to political documentaries that explore and engage with form and the political terrain in a nuanced manner with spaces for ambiguities and multiple readings.
Persistence Resistance @ FTII aims to celebrate a cinema space that engages with the diverse nature of films today. It will present a range of subjects and forms the films work with, and try to interrogate the emerging aesthetics of political filmmaking. It is becoming clear that political films are no longer bound by the binaries of the past, perhaps developed during war filmmaking, and yet there is no one picture emerging, for the formal explorations are as vast as the diverse subjects. The festival will also carry a section on international documentaries that are difficult to access in India. And although these films deal with issues and themes that are unique and not very well known in India, there is indeed a common resonance or a common resistance. So the festival is also attempting to explore the notions of internationalism in the present scenario of neo-liberal globalisation.
The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artists.
– Marcel Duchamp,
(Session on the Creative Act; Convention of the American Federation of Arts, Houston, Texas, April 1957)
Marcel Duchamp’s abstraction of the Nude Descending the Stairs had two varied intentions. As a prelude to the movie camera, it provided a beginning to understand the idea of “persistence of vision” or why we see images in a continuous motion and not in flashes. But it also offered an antidote to the static nature of Cubist paintings, mocking its pretensions and offering vitality to the act of viewing that had not been seen before in the painting medium.
What happens when art gets inextricably linked to the politics of subversion and resistance, not only of other art forms but the processes of human movement as well? What persists then, the art or values residing in resistance?
In trying to address this vast jigsaw puzzle of the multiple meanings of the words persistence and resistance this festival was conceived. It is also an ode to the persistent vision of films, closely guarded by an ever-changing relationship between the film and the viewer.
In the beginning, there was a sheer delight of man, in seeing something just “moving”… aided by the apparatus of the magic lantern and then the zoetrope and praxinoscope. But with the passage of time, this relationship has changed not only because film content has acquired a multiple personality, but also because the spectrum of viewing spaces has undergone paradigm shifts. The nickelodeon, the movie palace, the studio chain and the multiplexes have been the dominant exhibitor strategies in America in their respective eras. The movie palaces that flourished in the 1920s, found a remarkable coincidence with celluloid dreams, where the movie-going experience was an event to enter a cultural space full of grandeur and the excesses of materialism. The contemporary exhibition rationale of the multiplex is rarely that of titillating the imagination, but rather, comes close to that of manipulative buying complete with McDonalds and vinyl dreams.
From the gaps of these so-called pleasure domes, have emerged certain crucial spaces of viewing, but they have been encountered on the sly. The trend started with the video parlours, then the cyber cafes, shifting to the dark lanes of Pirate Bazaar which then magically opened up to a maddening world of pornography, Bergmans and Herzogs and yes, even Karan Johar. Today the BitTorrent has come to our service, creating a global collective force of cinephiles and cinema-collectors, empowering the viewer to exhibit films on their rooftops, and thus, redefining the constricted notions of the passive audience.
Art as an emblem of cultural production has been deeply engrossed in human movements, acquiring an inherently political nature.
However, now the time has come to acknowledge that the audience is probably an equally resistive force, constructing ways of using and recycling images in an attempt to break out of the censorious trappings of the cinema hall, emerging as a powerful social agent in making meanings of cinema and thereby, culture.
“Persistence Resistance”, as a film festival resonates with a gesture not only towards the dynamic aesthetics of political filmmaking, the attempts to stretch the boundaries of imagination and confined terrains but also this new audience, trying to carve a niche for itself, waiting for filmmakers to take notice of them and create a space for dialogue. It also offers discursive spaces for interacting with filmmakers through three seminars.
Persistence Resistance @ FTII wishes to bring all the movements of the audiences and matters of films a little closer together, in a collective space to experience the diversity of films.