Thursday, February 10, 2011

UPDATE - Rotterdam film festival

Jan Villa

Natasha Mendonca

India, 2010, 20 mins, 16 mm

Spot news! Jan Villa has won the Tiger Award for Short Films.

The citation states that in Jan Villa, the filmmaker succeeds in telling a deeply moving story that is at once, personal and universal. What begins as an outsider's point-of-view imperceptibly transforms to subjective camera. Through poetic images and notably without the use of voice-over, the filmmaker intimately reveals to us the soul of a city after devastation. In the 20-minute film the director recalls her impressions of the devastating floods in Mumbai in 2005 that engulfed the city. Her home Jan Villa was in a dilapidated state. The film is based on the personal recollections of the impact of the floods as part of her thesis submission for a Masters in Film and Video from the California Institute of Arts, USA. It is a tapestry of images that studies the space of a post-colonial metropolis, but in a way that deeply implicates the personal. The destruction wreaked by the floods becomes a telling and a dismantling of other devastations and the sanctuaries of family and home. In its structure, Jan Villa is a vortex, drawing to its centre all that surrounds it.

Berlin & Rotterdam Fest Issue of FIW out!

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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

India's 6 at the Berlinale Talent Campus

The six-day Berlinale Talent Campus is a creative academy and networking platform for 350 up-and-coming filmmakers from all over the world, aimed at Directors, Screenwriters, Actors, Cinematographers, Producers, Editors, Sound Designers, Composers, Production Designers and Film Critics.

Its theme for 2011: Filmmakers positioning themselves in today’s world of cinema.

Six applicants from India selected:

Shanker Raman, Cinematographer (his work also features in the Forum entry, Patang)
Pushpinder Singh, Actor
Zalina Gamut, Director
Rajesh Jala, Director
Bikas Mishra, Scriptwriter
Shakeel Mohameed, Scriptwriter

Shanker Raman
Cinematographer, Mumbai

Thirty-eight-year-old Shanker Raman bonds with the polarized skills of cinematography and scriptwriting. The past five years have seen his work lauded at the world’s leading festivals. He has a dual presence at this year’s Berlinale. Besides being a Talent Campus member, he is the cinematographer of the Forum entry, 'Patang'. Last year, his earlier work, 'Peepli Live', featured prominently at the Berlinale. Shanker’s understated view of his achievements is evident when he states that at the Campus he wants to enjoy being a student again. In his words...

I graduated in 1992 in Physics from St
Stephen's College, Delhi. In college I learnt the basics of still photography. My desire to be a photo-journalist did not materialise. Photography then was not as accessible as it is today with a range of digital cameras and digital technology. It was hard to purchase film, leave alone process and print photos.

I consider myself fortunate that I did not qualify for an MBA program, which was the fad at that time. In 1993, my heightened interest in films led me to join the 3-year course at Pune’s Film and Television Institute. I chose cinematography as my specialisation.

I started my career shooting news-based documentaries and shows related to travel and also social issues. In 2004, I shot my first feature film, The Great Indian Butterfly. In 2006, I wrote my first screenplay Frozen, a film that I also shot and worked for as the executive producer. After it premiered at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival, it travelled to over 35 festivals, winning innumerable awards. It won India’s National Award for Best First Film and for Best Cinematography.

Peepli Live, my third feature, had its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival 2010. In August that year, I formed the production company, Chasing Tales, along with Aamir Bashir. We co-wrote and co-produced Harud (Autumn), a film set in Kashmir, directed by Aamir Bashir. Supported by the Hubert Bals Fund for post-production and final film financing, the film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, 2010. Currently, I am writing a script titled The Trapper's Snare which is set in Sri Lanka.

Although I studied cinematography, I was always keen on making my own film some
day. The craft of cinematography hinges on support from all the other departments.
I believe writing is the most essential part of filmmaking. A good screenplay is the best guide one has while shooting a film. Having said that, writing the story, the treatment note and then the screenplay is the hardest part for me.

For me it's not the smart lines or the cool transitions but how visual the writing can be. As much as possible it must kindle and stimulate the imagination which otherwise can die a premature death with all the pressures at the shooting stage.

I had always wanted to participate in the Talent Campus. My friends who had been there told me it was exceptional. To find a bunch of young, talented artists, all under the same roof, will provide a great opportunity to learn about each other’s work and further our craft.

After I returned from TIFF 2010, I decided to apply to the Campus just on a whim. I submitted the trailer of Harud (Autumn) as a sample of my work. I wanted to become a student once again and share experiences on such a unique forum. I am also looking forward to being in the heart of one of the biggest film festivals in the world.


Pushpendra Singh
Actor, Mumbai

I started my career in theatre with Barry John and was part of his Theatre-in-education company also. I love conducting drama and acting workshops for children and adults. One of the things that I am most looking forward to is setting up a Cinema-in-education initiative. I am currently assisting Anup Singh on his next Indo-European co-production feature, Qissa.

I first came to know about the Talent Campus when I was studying acting at Pune's Film and Television Institute. I could not apply in 2008 and 2009 because I was busy with two films, both directed by Amit Dutta. I acted in and helped with the production of the feature film, The Man’s Woman And Other Stories, which won a special mention award in Venice Film Festival’s Orizzonti competition, and then assisted and acted in Nainsukh. With both films screening at Venice, I sensed an opportunity and decided to apply. I listed my work as an actor in the two films named above and also Alexandra Gowin’s Polish film, Tamal and Deepti Gogna’s acclaimed short, Narmeen. In my demo reel, I put three short clips that showcased different acting styles, explaining my approach in each. I also stated my views on whether acting should be considered as a craft or an art, and if method acting is the sole criterion for being an actor.

The Talent Campus would allow me to interact with my peers in acting and filmmaking from across the world. My aim is to follow every new development in this art and be able to share experiences.


Zalina Gamat
Director, Pune

I started working as a researcher and production assistant for BBC Mastermind, and then as assistant director at a production house specializing in music videos and ad films. I also worked at a call centre and as an instructional designer at a software firm. Before joining Pune's Film and Television Institute, I assisted Pakistani filmmaker, Sabiha Sumar. At FTII, I specialized in direction.

In my application to the Talent Campus, I sent an excerpt from my FTII diploma film Urnanaabh (Self-woven). The Talent Campus, well known at FTII, is a common aspiration. I had attended the sister Talent Campus at Osian's festival in Delhi where I interacted with stalwarts such as scriptwriter Jean Claude Carriere and sound designer Tu Du Che. I saw the works of young filmmakers such as John Torres (Philippines), who were exploring the digital medium meaningfully.

This year's theme for the Talent Campus is key for me as I am wondering not only about what kind of films I should make but also about what my responsibility is as a filmmaker of today. I look forward to receiving inputs from those I look up to and to interacting with upcoming filmmakers from the world over. I see this as an opportunity to find out about funding and co-production opportunities.

Director, Script: Zalina Gamat
Producer: FTII, Pune
2010, 22 mins, 35 mm, English/Hindi

The title, which translates as ‘the one who weaves a web from his own navel’, is the story of a tattooist, who feels alienated from the mainstream and is frustrated as he is unable to express his creativity. He develops an odd connection with the woman who cleans his studio, and sees a glimpse of himself in her. Sumeet Thakur and Neha Saraf play the lead roles. The cinematography is by Jigmet Wangchuk, editing by Maryann D'Souza, sound by Lipika Singh Darai and art direction by S Ramakrishna.


Rajesh Jala
Director, Kolkata

I had sent a three-minute sample of my previous documentary Children of the Pyre with my application. When I received an invitation from the Talent Campus, I felt extremely honoured.
I understand that this is one of the leading and most prestigious film workshops of the world. It is an opportunity of a lifetime for me to plunge into the depths of aesthetics and creativity. I believe the Campus will be an ocean of creative minds with all the new talent as well as experts and professionals sharing their valuable wealth of experiences. I look forward to attending lectures, panel discussions, atelier sessions, etc that will not only enrich my knowledge and widen my cinematic perspective but also strengthen my engagement with meaningful cinema.

I have been making films for the last 11 years. It has been a rich journey exploring human emotions, conflicts and matters of social concern. My documentaries and television series have been selected at over 50 international film festivals including Montreal, Pusan, Amsterdam, IFFI, Los Angeles, Leipzig, Munich, Warsaw, Jerusalem, Rome, MIFF, Thessoliniki, and also won awards. My latest film, At the Stairs is an attempt to provide glimpses of the life-long agonies of widows living in Benares, who are forced into an isolated life till their last breath.

My small production house called The Elements is a group effort along with four others (Raman, Sheetal, Sunil and Vijay) who share my passion for filmmaking. Along with trying to create meaningful cinema, we also make requirement-driven films for Doordarshan and other institutions.


Bikas Mishra
Scriptwriter, Mumbai

For the past one year, I have been looking for advice on the script I am working on. The Berlinale Talent Campus will be a great platform to do so. They conduct a series of hands-on training programs and I am participating in one of these with my feature film script titled Four Colours. The program is called ScriptStation and from what I have read about it, it sounds like a script lab. Many of my friends have been to Berlinale and have had a great experience. Having worked in the industry for five to six years already after my post-graduation, I was hesitant to apply for the Campus, thinking I might be too old for it. But to my surprise, I qualified.

I had participated in the NFDC Screenwriters' Lab at Locarno film festival last year. For the past few months, I have been working
closely with my mentor, Marten Rabarts of Binger Film Lab. I'll be working with him again at Berlinale Talent Campus ScriptStation. It would be a great opportunity to meet filmmakers from around the world and I also look forward to making friends. I feel very fortunate to be travelling to Berlin with artists like Rajesh Jala, Shanker Raman and Pushpendra, whose works I admire.

I hold a Masters in Mass Communications from MCRC, Jamia, New Delhi. I have worked as a producer and principal correspondent with the leading Indian broadcasters of Network18 and Zee. I am a freelance film
critic, and the editor and founder (started in 2007) of the Indian portal on independent cinema and film festivals,, for which I was nominated for the Tata NEN (National Entrepreneurship Network) Hottest Startup award. I have been a member of programming and on selection committees of Mumbai Academy of Moving Image, MAMI.


Shakeel Mohammed
Scriptwriter, Kolkata

When I was accepted for the sister Berlinale Talent Campus held at the Osian’s film festival in Delhi in 2008, I realised how rejuvenating and inspiring workshops and lectures are for an aspiring filmmaker. Attending Paul Schrader's workshop in 2008 was an eye-opener in terms of scriptwriting. It helped me greatly in writing the script of my diploma film, Doyam, during my course at Kolkata’s Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute Film Institute (SRFTI). For the following two years I have been applying to the Talent Campus. In my application, I submitted segments of the feature film script titled The Ghost of my Father which I am currently writing - it was short-listed for the Hubert Bals Fund in 2010.

I was born and brought up in Chhattisgarh (in central India), and studied for my BA there. I did not have many friends as a child. I enjoyed reading books and later watching films. By the time I was in my 12th standard I had made up my mind to pursue filmmaking as a career. I wrote to Pune's Film and Television Institute and also to Kolkata's Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) for admission and came to know that one has to be a graduate to apply. So for the next three years I watched one film every day and did my graduation in English Literature. Attending SRFTI was the best thing that happened to me - a great learning experience. Film school is a place where you get complete freedom and a chance to interact with many different types of people. The greatest boon the Institute offered me was that I got to make films. There is no other way to learn filmmaking.

I am now looking forward to attending the real event at the Berlin Talent Campus. I hope to reap the benefits of sharing knowledge and experiences with the veterans and the greats and also my fellow filmmakers.

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