Friday, February 22, 2013

NFDC launches Doc Bazaar - South Asian Narrative Documentaries in Delhi, April 17-19, 2013



The website of NFDC’s Film Bazaar has news that would delight the aspiring and established documentary filmmaker. The website has acknowledged the need for a world class market specifically built for and attuned to the needs of the documentary filmmakers of India and its neighbours in the SAARC region. With this aim in mind, NFDC will launch the first edition for South Asian Narrative Documentaries, the ‘Doc Bazaar’, from April 17-19, 2013 in New Delhi

Run along the annual co-production market, ‘Film   Bazaar’, held alongside the International Film Festival of India in Goa, Delhi’s three-day event will take place in a five-star hotel, and its events will include the Pitching Forum, the Viewing Room, the Close the Gap Pitch Forum and the Work in Progress Lab.

Ten projects considered to be the most unique and compelling projects being developed in the subcontinent will be selected for the Pitching Forum. Filmmakers will publicly pitch their projects to delegates assigned specific one-to-one meetings.

The Viewing Room will offer state-of-the-art VOD individual screenings of key and important films, mainly those that are very recent or and nearing completion. This has proved to be a boon in Goa for buyers, sales agents, festival programmers and (gap) financiers. NFDC will curate a selection of ten films highlighted as ‘Doc Bazaar recommends’ in the Viewing Room.

Work in Progress Lab, selected films which are currently in post-production stage will be mentored by renowned local and international doc industry professionals.

In Close the Gap Pitch Forum, up to ten films from ‘Doc Bazaar Recommends’ nominated from the Viewing Room selection and the Work in Progress Lab, which are in late stages of post-production but require further completion funding, will be given the opportunity to publicly pitch their projects.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Bollywood: The Ranbir Kapoor effect

by Saibal Chatterjee

It is widely accepted that the Mumbai movie industry is in the throes of revolutionary changes. It has been in this welcome state for several years now, thanks to the efforts of a breed of adventurous filmmakers who, while working largely within the parameters of popular Hindi cinema, have consistently defied established convention and pushed the boundaries of the business.

On the evidence available in the first few weeks of 2013, the trend is likely to continue through the year that lies ahead. Film goers in India have already seen two films that have dared to flow against the tide of big-grossing, star-driven vehicles. These two films are significant not just for the way they have been conceived and mounted, but also for the nature and substance of the themes that they deal with.

Music composer-filmmaker Vishal Bhardwaj’s political satire Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola takes up the fractious question of land acquisition for development projects in the face of protests by displaced farmers in different parts of the country. He skillfully weaves it into a film that is at once inspired by the spirit of Bertolt Brecht, the traditions of Indian folk and street theatre, and some of the dominant principles of Hindi cinema.

A commercially-oriented Mumbai film with an ‘agitprop’ underpinning is indeed a rarity. It is rarer still for such a film to be produced under a mainstream banner and released in the multiplexes in the manner of a regular big-budget film.

Sudhir Mishra’s Inkaar, too, goes where conventional Hindi cinema has never gone before. Set in a Mumbai advertising agency, the film is, on one level, about sexual harassment in the workplace and, on another, about the struggle of an ambitious small-town girl determined to make it big in a highly competitive office environment in which neither her mentor nor her colleagues are ready to yield an inch.

Working without A-list box-office stars – the two pivotal roles in Inkaar are essayed by Arjun Rampal and Chitrangda Singh – and a theme that is untested would have been regarded as a complete no-no, a huge commercial risk, only a few years ago. The scenario has obviously undergone a transformation of late, which allows films like Matru Ki Bijlee … and Inkaar more than their place in the sun.

The cast of Matru Ki Bijlee … is led by character actor Pankaj Kapur, one of the finest screen performers in Mumbai today but not somebody who, in conservative wisdom, would be counted upon to pull the crowds in. Bhardwaj is of course anything but traditional when it comes to choice of either subjects or actors.

In Matru Ki Bijlee … he has cast “chocolate boy” Imran Khan completely against type as a craggy village rebel who has been educated in a left-leaning university, where he has developed sympathies for the cause of the disempowered. The adventure may not have succeeded in its entirety for the director or the actor, but the very fact that it has been attempted is noteworthy.

An increasing number of Hindi films are now playing down the power of stardom and pushing for the story and the treatment of the theme to be regarded as the primary propellants of a cinematic venture.

Among such projects is Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che, which is due to have its world premiere at the 63rd Berlin Film Festival. The cricket-themed film features Raj Kumar Yadav, Sushant Singh Rajput and Amit Sadh as its three principal actors.

Director Kapoor, whose previous film, Rock On!! (2008) also had an unusual cast of actors (Farhan Akhtar, Arjun Rampal, Prachi Desai, Luke Kenny, Shahana Goswami), had to settle for lesser-known names drawn from the television firmament because no mainstream Bollywood star was willing to be part of a film like Kai Po Che, adapted from Chetan Bhagat’s best-selling novel, The 3 Mistakes of My Life.

In this context, the importance of Ranbir Kapoor is immense. He is one mainstream Bollywood actor who thrives on challenges and plunges headlong into characters that are not dependant on starry mannerisms for effect. In 2011, Ranbir was part of Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar!!; in 2012, he played the male lead in Anurag Basu’s Barfi!. In the former, he is a self-destructive, temperamental pop vocalist. In the latter, he plays a deaf-mute prankster who falls in love with an autistic girl.

Ranbir Kapoor is just the kind of star-actor that the Mumbai movie industry needs much more of to complete the revolution it seeks. He is somebody who weighs a film’s worth purely on the basis of what it has to offer in terms of its screenplay and characterizations rather than on the footage it devotes to the lead actor. He takes risks and comes out of them not just unscathed but also appreciably strengthened.

If he can sustain the momentum and the will, Ranbir has the potential to be a major agent of change in an industry where, for many key players, old habits still die hard and box-office profits continue to be the only goal that is worthwhile. On his future would ride the future of a major part of the Mumbai movie industry.

(The author is a New Delhi-based film critic)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Berlinale Spot News!


Kim Longinotto’s Salma, set in South India, Salma-1
wins second place Panorama Audience award

Salma directed by Kim Longinotto

2013, 90 mins, UK/India, Tamil language, documentary

After her documentary Pink Saris hit the screens worldwide, master documentary filmmaker Kim Longinotto once again turns to India with her Salma, the story of a Muslim Indian woman who fought back against repressive traditions to find her own voice. This 90-minute film featured in the Berlin International Film Festival's Panorama section. Earlier, it competed in the World Cinema Documentary competition at the Sundance Film Festival. Longinotto has had two previous films at Sundance: the Jury prize-winning Rough Aunties (2008) and The Day I Will Never Forget (2002). Her latest film is about Salma, living in a South Indian village. She was 13 years old when her family locked her up for 25 years, forbidding her to study and forcing her into marriage. During that time, words were Salma’s salvation. She began covertly composing poems on scraps of paper and through an intricate system, was able to sneak them out of the house, eventually getting them into the hands of a publisher. Against the odds, Salma became the most famous female poet in South India: the first step to discovering her own freedom and challenging the traditions and code of conduct in her village. Salma’s extraordinary story is one of courage and resilience, and Longinotto follows her on an eye-opening trip back to her village. Serving as executive producers are the project’s commissioning editors from Channel 4, Hamish Mykura and Anna Miralis.

Kim Longinotto’s career as a documentary director, producer and cinematographer began in the late ’70s, with her work tending toward sensitively handled controversial topics where women are at the forefront. Her films have screened at festivals around the world to great acclaim, from Cannes to IDFA, Hot Docs to Frameline.

Instituted in 1999, the Panorama Audience Award follows the procedure of movie-goers who view the films shown in the Panorama section – which meant counting and evaluating the 28,000 votes cast in 2013. This year the Panorama presented 52 productions from 33 countries, of which 20 were documentaries.

Kim Longinotto’s earlier film Pink Saris premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival in its Reel to Reel section. The film follows Sampat Pal Devi, the leader of the Pink Gang who brings her own brand of justice to the streets of the State of Uttar Pradesh in India. This is where entrenched tradition continues to condone child marriages, dowry deaths and abuse inflicted on women by husbands and in-laws. Sampat Pal took on the task of helping these distraught women particularly those who are from the lower caste. To them she represented the only option to suicide. Disdaining religion and custom, often attracting a crowd of gawkers, she became a figure to reckon with. Pink Sari’s was shortlisted for the Oscar nominations as well.