Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Mega Learning Experiment – Part 5 - The Mumbai International Film Festival

After two great learning days at the KalaGoda Arts Festival, I decided to spend the 6th and 7th February at the Mumbai International Film Festival. There were over 200 films being shown at the festival for six days. The movies mainly included documentaries, short films and animation films.

Plan for the Festival

I had listed down the movies I wanted to watch at the festival the night before. I had come back home by 11 pm after the poetry reading at Kala Goda. I stayed up for an extra hour to make the list, so I did not miss out on a movie that would interest me the next day.

I pack up a lunch bag in the morning, prepare my bag with some books and reading material and leave home for the festival. I then catch an early morning train, and an hour later I reach Churchgate. I then walk to the National Center of Performing Arts, which is about a kilometer away.

At the NCPA, screenings were being held simultaneously in four halls. They were:-

1.  Tata Theatre
2.  Godrej Theatre
3.  Experimental Theatre
4.  Little Theatre

The Magnificent NCPA and Tata Theatre

The Tata Theatre was the largest of the four. There were movies from several different countries being screened at the festival. There were also awards for the national and international category.

I had attended a mystery writing workshop yesterday afternoon. Then I attended a discussion about fashion industry. Then I had gone for a three hour poetry reading. Now I was at an international film festival. It was such an extra-ordinarily rich learning experience.

I always wondered why artists spend most of their time with artists. Or why bankers spend most of their time with bankers. Why not look outside the tribe once in a while. As the Indian writer Jerry Pinto once said, ‘The more varied your sources the richer your life experiences’ We can get inspiration from anywhere. We just had to look harder and open ourselves to newer experiences. I had to learn how to get out of my comfort zone.

Bulgarian Animation Films and Short Films

I started the day with two films based on the themes of political experimentation at the Little Theatre. The first film was titled, ‘I am Twenty’. The interviews of a few young people born in the year 1947, were taken. These interviews were taken when these people were twenty years old, to understand their aspirations and hopes for the future of the independent country they were born into.

By 10 30 am, I went to the Godrej Theatre at the NCPA, to watch some animation films from Bulgaria. The names of the films I saw were, ‘The Piano Player’ by Asya Kovanova and Andrey Koulev and ‘The Line’ by Andrey Koulev. I then headed to the Tata Theatre, which is one of the largest halls in Mumbai, which can seat over 1,000 people. I decided to spend the afternoon there watching films nominated in the International Competition.

The first movie I saw there was AfterGlow by Kaushal Oza. It was the story of a Parsi widow, and her life ten days after the death of her husband. Relatives come in to show false sympathy, but she does not care for their false sympathy and tries to come to term with her own personal grief by breaking from these traditions.

This was followed by a movie titled, ‘Detour’ by a film maker from Singapore whose name was Michael Kam. It explored the brotherly relationship between the sons of a taxi driver and an incident of child sexual abuse that occurs in a public toilet one day.

Gulabi Gang - A story above all stories

At 12pm, the screening of the documentary film, ‘Gulabi Gang’ was organized. The film was directed by Nishita Jain and is the story of a group of women from the Bundelkhand area of India. The group was formed by a few women and is lead by Mrs Sampat Pal Devi. They empower themselves and other women to fight against caste oppression, gender violence and widespread corruption.

This was easily one of the best documentary movie I ever saw. The story of Sampat Pal Devi, was inspiring. Her bravery and courage to stand up for issues that all women go through showed me a different side of India. In the movie women, go together to complain to officials about caste oppression and gender violence. They resort to violence but very rarely. For two hours I was in Bundelkhand. For those two hours I felt like I was part of the Gulabi Gang.

I then had lunch in the lobby where I walked into the film maker Anand Gandhi, who was the director of the movie, ‘Ship of Theseus’. This was the second time I was meeting him and I had seen his movie and was very interested in his philosophy about  culture and its role in society. We spoke for a few minutes about the film he was here to support, ‘Gulabi Gang’. It was nice speaking to him. Actually, quite cool!

A Film from Nepal

After a short break, I came back to the Tata Theatre, to watch a movie titled, ‘Who will be a Gurkha’ directed by Kesand Tseten. It was a two hour film. It showed the rigorous three phase process for selecting young Nepali boys into the Brigade of Gurkhas. It is a special unit within the British Army. It has become a family tradition to join the brigade in Nepal. The boys come from all over Nepal for the selection and the competition is fierce for the final spot. The film showcases the physical and mental tests the boys take and the pressure the boys are under during  the selection.

Yamagata Films Evening

At 7 pm, there was a showcase of films from the Yamagata Film Festival in Japan. The two films I saw for the next two hours were, ‘Storytellers’ and ‘Sound Hunting’. Storytellers was about the age old story telling tradition in the Yamagata tradition. The film depicts a few senior citizens narrating stories they have heard over the years.

The final film I saw was titled. ‘To Let the World In’ by Avijit Mukul Kishore. It was a documentary on contemporary art. It featured conversations with ten of India’s leading artists. They speak about their work, life and interests. It gave me a glimpse into the lives of these artists. Each artist had something unique to bring to the world. Every painting was different and an equal effort was put into each one. Education had lots to learn from this approach to work and life. Every student could be an artist. Every student could add value to the world by bringing unique work into the world.

By 10 pm, I left NCPA to catch the night train back home. It was a long day and there was much to be reflected on, during the train journey back home.

Let us Learn Together
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