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Three Views of India At Cannes

admin   July 5, 2021

Though many from India will not be at Cannes this time, given the Covid-19 restrictions, three Indian films are part of Cannes Film Festival- Rahul Jain’s Invisible Demons in the special ‘Cinema for the Climate’ section, Mumbai-based Payal Kapadia’s A Night of Knowing Nothing in the Directors’ Fortnight 2021, and Suman Sen’s Eka in La Fabrique Cinema.

By Saibal Chatterjee

Travel from the subcontinent isn’t easy in the current situation, but three Indian filmmakers, two with completed films and one with a project on the verge of being greenlighted, will be in Cannes this year to share their images and ideas with the world.

After a year that saw the announcement of a full complement of films but no physical screenings, the Cannes Film Festival is back with its 74th edition with a slew of Covid-19 protocols in place. India is on France’s red list, which poses a logistical challenge to film professionals and scribes from this country who intend to make the trip to the French Riviera.

The subcontinent does, however, have a brace of titles in the Official Selection. Bangladeshi filmmaker Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s Rehanais in the Un Certain Regard sidebar. Indian documentarian Rahul Jain’s Invisible Demons screens in the special ‘Cinema for the Climate’ section.

Saad’s film has made history. It is the first-ever Bangladeshi entry to find a place in the Official Selection in Cannes. Tareque Masud’s Matir Moina (The Clay Bird) is the only film from Bangladesh that has screened in Cannes before – in Directors’ Fortnight, 2002.

A Night of Knowing Nothing

Rahul Jain’s first documentary feature was the critically acclaimed Machines (2016), an austere, unflinching look at the grimly tortuous lives of workers in a textile mill in Gujarat. The film screened in Sundance and IDFA Amsterdam in 2017, besides numerous other festivals.

Invisible Demons, a 70-minute documentary about the grave repercussions of Delhi’s rapid urban expansion and the impact of polluted air and water on the most vulnerable segments of the megacity’s population.“It is high time that films about the realities of climate change are given a platform,” says Jain, who grew up in Delhi and acquired an MA degree in Aesthetics and Politics from the California Institute of the Arts.

“I do not, however, like being labelled. I see myself as a young filmmaker who is reacting to the world around me.” He is quick to add that he is excited that “the cat is out of the bag and the film is going to play in Cannes”.

He is now keen, Jain adds, to see how much Invisible Demons communicates with the audience in Cannes. The film pieces together stories of a few of Delhi’s inhabitants as they grapple with alarming levels of pollution.

Invisible Demons

The film germinated years ago. On his way to school when he was only six, he would pass the river Yamuna. “Is this a nadi (river) or a nullah, I would ask,” Jain recalls. Pollution in Delhi, he says, isn’t just a winter phenomenon. “In the heat wave, my brain shuts down,” he says.

“After Machines, I had a dearth of inspiration. I felt worthless. I wondered if anything I was going to make be of any use? I took a break and went to Bhutan. And when I returned to Delhi, I collapsed, strangled by the pollution,” the filmmaker recalls.

The parallel Directors’ Fortnight 2021 includes Mumbai-based Payal Kapadia’s first fiction feature,A Night of Knowing Nothing. Scripted by the director with Himanshu Prajapati and lensed by Laila Aur Satt Geet cinematographer Ranabir Das, the film is far removed from the Indian entries that the Quinzaine has programmed in the past decade (Gangs of Wasseypur, Ugly, Raman Raghav 2.0, all helmed by Anurag Kashyap).

The synopsis of A Night of Knowing Nothing reads: “A University student writes letters to her estranged lover while he is away. Through these letters, we get a glimpse into the drastic changes taking place around her. Merging reality with fiction, dreams, memories, fantasies and anxieties, an amorphous narrative unfolds.”

Rehanais

This isn’t Kapadia’s first appearance in Cannes. In 2017, the FTII alumna was at the world’s premier film festival with Afternoon Clouds, which featured in the Cinefondation short films competition.

Directors’ Fortnight has a history of selecting films that go on to win the Camera d’Or, Cannes’ prize for the best debut film of a director. On the list of winners are Jim Jarmusch’s Stranger Than Paradise (1984), Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! (1988), Jafar Panahi’s The White Balloon (1995), Naomi Kawase’s Suzaku (1997), Bahman Ghobadi’s A Time for Drunken Horses (2000) and Anthony Chen’s Ilo Ilo (2013). This year, our eyes will be on Payal Kapadia’s A Night of Knowing Nothing, one of several first films in the Directors’ Fortnight lineup.

Kolkata-born Suman Sen is the third Indian filmmaker in Cannes this year. His debut feature Eka (Solo) has made it to La Fabrique Cinema, an Institut Francais-sponsored mentoring programme for young directors. “We are now just one draft away from the shooting. The intention is to wrap up (the funding negotiations), so I’m staying over in Paris after the Cannes festival. The pandemic situation permitting, we want to start filming in mid-2022,” says Sen, who has been in the advertising industry for 15 years.

According to the synopsis, Eka, set in Kolkata, “explores the degeneration of the social fabric of India”. The filmmaker says: “The film reflects the time I have lived in for the last couple of years: a time of hatred, intolerance and violence.”

“I have a love-hate relationship with Kolkata,” says Sen, who moved to Mumbai five years ago. “I wanted to distance myself from the city and view it objectively. The move has given me a new reflective lens to view Kolkata from a different angle altogether.”

Eka

Sen recently completed the short film The Silent Echo, set in Nepal. Eka, an Indo-Bangladeshi-French venture backed by Arifur Rahman of Goopy Bagha Productions, is one of ten projects selected for La Fabrique Cinema.

Another La Fabrique Cinema inclusion is multiple award-winning Afghan filmmaker Sahra Mani’s documentary Kabul Melody, about two teenage girls who face family opposition and Taliban threats as they pursue their passion for music.

In her Statement of Intent, Mani, who made the widely applauded A Thousand Girls Like Me (2018), says, “Being a filmmaker in Afghanistan means being a social activist. In spite of it all, with Kabul Melody I want to show hope and the emergence of free will among the women who will create Afghanistan’s future.”

In the Marche du Film (Cannes Film Market), the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC) will present seven projects looking for co-producers and financiers. The slate includes Moving Bangladesh, a film produced, among others, by Arifur Rahman, who is also backing Eka.

The other NFDC projects in this year’s Cannes Film Market are Prantik Basu’s Dengue, Anjali Menon’s Rasa, Nepalese filmmaker Pasang Dawa Sherpa’s Kuhiro Pariko Sahar (A Hidden Tale Behind the Mist), Paromita Dhar’s Last Time on Earth, Rishi Chandna’s Ghol (The Catch) and Subhadra Mahajan’s Second Chance.


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NFDC

NFDC Film Bazaar’s Co-Production Projects at Cannes Film Market

admin   July 5, 2021

Film Bazaar, South Asia’s largest co-production market, has collaborated with the Cannes Film Market to present seven projects looking for co-producers and financiers on July 9. Co-Production Day will give the selected participants the opportunity to connect and do one-on-one online meetings with co-producers and financiers at Marché du Film.

The seven projects are Dengue by Prantik Basu (India, Netherlands), Rasa (Immerse) by Anjali Menon (India), Kuhiro Pariko Sahar (A Hidden Tale Behind The Mist) by Pasang Dawa Sherpa (Nepal), Moving Bangladesh by Nuhash Humayun (Bangladesh), Last Time On Earth by Paromita Dhar (India, France), Ghol (The Catch) by Rishi Chandna and Second Chance by Subhadra Mahajan (India).

1. Dengue (India, Netherlands | Bengali, Hindi, English)

Director – PrantikBasu

Producers – Prantik Basu, Jan van der Zanden

Dengue

During a sudden summer rain in Kolkata (India), a young migrant worker named Nepal gives refuge to Sunny, a medical student, by offering him his room to stay. While the narrow suburban roads get flooded and soon become a breeding ground for mosquitoes that carry a tropical virus, a feverish romance unfolds between the two men.

2. Rasa (Immerse) (India | Malayalam, Hindi, English, Tamil)

Director – Anjali Menon

Producers – Anjali Menon, NP Prakash

Rasa (Immerse)

Manju, 34, a Nepali maid in a South Indian household, wears an emotionless face of efficient servitude. But this mask crumbles when she comes across Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance. Lavanya, 14, the school going daughter of Manju’s boss, has to train for a classical dance contest. A reluctant Manju escorts her but unexpectedly the dance surprises her with itsgrace and emotion. Falling desperately in love with the dance form, Manju meticulously supports Lavanya’s dance training and performance; caring and paying attention to every minute detail.

3. KuhiroPariko Sahar (A Hidden Tale behind the Mist) (Nepal | Nepali)

Director – PasangDawa Sherpa

Producers – Prem Prasad Adhikary

KuhiroPariko Sahar (A Hidden Tale behind the Mist)

A devoted wife, SARKI (21) lives with her stony-hearted husband SANGE (28) and son DORJE (7) in a village surrounded by beautiful mountains. Sarki’s daily routine consists of household chores along with taking care of her paralyzed husband. Her efforts do not pay off and his health is worsening gradually. All of sudden their dog dies in a mysterious way. Sarki believes that it took all her husband’s pain and passed away. When Sange gets recovered but she gets encountered with a different reality.

4. Moving Bangladesh (Bangladesh, France | Bengali)

Director – NuhashHumayun

Producers – BijonImtiaz, Arifur Rahman, Bich-Quan Tran

 Moving Bangladesh

Sick of being stuck in traffic and in life, a struggling entrepreneur creates a motorbike-based ride-sharing app that may change travel in Bangladesh, forever… if he can overcome his family, relationships- and the government.

5. Last Time On Earth (India, France),

Director –ParomitaDhar

Producers – ParomitaDhar, YohannCornu

Last Time On Earth

Last Time on Earth is the story of Manna and his persistent dream of magical proportions. He is a construction worker who left his village to work in the city. While he toils in the night time metropolis, his dreams literally day time dreams seeping into scattered sleep take him repeatedly to the moon. Manna works in its glow and has recurring dreams of it. They are dreams that metamorphosis into signs, and finally into an idea that he plans to execute with his friend Kazi’s help.

6. Ghol (The Catch) (India | Gujarati, Hindi, English)

Director – Rishi Chandna

Producer – Dina Dattani

Ghol (The Catch)

An impoverished Muslim fisherman becomes a millionaire overnight after catching a shoal of the rare and prized Ghol fish in the polluted, nearly barren waters off the west coast of India. The newfound wealth offers him a chance to buy a bigger boat and rebuild his life, but a renewed wave of anti-Muslim sentiment threatens his plans and forces him to confront past traumas.

7. Second Chance by Subhadra Mahajan (India)

Director – Subhadra Mahajan

Producers – Shyam Bora, Bhaskar Hazarika

Second Chance by Subhadra Mahajan

City girl Mia visits her family home in the Himalayas in winter, alone; depressed & detached. The caretaker of the house departs, leaving his old mother-in-law Bimal, in charge. Her days are filled with manual labor & looking after her naughty grandson Sunny. Interaction is unavoidable… The 3 distinct souls find themselves bound together beyond age & class divides. Until the arrival of an unexpected visitor drives Mia straight back into her trauma. Mia debates giving herself a ‘Second Chance’.