What’s not political?” asks Pradip Saha rhetorically. The former editor of the Down to Earth magazine is explaining why he dropped the tagline ‘political films’ from the upcoming fourth edition of the Magic Lantern Foundation’s annual festival of documentaries. Saha, who is helping his friends at the Foundation with the ‘concept and design’ of the large fest, says, “The phrase scares the kids and angers the elders.”
But if there seems to be any thread running through the 80-odd films that are going to be screened and streamed during the four-day fest, it’s their refusal to accept the status quo. “We understand resistance mostly in the secular, western way. Do we understand, for example, tribal forms of resistance except when they confront others with bows and arrows?” asks Gargi Sen, head of the Magic Lantern Foundation and the curator of the fest.
Guided by such principles — politics, if you please — the organisers have put together films that fit different chapters: retrospectives of Kim Longinotto, Paromita Vohra and Rahul Roy; a Korean section from the Pusan fest; 16 of the “most significant films” from the last decade at the London International Documentary fest; a selection from the DocAlliance film fest; six films bankrolled by our own Ministry of External Affairs, of all organisations.
This year, the fest also questions traditional ways of screening festivals. Apart from the usual screenings, there’ll be eight video parlours where some films will run on loop on 42” monitors; a ‘library’ of four computers where you can go and watch any of the festival films on your own time; outdoor screenings every evening and streaming of 40 films from the fest website during the fest days.
“The idea is for you to watch as you want, how you want.” And that, too, affects our ways of seeing.