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Sunday, Aug 25, 2019

Weekend treat: a northeast film festival in the capital

A focus on young talent plus the last film of famous docu-maker Altaf Majid.

regional-movies Updated: Aug 19, 2017 11:12 IST
KumKum Dasgupta
KumKum Dasgupta
Hindustan Times
A still from the film Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake, Manipuri) on a  fisherman who suddenly gets hold of a gun by director  Haobam Paban Kumar
A still from the film Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake, Manipuri) on a fisherman who suddenly gets hold of a gun by director Haobam Paban Kumar(Photos courtesy: IIC)

Delhi is the cultural capital of India, but try finding regular cultural dos from the vibrant Northeast, your efforts will come to naught. Things do change for the better in the winter when Northeast food and cultural festivals are organised. Thankfully, this year you don’t need to wait for the winter to savour the region’s diverse culture: The India International Centre (IIC) and the North East Media Forum are holding a film festival from the region and the focus is on young directors.

For those who have not yet managed to overcome the ‘tyranny of distance’, filmmaking is not an easy job in the region. It has been always a struggle because of limited space for theatrical release and the enormous linguistic diversity. Apart from films in Assamese and Manipuri, which have a relatively bigger viewership, films made in most of the languages have almost nil commercial viability because of smaller populations speaking these languages and the lack of cinema halls, in most of these areas. Most of these filmmakers pursue their art with self or private funding, making low budget yet quality films.

Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake, a Manipuri film) directed by Haobam Paban Kumar.
Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the Lake, a Manipuri film) directed by Haobam Paban Kumar. ( Photo courtesy: IIC )

“Some filmmakers, such as Pradip Kurbah, have devised their own strategy by choosing to take their films from village to village. For example, Kurbah takes his Khasi language films to villages in the Khasi Hills of Meghalaya along with a portable projector and screen, and organise screenings for a fee,” Utpal Borjupari, the curator of the fest, told HT. Borjupari is a 2003 Swarna Kamal Awardee at the 50th National Film Awards for film criticism and a journalist/film critic-turned-filmmaker.

Though this is not the first time such a fest is being held in the capital, the focus this time is on fresh talent from the region. The festival will also screen the last film of acclaimed documentary filmmaker Altaf Majid who passed away last year. The festival comprises feature films, documentaries, and a short film.

“Any film lover would love the cinema being showcased in this fest. But more than that, for the people of the capital, it’s a wonderful opportunity to get a peek at the society and cultures of the people and how contemporary issues get reflected in the cinema of the region,” added Borjupari.

The festival opened on Friday with Amar Kaushik’s Berlin Film Festival Award winner ‘Aaba’. While Kaushik does not belong to the Northeast, he spent his childhood years in Arunachal Pradesh and has made this film which also won the National Award for Best Short Film this year in the Apatani language.

A still from the film Antardhrishti, an Assamese film made by Rima Das.
A still from the film Antardhrishti, an Assamese film made by Rima Das. ( Photo: IIC )

Another highlight of the festival is acclaimed Manipuri documentary filmmaker Haobam Paban Kumar’s debut feature “Loktak Leirembee (The Lady of the Lake)”, which has been screened at Busan and Berlin film festivals.It was also the winner of the Grand Prize at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival’s India Gold section last year and the National Award for the Best Film on Environment this year.

Then there is Alifa by Deep Choudhury, which won the Indira Gandhi Award for the Best First Film of a director at the National Awards this year; Beautiful Lives by Kangkan Deka and Antardrishti by Rima Das, all debut films, and two documentaries, Altaf Majid’s ‘Sabin Alun’ and Sesino Yhoshu’s ‘The Pangti Story’.

Here are few names that one must watch out for other than those mentioned above: Pradip Kurbah and Dominic Sangma from Meghalaya, Prashant Rasaily from Sikkim, Rima Das, Reema Borah, Dhruv J Bordoloi, Bidyut Kotoky, Bhaskar Hazarika, Kenny Basumatary and Monjul Baruah from Assam, and Mapuia Chongthu from Mizoram.

For Assamese Subimal Bhattacharjee, a defence and cyber expert, who produced the feature length documentary Memories of a Forgotten War, which is about young soldiers and locals who participated or witnessed the battles in World War II in Nagaland and Manipur, the two must-watch films are ‘Loktak Lairembee’ by Haobam Paban Kumar and ‘Beautiful Lives’ by Kangkan Barua.

The first one has been shot in the background of the famous Loktak lake in Manipur and touches on environmental concerns. It also depicts the other reality of the region: the gun culture, which pervades Northeast India, and how people are forced to take up arms. “The characters in the film will help viewers understand some of the issues in Northeast,” added Bhattacharjee.

Beautiful Lives is a touching film that shows the struggle of an autorickshaw driver after a bomb blast and dwells on how such violence impacts him financially and emotionally, the larger point being the emotional scar that continuous violence leaves on society.

This special festival, said Bhattacharjee, is an effort that goes well in line with the 2014 MK Bezbaurah panel recommendations on how to stop discrimination and racial attacks on people from the Northeast. These, he hoped, will help people understand the ground realities in the region and also appreciate their varied culture.

Unfortunately, there is little scope to catch these films after the festival: “Very few are available online. Some should become available on various video on demand platforms in the near future,” said Borjupari.

Programme details

What: “The Fresh Lens: New Cinematic Voices from Northeast India”

When: Aug 18 (6:30 pm), Aug 19 (11 am)

Where: CD Deshmukh Auditorium, Main Building, India International Centre, IIC, 40 Max Mueller Marg, Lodhi Estate. Entry : Free

Nearest metro station: Jorbagh, Khan Market

First Published: Aug 18, 2017 19:55 IST

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