Russia. 67 min. 2004
In honor of Antonina’s hard work, the State rewards her with the prestigious Red Flag, also naming her the best tractor operator in the region. As the first woman to ever receive such title, Antonina becomes the source of great pride for her family and community. But when a mouse infestation threatens to destroy the valued Flag, the prestigious prize turns into a liability. Antonina becomes intensely invested in keeping it safe and at her home. More than a story of survival against ethics, or individuality against collectivity, HARVEST TIME is a piercing meditation on family unity. Set in the 1950s U.S.S.R., a period marked by rapid Soviet development and harsh poverty for its habitants, Razbezhkina’s film dares to combine humor and sensitive character development with a legitimate sense of nostalgia for a difficult and fascinating period in the Soviet past.
The Mansi children on a boarding school in the small Russian village Ivdel are impatiently waiting for winter holidays. They are looking forward to return to their home village, where there is no television or video games. It takes a whole day to get to their hometown, through forests and snowed fields, but there is no place like home. At home they can ride sleigh, jump from the roof into the snow and play cards with grandmother. The winter break is a small change from the city life for the children. Will some decide to return forever?
The main character, the migrant worker Farrukh, lives in a trailer on the outskirts of Moscow together with his family – his father, mother and brothers – and has to take on any job that could earn him some money. But that is not the reason he left Tajikistan, his wife and small children. Farrukh wants to be an actor, a famous actor… Farrukh is swept into a whirlpool of conflicting circumstances – dreams of making it on the big screen, living the life of an illegal alien and the traditions of a Muslim family, which call on him to comply with the laws of the Quran. Some day Farrukh will have to make a choice.
Denis Shabaev was born in 1980, in Moscow. In 2001-2003 he studied in the Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography, in the workshop for documentary film directors led by Igor Geleyn. In 2003-2010 he worked in cinema production and other spheres. In 2013 he graduated from the Marina Razbezhkina and Mikhail Ugarov School of Documentary Film and Theatre.
‘Who am I?’ and ‘Where do I come from?’ are questions that most of us inevitably ask ourselves at some point in our lives. Some of us learn about our roots by talking to our relatives, some of us read about history, some go on solo trips to better understand themselves. Sapna Bhavnani decided to make a documentary, and to represent her identity on her skin — through tattoos.
Bhavnani is a Bandra resident who has also spent a considerable part of her life in the US, but she traces her roots back to Sindh. Growing up, Sindhi culture for her was kadhi, and a mention in the national anthem. What puzzled her was that despite having a place in the anthem, this region wasn’t represented in the geography of the country. “We Sindhis are like magic, hum hai bhi, hum nahi bhi hai!”
Anwar is a private detective working for a seedy agency specializing in hunting down cheating spouses and vetting potential mates for middle and upper class families. It’s his job to keep an eye on the prospective fiance(e)s and let the parents know if this is a suitably virginal match (most often it isn’t, this is 2014 after all). However, Anwar has a problem, it is the big beating heart in his chest that can’t quite seem to disconnect from his job when he’s undercover. He instinctively wants to protect true love from the harassment of arranged marriage, and it’s not good for business. As he finds himself falling deeper and deeper into cases, he ends up finding out that (surprise!) the intentions of his clients are less than noble and winds up on a journey to hunt down his own past and discover just how good a man he can be.
Director Buddhadeb Dasgupta is a multiple National Award winning Begali director with a CV going back nearly four decades, but this is the first of his films that I’ve seen. If this is the sort of work I’ve been missing, it’s definitely time to catch up. The combination of a filmmaker with such deep emotional bonds with his characters and India’s greatest character actor turned leading man in Nawazuddin Siddiqui is impossible to ignore, and the results are staggeringly heartfelt. Dasgupta treats his world with care, weaving himself in and out of his characters lives, delicately laying strands between them that will tie themselves into seemingly impossible knots that can only be undone with kindness, it is inspiring stuff.
Bachchu Mondal is a car mechanic, but most importantly, he is a dreamer. His dream is a simple one, he just wants to fly, an aspiration he shares with his wife, but mostly his son, who actually enjoys his father’s attitude, since Bachchu behaves like a child (in a good way) quite frequently. Eventually, Banchu discovers the crash site of a World War II Japanese plane and decides to rebuild it, without, though, having any clue on how to accomplish that. Furthermore, the place the plane is lying is “inhabited” by ghosts, who have the tendency to share their life stories with our protagonist. While his wish brings him to Kolkata in search of parts, the authorities also begin to investigate him as a life threatening series of bizarre events conspire.
It’s certainly a far cry from the barbarism and stark violence of Dasgupta’s well-known The Wrestlers (Uttara), which won him best director kudos in Venice in 2000. Here, the violence lies within the hearts of people who can’t say no to their futile, dangerous desires, even though they are destroying their happiness. The Indians have been preaching the folly of being attached to worldly things for thousands of years, but evidently the lesson has not yet sunk in.
Deep in the wilds of rural Bengal, eccentric faded aristocrat Raja is living in palatial splendor with his voluptuous mistress Rekha. But their relationship is clearly doomed. While he dances to crackly old songs played on a vintage vinyl turntable, she dreams of swimming off to faraway lands with mysterious strangers. Both appear stranded in antique fantasy versions of India, so it comes as a mild shock when a modern film crew arrive from Kolkata with their laptops and digital cameras, enlisting Raja to help them track down a tiger for a documentary project.
Meanwhile, not far away, former postman Goja has seemingly lost his mind and reinvented himself as a tree-dwelling soothsayer, gleaning sufficient clues from stolen mail to offer plausible-sounding prophecies to his gullible customers. And Munni is a pre-teen nomad girl who earns a meager living for her impoverished lower-caste parents with her dazzling public displays of tightrope walking. All these narrative threads initially unfold separately, then cross and intertwine.
The Bait is based on a macabre short story by NarayanBandyopadhyay, which Dasgupta first earmarked for adaptation over a decade ago, but which initially proved too blunt and spare for his maximalist magic-realist style. The film retains Bandyopadhyay’s shock final twist, which crystallizes one of many possible meanings of the title, but also fleshes out his blueprint text with extra characters and subplots.
We, the people
India. 28 min. 2018
“We, The People” explores dissent in India through protests on Jantar Mantar Road, a mile-long protest street in India’s national capital Delhi. Through three indefinite protests at Jantar Mantar Road, the film questions the socio-political reality of India vis a vis the ideals the nation set out with.
Samarth Mahajan is a self-taught filmmaker passionate about telling stories from India that remain invisible to the mainstream. His documentaries have received critical and mass attention in media. “The Unreserved”, his national award-winning debut documentary, premiered at Film Southasia 2017 and has been screened in more than 50 national and international forums. “We, The People”, his documentary about India’s protest street Jantar Mantar Road, won multiple awards at Docedge Kolkata – Asian Forum for Documentary. He is currently directing “The Borderlands”, a documentary capturing human stories from India’s borders. Samarth completed his education from IIT Kharagpur and Young India Fellowship.
Mrinal Sen, an Era in Cinema
India. 35 min. 2017
A biographical documentary that tries to decode the layers of political ideology, which have been the cornerstone of auteur Mrinal Sen’s cinematic expression. Inspired by Satyajit Ray and Italian neorealismo, Sen, a forerunner of the Indian New-Wave used a range of aesthetic styles to explore the socio-political climate of his times.
Rajdeep Paul is an independent filmmaker and writer, an alumnus of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI), India and recipient of the National Film Award from the Honourable President of India for the feature length documentary film “At the Crossroads Nondon Bagchi Life and Living” at the 61st National Film Awards 2013.
He has written and directed several documentary films, short fiction films, PSA, Animation and New Media films etc and has worked with both international and national producers of repute like PBS & ShowOfForce, USA, Native Voices, UK, Films Division, Doordarshan, Prasar Bharti & Public Diplomacy Division, Ministry of External Affairs, Aurora Film Corporation, Krish Movies etc from India. His debut feature film script “The Biryani Seller” has undergone mentorship in the first edition of Mumbai Mantra Cinerise Screenwriting Programme 2014-15 from the likes of Michael Radford, Audrey Wells, Sebastian Cordero, Sriram Raghavan and Anjum Rajabali, and was one of the 18 official selections in NFDC Film Bazaar Co-Production Market 2016. In most of his works he has collaborated with Sarmistha Maiti as co-writer and co-director.
Apart from his film career, he has written two books “3 on a Bed – Contemporary Indian Novellas” and “Davyaprithvi – Heaven on Earth” both published in 2013.
Tales from our Childhood
India. 69 min. 2018
What was it like to grow up in Assam in the 1990s and be squeezed between an insurgency and the Army? Mukul Haloi’s Tales from our childhood sets out to find out.
Made between 2016 and 2017, the documentary comprises shards of real and imaginedmemories of the battle between United Liberation Front of Assam militants and the Indian Army for the state’s soul. Apart from interviews with Haloi’s family members and friends, the 69-minute film includes staged sequences in which the director’s friend wears an ULFA uniform and poses as a rebel soldier.
Mukul Haloi studied Film Direction and Screenplay Writing at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). His short films ‘Days of Autumn’ and ‘A letter to home’ received five Indian awards including Best film at IDSFFK and Signs, Kerala.‘A letter to home’ was in International Competition at 27th Curtas Vila do Conde, Portugal. Most of his films emerge from his deeply personal and poetic remembrance of a lost past -a collective and political past. He received ‘Early Career Fellowship’ from TISS, Mumbai to make his debut feature documentary ‘Tales from our childhood’, which deals with his growing up during the violent Insurgency struggle in his home state Assam.It won ‘Bala Kailasam Award for Excellence in Documentary’ and was shown at Yamagata International Documentary Film Festival and Sibiu International Film Festival. Its is included in the coursework of ‘Modern Indian Studies’, Gottingen University; Germany. In 2017, he was invited to month long ‘Vision Splendid Outback Film-making Program’ organised by Griffith Film School, Australia. He has been writing short stories and essays in Assamese for more than 8 years. He is also teaching film and screenwriting at various independent workshops across the country.