Kolkata, December 5, 2010 (Calcutta Tube/IBNS) The journey for the documentary and short filmmaker in India has been difficult. It is still an ongoing journey that is changing its destination and its route with the changing demands of time and circumstance.
It stands independent of every other kind of cinema such as mainstream cinema, promotional and advertising films, and propaganda films commissioned by political parties as part of their electoral campaigns, educational films aimed at screening in educational institutions, and corporate films commissioned by corporate houses for in-house training programmes and so on.
It stands distanced from the intellectual arrogance of parallel cinema and is far removed from official media.
Like every year, the 16th Kolkata Film Festival in association with Short Filmmakers Association of Eastern India hosted screenings of numerous noted documentaries and short films at two venues – Bangla Akademi Main Auditorium and Jibanananda Complex.Sadly, short films and documentaries get the short shrift from exhibitors and distributors across the country.
Film Festivals offer these committed filmmakers the opportunity to showcase their work.
Over the two screenings held every single day over this 8-day festival, the shorts chosen cover every genre of documentary and short films ranging from films on art and culture, students’ films, New Generation of Bengal, 150 Years of Rabindranath, Films on Indigenous People and Forest Regions, Award-winning International Films, Fairs and Festivals, Focus on Adivasi Regions, Films Division Selections, Kolkata,Travel to New Areas, Focus on Bangladesh and Looking Back – Great Masters from Films Division Archive.
In trying to evolve this ‘alternative language’ through an ‘alternative cinema’, crusaders of public causes are struggling to bring about a happy marriage wherever possible, between art and activism, between creativity and political action.
These films do draw their own niche audience of fellow-short and documentary filmmakers on the one hand and students of cinema studies and film schools on the other who come to the festival mainly to watch these films.
The most outstanding film in this entire programme was Satyajit Ray’s 22-minute documentary, The Inner Eye (1974) on his guru the blind artist Binode Bihari Mukherjee.
This film is one of the best biographical documentaries made in the history of the documentary in Indian cinema.
Binode Bihari Mukherjee was Ray’s inspiration during the time he was a student of the great master at Kala Bhaban.
Few are aware that Indira Gandhi, then the PM, as Chancellor of Viswa Bharati, made Mukherjee Professor Emeritus on the strength of Ray’s film. Ray mixes the past and present in the film aesthetically and imaginatively, bringing out the essence of what made this blind painter so friendly with his blindness.
Two noted documentary filmmakers from Bangladesh whose films found place at the screenings are Yasmin Kabir and Tanvir Mokammel in the Focus on Bangladesh.
Asoke Viswanathan’s Bishnupur Gharana found place in the Art & Culture section. Another very good film that came from Films Division is Satarupa Sanyal’s Immortal Martyr Jatin Das, one of the most well-researched documentary in recent times.
Dhananjoy Mandal’s A Journey with the Kakmaras is one of the most interesting insights offered into the lives of an indigenous tribe that migrated to West Bengal from the southern states who live off the crows they kill only to eat off the flesh of these birds.
Bijoo Topo and Meghnad’s films Iron is Hot focusses on the terrible price indigenous people must face in the name of industrial development.
By Shoma A. Chatterji