A film festival in the woods

A film festival in the woods

Ever went to a movie festival in the woods? Here's an opportunity for film buffs to enjoy a fest with the majestic snow-capped Himalayas in the backdrop, sipping tea while sitting around a bonfire.

The Sonapani Spring Film Festival will be held from March 16 to 18 at Sonapani village in Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand.

"Anyone can bring any film they have made... A lot of upcoming filmmakers come to Sonapani. This edition we are celebrating the works of three filmmakers who are already established in their respective fields," says Gurpal Singh, the curator and brain behind the unique festival.

So why this unique setting?

"Ashish Arora has been running this eco lodge in Sonapani for a few years. He was interested in having a film festival in the woods and shared this thought with me. I immediately agreed and thus this small intimate festival was born," Singh told PTI.

On selection of films, Singh says, "While it has already been decided on the filmmakers, they have also been asked to carry all their work as some screenings can happen impromptu, depending on how they connect with the viewers and participants."

According to Arora, the filmmakers whose films are screened at the festival will be given travel and stay allowances while rest of the participants will have to hire cottages at normal rates.

So for three days, one's itinerary will be somewhat like: a hearty breakfast, heading out for a nature walk or a visit to the village nearby, return for a sumptuous lunch, get ready for the screenings from the afternoon till the night with a break for tea while experiencing the setting sun and the majestic snow capped Himalayas, more screenings post dinner.

FTII product Singh, who has hosted shows like "Chhupa Rustam" (Star Plus), "Funjabi Chak De" (Star One) and "Tedhi Baat Shekhar Ke Saath" (Sab TV), is also a pioneer in concepts like BYOFF (Bring Your Own Film Festival, for independent films held every year at the beach town in Puri in Odisha) and m.a.f.i.a. (Musicians Artists Filmmakers Interesting log... Aajaao, an informal online community of musicians, artists, filmmakers and interesting people).

The first edition of Sonapani festival was held last September.

"In September to start off, we had a curation of very eclectic and varied films... We explained that it was a personal curation of films that I had liked at 'Byoff' and 'mafia' gatherings... At these two forums, people bring anything they like to and there are no awards, no judgement passed, so there can be nothing which can be termed like "best of byoff"... Luckily it went down very well with everyone," Singh says.

The three filmmakers who are being featured are Saba Dewan and Sanjay Agrawal from Delhi and Amlan Datta from Kolkata.

Dewan is a documentary filmmaker whose works have focused on communalism, gender, sexuality and culture. Her notable films include 'Dharmayuddha' (Holy War, 1989), 'Nasoor' (Festering Wound, 1991), 'Khel' (The Play, 1994), 'Barf' (Snow, 1997) and 'Sita's Family' (2001) and have been screened extensively in India and at international film festivals.

Agrawal has nearly 25 years of experience as a cinematographer and has shot extensively for feature films, documentaries and television.

Datta was recently in the news for his much celebrated film "One Day Ahead Of Democracy", a film which has become deeply intertwined with his life too. He won the trust of the isolated community at Malana (the place had become known for the "best grass in the world") and lived with them for a long time filming along the way.

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