Walking the tightrope called docu-making

The City is bursting with stories, and despite a challenging documentary-making environment, it is an exciting time to be telling the stories through films, say some Bangalorean filmmakers.

The public will get a chance to see some of these stories at the second annual Urban Lens film festival in City, held by the Indian Institute for Human Settlements from September 26-28.

Bangalorean filmmaker Sushma Veerappa, who has made films for 15 years, said that while screenings have always attracted an audience, it is only in the last decade that a strong community had gradually grown here.

“Independent documentary culture has been an alien concept for Bangaloreans,” she said.

“This is despite having two stalwarts of docu-making - Chalam Bennurakar and Deepa Dhanraj - in the City. I don’t know if this is because their stories were not about the local, but pan-Indian. Like any other metropolis in India, Bangalore is suddenly bursting with stories. So in that sense this is a good time for docu-makers in Bangalore,” she added. Veerappa said that finding funding was difficult. “But like [Werner] Herzog said, one has to just start off with whatever money you have.”

Crowd funding 

She said that other than the India Foundation for the Arts, there is no local body that funds docu-making and one has to be innovative, like using crowd funding for example.

Self-censorship is more prevalent now, she added, which influences people to stay with ‘safe’ subjects in order to get funding.

“Some stories are simply not told any more. One has become more careful about what one is saying or showing. But the trick is to figure out a way around by not using the easy way out,” Veerappa said.

Festival curator, Subasri Krishnan, who is also a non-fiction filmmaker working out of Delhi and Bangalore, believes they are constantly finding ways around funding, distribution and censorship constraints.

She said that to some extent, digital technology had made this possible and filmmakers are ensuring that films reach a wide range of people, not just in the cities.

“I would say that we are in an exciting moment as far as documentary films are concerned because of the kinds of films that are getting made, and the different ways in which they are reaching people,” Krishnan said.

As many as 35 films, new and old, will be shown at the festival, themed around the “urban,” and this includes films by Bangaloreans Ekta Mittal, Yashaswini Raghunandan and Sandhya Kumar.

For details on the festival, visit http://iihs.co.in/urbanlens-2014/

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