'Look East instead of West'

Film festival

'Look East instead of West'

It’s Oscar season but there’s a slight dampness in the air — the usual excitement (read as facade) that surrounds the award function is coming undone at the seams. This was clear at the fifth day of Bengaluru International Festival (BIFFes), where directors, producers, film critics and film enthusiasts pulled at the threads of a white-washed Academy.

Recounting first-hand experience of such treatment, director Hassan Nazer said that he’s sure ‘Son of Saul’ will win the Best Foreign Language Film this year because it’s about the Jewish Holocaust, while his film ‘Utopia’ touches on the unnecessary interference of the West in other regions of the world. A film that interweaves three stories in UK, Afghanistan and India, it was initially nominated for the same category but reject for not meeting the “criteria”. Hassan mentioned that a tragedy closer to the West is more likely to get recognition.

This was reinforced in a round table on promotion of Asian cinema, where members of Network For Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) talked about the importance of looking homewards for good cinema. Founder of NETPAC Aruna Vasudev, along with Wong Tuck Cheong, Nick Deo Campo, Anne Demy-Geroe, Philip Cheah and Lekha were present at the discussion.

Aruna mentioned that it’s unfortunate that we look to the West for good cinema though there are many such in our backyards. “Look East instead of West,” she said, “Asian countries have more in common with each other than they do with the West.” Philip added that filmmakers would rather be represented at events like Cannes than national or pan-Asian film festivals, which is disappointing.

It was also noted that mainstream English and Hindi films (dressed up as Hollywood and Bollywood cinema) pose a threat to independent filmmaking because of their content and aggressive marketing strategies.

Even mainstream regional cinema stands a better chance than low-budget films, it was noticed. But not everyone agreed with this — director and producer Dayal Padmanabhan, who is a familiar face in the Kannada film industry, said that there is no such distinction between mainstream and independent cinema and that a person need not pick between the two.

He also mentioned that when directors claim they are ‘low budget’, it’s nothing to be proud of as there should be large investments in filmmaking.

While small budgets do encourage cub directors, they should look to getting more as they progress.

“The budget of a film is not what is spent but what should have been. Just because an actor is paid a nominal amount, doesn’t mean that’s how much they are worth,” said Dayal. Other panel discussions included directors Shaunak Sen, Satarupa Sanyal, Ashok Rane, Nike Olanka, Jayaprakash, Mohan Kumar, Manikandan, Raja Sen, Sudesh, Tomohiko Iwasaki, Sanathana Kalpa and more. From documentaries to short films and independent features, they spoke of their work method and
inspirations.

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