A young Syrian man getting interviewed on camera is suddenly interrupted by the roar of fighter jets and bombs crashing down very close. It is not clear what is happening, just then the man asks the person behind the camera to wait for another minute as the planes will come back again for ‘another raid’. The film ends there.
Two girls search for their imaginary friend in the deep darkness of the industrial black hole – the water pipe. Intertwined with this is the story of two migrant workers in search of water in a dried up river. The film moves between the lyrical and self-reflexive, ending with an iconic arrival into the real.
These are just descriptions of two films from a huge selection of experimental cinema at the 2nd Little Cinema Film Festival, organised by TENT (Theatre for Experiments in New Technologies), recently held at Studio 21, Max Mueller Bhavan Kolkata and the TENT space at 4, Bipin Pal Road, Kolkata. The first film was from the Abounaddara Collective in Syria, who anonymously releases weekly films in Syria on the web which serve as a testimony of the fight for freedom in Syria. Whereas the second film is by FTII graduate Renu Savant titled ‘Aaranyak’ which won the Swarna Kamal award for Best Direction at the 62nd National Awards held recently.
TENT (Theatre for Experiments in New Technologies) is an ongoing project initiated by Madhuja Mukherjee and supported by Avik Mukhopadhyay. TENT was started in order to provide an interactive platform, which will encourage, train and support inter media artists and experimental filmmakers to expand the existing frameworks of art practices. The sole purpose of TENT is to create a network of artists, filmmakers, researchers, scholars etc. through regular screenings, workshops and talks.
The second edition of the Little Cinema International Festival brought to the people of Kolkata a plethora of interesting experimental films from all over the world. Held at three different venues over the course of seven days, the audience witnessed films from the Difference Screen collective (curated by Bruce Allan and Ben Eastop), the Unbound Studio Collective, films from Berlinale, Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), India Foundation for the Arts (IFA), North-East India (curated by Shaheen Ahmed from Jawaharlal Nehru University) and of course films from Kolkata (curated by Madhuja Mukherjee). Along with the screening, there was also a talk organised with Pallavi Paul, Madhuja Mukherjee and Gayatri Kodikal on the aesthetics and making of video/moving image art, moderated by Shubham Roy Choudhury, Programme Executive, Arts Practice, India Foundation for the Arts. Both Pallavi and Gayatri along with Madhuja Mukherjee are experimental artists dealing with video art and emerging forms of visual storytelling and they gave an insight into how they approach their projects and how they define their aesthetics in the rapidly changing world of technology and narrative form.
Along with the films there were also two installations in the offering. The first one titled ‘Factory Remains’ is a curatorial art project by Madhuja Mukherjee which looks back at the abrupt closing down of the National Instrument Limited, a public sector company established in 1957, situated in Jadavpur, Kolkata. The installation uses Avik Mukhopadhyay’s images and films by Ankur Das and Nikhil Arolkar to give an insight into the harrowing conditions of the factory after it shut down, dealing with memory, past and the suddenness of time. Suman and Sourav of TAXI presented ‘Chromozone’, an interactive installation producing a cinematic environment by using projection and light installations, where visitors were encouraged to take a ‘selfie’ in that whole cinematic environment.
Coming back to the films, the festival offered a wide spectrum of films from countries like Togo, Macedonia, Cape Verde, Germany, United States of America etc. The festival provided a platform for filmmakers presenting their work to talk with their colleagues and the viewers so that they can get a first-hand review of their work and also talk about their future projects and their approaches towards their subjects. Bruce Allan, visual artist and co-curator of Difference Screen, talked about how he sourced all the films from various countries and what his primary motive was. He was encouraged by the sizeable presence of audience at TENT and was optimistic about his return next year with an even better collection of films. TENT also gave Kolkata based filmmakers a platform to showcase their work, namely ‘Ekti Hallprint Thriller Chobi’ by Jishnu Mukherjee (made in CamRip format and trying to capture the essence of piracy and independent filmmaking in the digital era), ‘Amar Katha’ by Tuhinabha Majumdar (a documentary on the life and times of Nati Binodini (1862-1941), the pioneering Bengali stage actress), ‘Choushatti Gharer Khela’ by Subrata Acharya (dealing with a father-son relationship and mind games) etc. Independent directors from Kolkata also got a lowdown on the aesthetic practices adopted by international directors from around the world.
>>> Moments from the Festival <<<
The film festival, apart from screening films, also provided a novel experience to the visitors who traversed the heritage space of 4, Bipin Pal Road (informal show-house of TENT) and visited the installations providing on old-world feeling. It provided an informal environment to the artists present, who talked about their experiences and their thoughts about the situation of non-mainstream cinema both in India and abroad. Rohini Banerjee, an Odissi dancer while speaking about ‘Factory Remains’ said, “The whole aesthetic created by the sound of the telephone, the typewriter and the machines gave a wonderful experience. It was as if the whole factory was right there, but only in a miniature and visual form.”
In an environment where there is a scarcity of space for experimental filmmakers to present their work, TENT little cinema festival serves as a ray of light at the end of the tunnel. Tent is committed to nurture and present artists from all over the world who are not part of the mainstream and wish to express themselves differently.
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