Sheharnama, the two-day international film festival of documentary and short fiction films, was organised by the Films Division India, Action Aid and Ciric and co-curated by filmmakers Surabhi Sharma and Avijit Mukul Kishore. The festival was hosted by the Center for Urban Policy and Governance in collaboration with the School of Media and Culture Studies and the School of Development Studies. The festival was held on February 7 and 8, 2015. The curated list of films screened is given below.
Vikas Chaalu Che
Directed by Prachee Bajania
Produced by NID
Documentary/52min/2012/India/Bengali with English subtitles
Kankaria is the largest public lake in the city of Ahmedabad. It always found many loyal plebeian visitors who sought refuge in its peaceful cool environs, All of this was brought to a halt when the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation launched its Kankaria Lake Front Development project. Besides cleaning and the beautification of the lake, this project brought with it a gate, which only allowed those in who could pay the 10 rupees entry fee. Fancy expensive stalls replaced the erstwhile affordable street hawkers.
Cities on Speed – Bogota Change
Directed by Andreas Dalsgaard
In the ten-year period between 1995 and 2005, Colombia’s capital city, Bogotá, experienced a virtual miracle. Once a city characterised by terror, crime and one of the highest murder rates in the world, Bogotá became a role model for urban planners around the world. Behind this transformation were two visionary and forward-thinking mayors, Antanas Mockus and Enrique Peñalosa, who, applying drastically different methods, tackled the inhabitants’ behaviour and the city’s infrastructure. Using abundant archive material, supplemented by present day footage and interviews, the Bogotá documentary tells the story of the city’s fantastic metamorphosis.
Directed by Anirban Datta
Produced by PSBT and Films Division
Documentary/52min/2012/India/Bengali with English subtitles
The uniqueness of documentary filmmaking is the possibility of recording events unfolding along the perimeter of the subject. That’s where this film was born. With tears and with the loss of a very dear friend, Wasted was conceived. Ancient agrarian India believed nothing is waste. No Indian vernaculars have a word for waste. It came as a concept with the industrial revolution, borne by the colonial history onto an ancient agrarian culture. Waste has become a currency of development now. Wasted is a personal accord vis-à-vis India and the mountain of waste it produces as a global economic giant. Also, looking back at me as a documentary filmmaker and the waste I produce to make my films, the film tries to look back at material I shot for my previous films and tries to use them as found footage.
The Contagious Apparitions of Dambarey Dendrite
Directed by Bibhusan Basnet and Pooja Gurung
Dambarey, a street kid, who in a dendrite induced trance turns invincible to outfox Kathmandu with his gang of five. Little does he know that his altered mind is playing wicked tricks to lead him and his friends to a place of no return.
Directed by Mira Nair
India Cabaret (1985) explores the “respectable” and “immoral” stereotypes of women in Indian society told from the point of view of 2 strip-tease dancers in a cabaret house in Bombay. Nair explores the marginalised women in Bombay who have been cast out because of the nature of their jobs. The women themselves are not ashamed of what they do for a living; what they prize more is the fact that they do not have to be at the mercy of the men in their lives [husbands, brothers, fathers or lovers] as their female peers. They earn their own living, ‘decently’; they are free to come and go as they please and do not have to follow the rules imposed by men or worse society. One of the dancers is offered the opportunity to end her stint at the club and ‘clean up’ her act; she’s offered the ‘love’ by a man, who promises to take her away, but she refuses. She is content to having her independence and earning her keep. The film also portrays the parallelism of the men who go to see these ‘dirty’ women dance for their pleasure; the men who pretend to be happily married and decent upright citizens, and who, when interviewed have no qualms about telling the camera how worthless these of women are.
Directed by Kislay
Fiction/31 min/2013/India/Hindi with English Subtitles
Kamla works as a full time maid in Raj and Simran’s house. Simran is affectionate and regularly showers Kamla with gifts and old clothes. In this ‘modern’ home, there is no obvious violence and hierarchies but, as Kamla slowly realizes, it is hidden behind caring words and gestures of love. When Pihu, Kamla’s younger sister, arrives such underlying tensions come to the fore and compels Kamla to take a decision. The film attempts to understand a class relationship in an atmosphere of love and affection. Here, the violence is not physical but structural, part of everyday actions and words.
Directed by Amudhan R P
Documentary/ 26 mins/ India/ Tamil with English Subtitles
Mariyammal, a sanitary worker with Madurai Municipal Corporation shares her frustration and anger with the filmmaker while cleaning a street by a temple in Madurai which is full of shit. Manual scavenging is officially prohibited in India since 1996 but lakhs of such men and women are made to clean night soil in the cities, towns and villages here. Most of them do not even get proper salary as it is considered to be their traditional occupation under the Indian caste system. They continue to live in a precarious condition for generations without any hope for change as their children are also indirectly forced to continue the tradition. The film became a proof for all the insensitivity of the society towards such workers and triggered a chain of actions in Tamilnadu which includes the mass movements and direct actions against manual scavenging and of course the protagonist, Mariammal has been shifted out to a little better job, the street that is shown in the film has been shut down by the government.
Directed by Yashaswini Raghunandan and Ekta Mittal
Documentary/17min/2012/India/Hindi with English subtitles
Presence is part of a film series called “Behind the Tin Sheets”. The film explores the haunting attributes of the transformation in the city against the ghost stories narrated by the workers. Behind the Tin Sheets is a project which uses video and other related media to engage the changing landscape of Bangalore, a “Garden City” increasingly associated with technology and private sector research. Drawing connections between a literal re-constructurion of the metropolis and a host of related social concerns – the invisibility of certain sections of society and palpable contrasts dividing class and caste – the project considers the erasure of memory in relation to a radically altered landscape. Working at the cusp of old and new Bangalore, the project strives to make visible its various unseen actors.
Directed by Jewel Maranan
Documentary /76 mins/ 2012/Philippines/Filipino with English Subtitles
Tondo, Beloved: To What Are the Poor Born? is a geopolitical exploration of life before birth in the smallest home in the seams of Manila’s premier international port. Virgie’s family feeds on the fishes that lurk under the industrial ships of North Harbor. Their alternatives are packs of tasteless gelatin found in the same waters. Their entertainment comes from imagining stories behind DVD inlays of Hollywood films and a tabloid article on Hillary Clinton and a “rat’s ass”. One morning when the fishes are dead, the sea’s color is that of milk and the ships’ clanging are unusually bold; uncertainty is born on the same floor where they eat, blood is spilt in the same bowl where they clean fish and an old weary nation is revealed.
Quarter No. 4/11
Directed by Ranu Ghosh
Documentary /70 min/2011/India/Bengali and Hindi with English Subtitles
Quarter Number 4/11 is a ground zero perspective of urban real estate development, narrated through the plight of ex-factory worker Shambhu Prasad Singh, a victim of the development in Calcutta’s South City, eastern India’s largest mixed-use real estate development. Shot over ten years, the film is about one man’s losing fight to hold on to the ground where he was born, raised and earned his living. It is the narrative of a man who is being forced to evacuate his ground to make space for ‘development’.
My Mother India
Directed by: Safina Uberoi
My Mother India is a passionate film told by the child of a mixed marriage and set against the tumultuous backdrop of modern Indian history. With an Indian father who collects kitsch calendars, an Australian mother who hangs her knickers out to dry in front of the horrified Indian neighbours, a grandfather who was a self-styled Guru and a fiercely man-hating grandmother – it is no wonder that Safina Uberoi made a film about her family! What begins as a quirky and humorous documentary about an eccentric, multicultural upbringing unfolds into a complex commentary on the social, political and religious events of the anti-Sikh riots of 1984 which tore this family apart. This is a powerful tale of love and hate, exile and belonging, loss of identity and return to faith.
Kya Hua Shahar Ko?
Directed by Deepa Dhanraj
Documentary/95min/1986/India/Telugu-Hindi with English subtitles
A pioneering political work of contemporary relevance: Communal violence between Hindus and Muslims in 1984 forms the starting point for this film, whose complexity lends it immense political force. The film’s historical perspective is provided by a thorough commentary, which gives the camera’s particular presence the necessary depth and complexity. The mechanisms of political power struggles, the dynamics among those that hold power, and the instrumentalisation of economic relations and urban poverty make for a striking analysis, uniquely anticipating the subsequent development of communalist conflicts and the politics of marginalisation. Kya hua is shahar ko? has been digitalised, restored and screened again for the first time in 27 years as part of the “Living Archive” project. A DVD including additional historical and contemporary material was released in June 2013.
Noon Day Dispensary
Directed by Priya Sen
Noon Day Dispensary was filmed in 2014, at the government run free dispensary at Savda-Ghevra Resettlement Colony in Delhi, established in 2006, as part of a fellowship exploring urban resettlement and the ways in which a place settles. This video was part of several videos-in-making that were produced spontaneously and attempted to reclaim the style and philosophies of cinema-verite as a way to film and be in places. Noon Day Dispensary produces the ʻunsettling gazeʼ, as a possible cinematic gesture with which to respond to the systematic neglect of institutions within an anxious and burdened state. Through the ʻperformanceʼ of the filmmaker and her frame, it also perhaps bears witness to a moment in the transition between being illegal occupants of the city, to being legally resettled, and the range of negotiations and subjectivities that accompanies this shift.
In Between Days
Directed by Sankhajit Biswas
Bengali/ 58 mins/ 2012/ India
This is a story of Chiranjit and Bubai – two young transgender friends from Kolkata. They drop out from school because of their feminine disposition. Hailing from poor and uneducated families, they confront social ostracisation from a tender age. However, it helps strengthen their bond as friends. Like many other transgender boys, Chiranjit and Bubai get exposed to sexual acts at a premature time. Advised by their elder community members, they start taking money for sex. In 2009, they join Manas Bangla, a non-profit organisation working on LGBT advocacy and HIV awareness. Their job is to generate consciousness amongst high-risk youth and bring them in for blood tests. Chiranjit gets a promotion in Manas Bangla and becomes Bubai’s superior. But this development in their life and career creates a rift. Soon they stop talking to each other.
A Disappearance Foretold
Directed by Olivier Meys and Zhang Yaxuan
Documentary/85mins/2008/China/Mandarin with English subtitles
A film about a popular neighbourhood in Beijing, and what happened there in relation to the 2008 Olympic Games. Qianmen is a popular neighbourhood in the very heart of Beijing, just south of the Tiananmen Square. In the perspective of the 2008 Olympic Games, the city decided that the six hundred years old neighbourhood has to be “rehabilitated”. It is now in the line of fire of the promoters, and the 80,000 people living there are facing drastic (and dramatic) changes. The film follows the rapidly changing life in the neighbourhood for more than a year and a half, from one reality to another, completely different one. Little by little, fragment per fragment, the film is drawing a portrait of a neighbourhood, recording memory of a soon disappearing reality. A story of China today.
Please Vote for Me
Directed by Weijun Chen
Documentary/58min/2007/China/Mandarin with English subtitles
A Grade 3 class at Evergreen Primary School has their first encounter with democracy by holding an election to select a Class Monitor. Eight-year olds compete against each other for the coveted position, abetted and egged on by teachers and doting parents. The three candidates, two boys and a girl, are chosen by the teachers, but they conduct real campaigns and are chosen in a free election. Their goal is to become the student charged with maintaining order and reporting rule violations to the teachers. Director Weijun Chen travels home with the candidates, each a product of the one-child policy, where over-eager parents coach and cajole their child to turn him/her into a winner, even manipulating the race so their kid will win!