'Negativity' Is Not Indic: Indic Film Utsav, A Global Festival With 'Positivity' As Its Identity, Brings Shorts, Ultra Shorts, Feature Films And Documentaries

by Sumati Mehrishi - Nov 10, 2020 11:54 AM
'Negativity' Is Not Indic: Indic Film Utsav, A Global Festival With 'Positivity' As Its Identity, Brings Shorts, Ultra Shorts, Feature Films And DocumentariesThe Indic Film Utsav
  • The Indic Film Utsav (November 12-15), a global online festival
    celebrating independent films from India will showcase a "compelling
    perspective about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's death" based on the
    Mukherjee Commission Hearings.

Every time the name "Gumnaami" comes to public discourse, it stirs
more and more interest in the Mukherjee Commission Hearings.

A film that looks into the possible trail of events surrounding Netaji
Subhash Chandra Bose's death, is a good medium to reflect on
questions and question marks.

"Gumnaami", a film by Srijit Mukherjee, is one such intervention in art.

The Indic Film Utsav (November 12-15), a global online festival
celebrating independent films from India will showcase a "compelling
perspective about Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose's death" based on the
Mukherjee Commission Hearings.

It is one of the 85 films being shown at the festival being organised by Indica Films — a platform that celebrates Indic thought and creativity through films.

Indic Film Utsav has been conceptualised as an online festival. The
key reason was to make the festival and independent work reach Indic
audiences spread across the world.

The pandemic is here to stay for sometime. With the pandemic, the online model has come to stay.

The pandemic has established the online medium completely. The biggest
gain for independent films and filmmakers through a festival showcasing independent work is the large audience.

The festival is showcasing films on women, children, culture, the arts, and traditions of India. There are historical films too. There are films about relationships. There are documentaries sharing beautiful traditions. The films are divided by categories — features, documentaries, shorts, ultra-shorts, wildlife, and children’s films.

How does Indic feminism unfold on screen? You may find answers in Anandi Gopal.

Here is a riveting facet about the festival. It celebrates positivity.

Celebrating positivity made the selection slightly challenging. Nikita Vyas Hattangady, Head of Programming at Indica Pictures, says, "The greatest difficulty we had in selecting films was that we had to turn away excellent films because they were not positively themed. Our greatest identity is that we are a positive film festival. In many of the films, the characters must overcome difficulties but succeed in the end."

Positivity is in harmony with the efforts of Indica Pictures to push for
becoming a platform for filmmakers "who make films that promote
India's rich cultural heritage, focus on pluralism and inclusion and
showcase India to the world."

Positivity in films. The celebration of the positive in films — a powerful medium.

Danji Thotapalli, Chief Curator at Indica Pictures, says that the film
festival will help in setting the pace for the Indic genre of films. "Indica Pictures would like to see the Indic genre of films become a popular genre," he says.

The festival will unfold to reveal Indianness, positivity, optimism, a
sense of identity and pride. It's in contrast to an emerging trend.
There are films driven by commercial reasons. This factor in
particular doesn't always favour the Indic sensibilities.

"I recently saw a series on TV that shows a Muslim man being beaten by
Hindus. It is interesting that that scene has no bearing on the story.
Why incorporate a scene like that? It is a commercial angle. But, that
is how our mass media has become. You watch TV shows — it's the same
thing," Thotapalli adds.

The films celebrate 18 languages in the first edition of the Indic
Film Utsav. Love for language, including languages such as Bugun and
Pangchenpa; languages spoken, unspoken, hidden, layered — an Indic
strength in the arts, is being explored in the festival.

This article could have been wrapped in five sentences. Even five
words. That would be ultra short story telling. Films make storytelling in short and ultra short works beautifully possible.

There is powerful storytelling waiting to be explored in short and
ultra short films. The team chose shorts and ultra shorts — the best
from the 850 they received.

They cover a wide variety of themes.

Thotapalli adds, "Ultra Shorts are like hot pakodas — you just put a bunch of them on your plate and watch them all up. That is how people watch
ultrashorts. They take 5-6 at a time and watch them."

Here is what the idea reveals. There is a short called "Dabbal". "What a
short, touches your heart. The same movie may not work in a
feature-length," Thotapalli adds.

Then there is "Kanneeti Katti" — a very well made Telugu-language short on
the popular Seema film genre.

A sci-fi short: "Myriad" — Thotapalli describes it as an "excellent take on some very deep quantum physics concepts."

How do short and ultra short films hold power when it comes to providing glimpses of Indian life and traditions to the global audience and holding the global audience?

Christian Frost, Head of Filmmaker Liaison, is part of the team shaping the festival. He says: "...for someone not tuned to Indian culture in the past but willing to sample it, short films provide a bit size piece of perspective story telling that you don’t need to invest a major amount of time in to appreciate and enjoy the many different types of topics."

Frost wrote to us in an email interaction that suggested a global festival opens the possibilities of reaching more people positively. He adds,
"If we are able to reach just a small portion of super vocal cinema
lovers that feel they were uplifted and can share and transmit their
excitement, the future is bright for the festival..."

The Covid-19 pandemic seems to be further firming up the ground for
the online medium of viewing films.

The organisers seem aware that people are wanting to go for the
theatre experience, yet they are wanting to see something new and
memorable for the first time.

This online festival will be watched at home — mostly.

The team has worked on a careful selection of films. Hattangady adds,
"One needs to be careful what type of films can be programmed when you
are beaming the movie directly into the living rooms of families. We at
India Film Utsav made a conscious decision to programme only those films
that are family-oriented. Mind you, these are not kids films, but
there is no nudity or violence in our 85 films."

The festival is showcasing short and ultra short films. They shouldn't
be missed. Two reasons. The story telling. The power they hold in providing glimpses of Indian life and traditions to the global audience, and in holding the global audience.

The Indic Film Festival is reaching us during unprecedented times. The
online medium as a platform for a festival showcasing independent
films is exciting and fairly new for the Indian audience.

"People will still want to see something amazing for the first time, with a shared experience in a theater. I really miss that myself and would expect that in the future, we may need to integrate a part of that aspect as the pandemic lifts," Frost adds.

Independent films face funding troubles. Frost adds that trouble with
funding alone should not be a reason not to try and tell the story.

"Independent films allow filmmakers to use their voice to tell us the
story they are passionate and driven to tell everyone. It's not easy
for sure and funding can be difficult to access but the results are
often remarkable, raw and poignant. Your passion, respecting of what the other team members bring along with a level head, will get you to the finish line."

Going by the line-up at the Indic Film Utsav, one has to really trust
Frost when he says that the results of independent storytelling
through films are "often remarkable, raw and poignant."

What role will film festivals play in the pandemic-impacted watching,
viewing and consuming of independent films in India and the West in
the coming years?

Frost says that he can’t say in the coming year what the pandemic
impact will have, because it's currently changing the distribution
models dramatically. At the same time, companies are trying to adapt
to it.

Frost adds, "We just had a major entertainment start-up company in the
US go under after only eight months. Their model was providing short
content on mobile devices. You would have thought that was an
excellent idea for the times we are in, but no."

For 2020 and 2021, Frost sees the Indic Film Festival "positioning
itself as a leading global online festival of positive content."

Sumati Mehrishi is Senior Editor, Swarajya. She tweets at @sumati_mehrishi 

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