The big picture

Ambika Shaligram
Monday, 14 January 2019

At the PIFF Forum, an exchange of ideas took place between filmmakers and aspiring artists, on how the former managed to see their projects to fruition

Independent filmmakers, whether in India, Canada, Spain, Bhutan or Sri Lanka, follow a similar script when it comes to bringing their labour of love to the notice of cinephile. At the PIFF Forum, the filmmakers and the technical and creative crew of the independent films selected to be screened at the festival under various segments, chatted with Samar Nakhate, film critic and one of the film selection committee members of PIFF. They discussed how they worked on their projects, starting from the story to scripting it and then executing it on the big screen. In the process, they shared some tips with the aspiring filmmakers in the audience.

Sebastian Barriuso, Director, Untraductor/Translator 
One of the most popular films to be screened in the World Competition category, Translator saw a theatre goers queuing up to watch it. Directed by Sebastian Barriuso, the film tells the story of Professor Malin, a Russian Literature Professor, in Cuba, who gets a mysterious note at the university with orders from the government asking him to go to a local hospital. At the hospital, he is expected to act as a translator between the Cuban doctors and the families of young patients from the Chernobyl disaster.

Nakhate pointed out and Barriso agreed that the film worked on various levels, and it was more than just translating from one language to another. For Prof Malin, it was a moral dilemma and perhaps it meant translating himself into a new life. 

The Cuban-Canadian filmmaker said that the story was rooted in his childhood memories which were triggered when he was at a party with people of his age and those of Eastern European origins. 

Girogio Alefantis, Editor, Too Much Info Clouding Over My Head
A Greek comedy film, Too Much Info Clouding...was appreciated by many, especially for the jokes that were cracked in the film. The film’s director, Vasilis Christofilakis wasn’t present for the screening of the film in World Competition category. But in a message read out by his editor, Giorgio Alefantis, he said that he directed the movie in Black and White tone, just because that was his preferred mode. Shot on a “micro-budget” of 60,000 euros, Alefantis said that as an editor, he had too much material to work on — 140 pages of script. He added that a film gets made twice — once at the script level and then again at the editing table. For this particular film, Alefantis worked for six months, primarily because of the volume of the material. He and Christofilakis were not on the same page when it came to editing out some portions. But they worked at understanding each other’s opinions. Alefantis also said that the sound was an important component for Too Much Info...Interestingly, he mentioned that as an editor, he kept watching the film several times ‘so much so that towards the end, you come to hate it, and yet you watch it, so that you can improve the cinema.’ 

Chezhiyan Ra, Director, To Let
A cinematographer in southern film industry, Chezhiyan Ra realised that with the advent of IT industry in Chennai, the housing sector changed dramatically. The house owners were getting more rent from the IT professionals, so other professionals, who were not earning as much, bore the brunt. Ra and his family had to vacate their rented premises immediately. He realised that this was the case with his other friends from the industry. He wrote the script in 2007, but filmed it a decade later. To Let is being screened at PIFF in the Indian Cinema category.

When he decided to film it, Ra decided to work with non-actors, because actors would come with certain luggage. He chose his assistant cameraman as the lead actor and for his wife’s role, he roped in a theatre actor while their child’s role was performed by a fresh kid. For them to look convincing as a family unit, Ra got them a two-wheeler and the trio went out as a family, shopping, to the beach. The film was shot in 27 days, while the pre and post production work took three months each. Offering tips to budding filmmakers, he says, “First, look for stories in your family, then in your neighbourhood or street and then in your country.”   

Visakesa Chandrasekaram, Director, Nita Fernando, Actor,  Paangshu
Literally translated, Paangshu means earth, whereas its Sanskrit root means ‘soil’. That is the crux of Paangshu, according to Chandrasekaram. Paangshu, which is having its Asian premiere at PIFF, talks about war, strife, conflict, atrocities and how women suffer in it. 

Buddhism is one of the major faiths practised in Sri Lanka and in this movie too, it has its reflection. The four important episodes from Gautam Buddha’s life — suffering, death, challenging and reconciling — are depicted in a woman’s life, said Chandrasekaram.

As an actor for Paangshu, Nita Fernando was told, ‘Do not act. Just let the inner turmoil reflect on your face’. She said, “Once I grasped this, I found the role easy.” The director added that he was looking for earthy texture in the movie. It was shot in 17 days, with  Chandrasekaram and later the crew, investing their money in making the movie. 

Vilas Ghodeswar, Producer, Bodhi 
Having grown up in Vidarbha, Vilas Ghodeswar was deeply invested with the people of his region. He was offered the chance to take the academic route and do research, but for some reasons, he decided to script and make a film.
As the title suggests, Bodhi reflects on Buddhism, but also traces the concept of Genesis in Christianity, thematically. Directed by Vinit Chandrashekaran, the story is about a lower caste couple, their piece of land and their outlook towards religious teachings. 

The crew mostly comprises youngsters who signed up for roles of producer, executive producer and screenplay writer. That experience also shaped their thought process and looking at the world. Ghodeswar says that they have three narratives for the film — character driven (Vinya and Swati, the farmer couple), plot driven (agrarian crisis) and globalisation which decided the economy. 

Tshering Euden, Actor, The Red Phallus 
Terming it as a powerful story and a powerful performance, Nakhate congratulated Tshering Euden, the Bhutanese actor, who was at PIFF for the screening of her film, The Red Phallus. Speaking haltingly in Hindi, Euden said that she portrays a 16-year-old girl, who wants to break free from her circumstances. 
“Her father is very dominating and so is her boyfriend. Till she actually kills her boyfriend, the girl is not sure that she can react. That action sets her free,” said Euden. 

Srivinay Salian, Writer-Director, Barun Chanda, Atul Mahale and Sonamoni Jayant, Cast, Rakkhosh 
Hindi film, Rakkhosh or Demon, becomes the first Indian film to be shot with PoV — or Point of View. “Usually, actors are told not to look into the camera while shooting. Here the writers were told to,” said S Ramachandran, Publicist.  The plot is based on Marathi writer Narayan Dharap’s short story, Patient-302. Salian said that he took the brief of the movie from the short story, but developed it on his own. It is the story of a man, Birsa, who is living in a mental asylum. The pre-production work involved meeting the Class III employees, patients of  Thane mental asylum. And, the feel of the movie, said the Rakkhosh team, is exactly that of an asylum. It is realistic. 

Barun Chanda, who plays a role in the movie, said that the script made him sit up. “It was very violent, unpleasant to say the least, and yet I couldn’t put it down. It was very compelling.” Sonamoni Jayant, another actor, said that the character sketch of her role was ready and it was easier to get into her shoes. “I tried to collect real life experiences, cooked all the real life ingredients and made a recipe for my character,” she said. 

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