When a 14-year-old Afghan girl, Sonita, living as a refugee in Iran, dreams of becoming a rapper, it seems fantastical.
It is her tribulations that documentary filmmaker Rukhsareh Ghaem Maghami showcases: living in Iran in a cramped little house far away from the place she calls home, unsure of what awaits her, the only thing she possessively holds on to are her dreams.
Festivals such as the Dharamshala Film Fest are a great way to experience some of the brilliant cinema that is happening around the world and in our own country, which we inevitably miss in the overawing glossy sheen of Bollywood. The short films, features and documentaries screed on second day of the fest proved to be a major pull encompassing the whole spectrum.
Of Satire and the Indomitable Human Spirit
The little notebook where Sonita cuts and pastes pictures of her dream house or music studio or superimposes her face on cutouts of Rihanna is her own little rebellion, stubbornly refusing to be relegated to the margins.
While documentary filmmakers are supposed to keep an objective distance merely observing and recording the proceedings, Rukhsareh actually steps in to help Sonita buy her freedom. While many would argue about the ethical problems this raises and the questions it throws up about the ever-evolving role of documentary filmmakers, by the end of it one can’t help but cheer for the two women. Sonita, for her refusal to give in and Rukhsareh, for so brilliantly showcasing the triumph of the human spirit.
Bauddhayan Mukherji’s short feature The Violin Player is a film meant to be savoured. Having won the Best Feature award at The Durban International Film Festival, it documents a day in the life of a forlorn violinist. Ritwick Chakraborty in the role of the unnamed violin player enthrals us with a scintillating performance, his expressions matching every musical note that he plays, his hands moving in a hypnotising motion as he masterfully works the silent moments. The role of art and its cathartic quality is brilliantly negotiated in this one.
From Chaitanya Tamhane’s surrealist portrait of a mysterious woman and her love for Moonlight Thurston tea to the endearing story of a little boy trying to assert his own identity against the strictly defined gender roles that society wants to bully him into. Payal Sethi’s Leeches makes a powerful statement about the buying and selling of young girls in Hyderabad while Gurvinder Singh steers his satirical tale of a pigeon from Pakistan that crosses over to India and is negotiated by the police as spy with precision and a spicy hug of wit.
The final day of the festival, apart from the impressive lineup of films, also boasts of panel discussions with film personalities like Naseeruddin Shah and Saeed Mirza. Watch this space to get all the details!
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