What to watch at the Kerala Documentary Festival
The Kerala International Documentary and Short Film Festival is back as a face-to-face event after delays caused by the coronavirus. the 13th edition will be held in Thiruvananthapuram from December 9-14.
The festival will open with Mai Masri’s Beirut: he of the cyclone. The Arabic-language documentary examines the recent political, social and economic tumult in Lebanon through four young women artists.
The program includes nine short films in Malayalam dedicated to the lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic on the way we live, work and communicate. The section titled Monitoring and control includes the film by French filmmaker Eleonore Weber There will be no more night, which is inspired by video recordings made by American and French troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.
Notable titles include Kristina Lindstrom The most beautiful boy in the world, a profile of Luchino Visconti’s teenage lead actor Death in Venice (1971). Irene Gutierrez Torres Between dog and wolf revisits the spirit of the Cuban Revolution in the 1950s by following three veterans who continue to wear their uniforms decades later.
Among the Indian films is that of Rafiq Elias If memory serves me well, a tribute to the late film critic Rashid Irani. The film takes a look back at Irani’s roots of cinephilia and his intimate engagement with the Mumbai neighborhood in which he grew up and died earlier this year.
Ramachandra PN, who made Miyar House (2011), about his ancestral home, revisits the personal documentary form by R for Roshan’s childhood. The filmmaker and his wife Sushma take their adopted four-year-old son on a road trip to meet their extended families.
The reverie of Jessica Beshir Faya Dayi takes place in Harar, Ethiopia. Faya Dayi traces, through the centuries-old cultivation of the narcotic-flavored khat plant, the original myths of the region, the hopes and ambitions of young Ethiopians, and the broader political climate.
Czech director Francesco Montagner fraternity follows three Bosnian brothers on their own when their father, an Orthodox Islamist preacher, is jailed for terrorism.
Gabriel Tejedor’s observation documentary Kombinat is located in the Russian industrial city of Magnitogorsk. The local economy revolves around a huge steel plant that pollutes the air but also employs thousands of workers. Salsa is part of the organized recreation for employees – even here personal enjoyment is dictated by the state.
In Directly on VHS, Emilio Silva Torres revisits the cult Uruguayan film Act of violence in a young journalist, which was videotaped in 1989.
Eleven Indian documentaries are in competition. We are looking at three.
The last man
Dakxinkumar Bajrange The last man succeeds documentaries such as Amudhan RP’s Pee (Damn) and Vidhu Vincent Look highlighting the horrors of manual cleaning and the inequities of the caste system. The warning sums it up: “The film contains shots / sequences which can be disturbing. Viewers’ discretion recommended. “
Interviews with Dalit sanitation workers in Gujarat and Maharashtra reveal the inhumane nature of their jobs. We see for ourselves how horrible and risky the work is, from cleaning up trash and human waste to descending into noxious septic tanks, from which some workers come out dead.
Forced by poverty and the lack of opportunities to do work that no one else will touch, workers speak with anger and passion about their condition. We went to the moon but our heads are still in the sewers, one of them said. We are no better than animals, said another.
The prejudice is ingrained in the system, points out Sunil Yadav, a professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences and himself a former sanitation worker. When Yadav asked for study leave to get the degree that would help him seek new prospects, his bosses repeatedly refused.
Among the fascinating revelations is an informal practice in Ahmedabad of sharing leftover food with Dalit cleaners. Every night the women take empty pots and pans and call their upper class customers. The arrangement, one of the many ways casteism is normalized in India, ensures that workers don’t sleep hungry and wake up the next morning to head straight back to the gutters.
Chalo Sakha Us Des Mein
Produced in 2019, Rajula Shah’s moving documentary speaks both of personal tragedy and the pandemic that looms on the horizon. Chalo Sakha Us Des Mein (At Home Walking) is dedicated to Arghya Basu, the filmmaker and editor who was married to Shah and who committed suicide in 2019.
In the mold of Shah’s previous documentaries, Chalo Sakha Us Des Mein is filled with poetry, philosophy, spiritualism and poetic images. The film’s concerns about the wanderings of body, mind and soul anticipate the blockages necessitated by the global health crisis. But there is also a timelessness in the documentation of the journeys undertaken by the faithful, the needy and the troubled.
Shot by Shah and Basu, the film follows the Warkaris, followers of the god Vitthal, on their annual pilgrimage to Pandharpur in Maharashtra. Shah also attracts traditional nomads and traveling groups, such as snake charmers and conjurers, who roam from place to place in search of income and meaning.
Only the afflicted can develop true detachment, observes the voiceover. The film’s quiet rhythms require patience that almost always pays off.
Moon over man
Yes The last man is a ride from hell and Chalo Sakha Us Des Mein is a journey into the soul, Moon over man is an expedition into the imagination.
Prince Shah’s first documentary takes place in Mumbai, the city of dreams and dust. Inspired by that of Malik Bendjelloul In search of the sugar man, about American musician Sixto Rodriguez, Shah made a film that questions the nature of truth presented by documentary form. Seeing and hearing something doesn’t necessarily make it true, the film astutely suggests.
The main character is Zelig-like Praklawn (real name Prakash Lalwani). From music shows on TV to civic protests, the silver-haired Lalwani is everywhere.
Lalwani claims to have found the lyrics of the classic song Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan from the Guru Dutt production CID. Lalwani also claims to have hung out with Ian Fleming, who gave him his nickname.
Shah set out to ‘deconstruct’ and ‘investigate the truth of Praklawn’, he said Scroll. In. In the film, two friends, Aasif Shah and Wadood Murshedkar, act as Shah’s attorney to return Lalwani’s claims.
Shah befriended Lalwani in 2007 and was quickly charmed by the older storyteller’s self-mythological skills and generous personality. “It never gave off a boomeristic vibe,” the 34-year-old filmmaker said. “He had an amazing mind and sang and spread love and joy.”
The film was initially meant to be all about Lalwani, but then expanded to include another typical Mumbai inhabitant. Sailesh Thadani is a child actor whose glory days are behind him. Thadani now lives on the streets and depends on the kindness of strangers to survive.
After intending to make a short film about Thadani, Shah decided to combine it with Lalwani’s fabulistic journey. These men, each on the fringes of civil society and cinema, bring out the delirium that is as much a part of the air of Mumbai as of the dream.
Thadani is clearly worse than Lalwani. He appears to be both physically and mentally ill, which begs another question: was it ethical to include him in the film?
Shah says he tried to help Thadani in several ways, ranging from giving him a cell phone (which Thadani later misplaced) to trying to persuade him to move to a homeless shelter (Thadani refused). “I want to help Sailesh somehow with the movie,” Shah said.