Festival brings city stories

Last year, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) Bangalore held a film festival, Urban Lens: Festival of Films and the City. The three day festival showcased films that dealt with a multitude of political, social, economic and cultural concerns in an urban landscape. This year, the second edition of the festival will be held from September 26 to 28 bringing over 35 non-fiction films, again the leitmotif being urban mores. “The festival attempts to see how the idea of the city finds cinematic expression. We will be engaging with filmmakers to see how the city influences their films and vice versa,” informs Subasri Krishnan, who is in-charge of the general programming.

Of the 35 films from filmmakers in India, South Africa, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Canada, over 20 films speak on the urban theme, but not just the physical construct but the metaphysical quality of our surroundings. Subasri notes, “When we think of ‘urban,’ we immediately think of the ‘built’ form, often relating the term to the skyline of an urban metropolis. These films go beyond this concept.”

For instance, she points out films that give ‘urban’ a whole new dimension. She describes, “Gitanjali Rao’s animated ‘Printed Rainbow is about an old lady and her cat which evocatively speaks of the loneliness synonymous with the dreariness of city life. The questions raised in the political documentary ‘Kya Hua Is Shahar Ko?’ by Deepa Dhanraj still holds relevance today. Nishtha Jain’s ‘City of Photos explores photo studios in Indian cities. ‘Memory of a Light’ by Sandhya Kumar is a visual portrait of her childhood memories. Priya Sen’s ‘Noon Day Dispensary’ is shot in a resettlement colony and is an ironic depiction of a dispensary there. Then there are films by international makers such as ‘El Olvido’ which is about the city of  Lima and ‘My Winnipeg,’ a docu-fantasia set in the town of Winnipeg. So, the festival has a wide variety of films on view.”

Apart from this, a selection from the Films Division archive curated by film director and cinematographer, Avijit Mukul Kishore will be screened. Called ‘The Visual Grammar of Nation Building,’ these films made in the first three decades after independence reflect the aspirations of a young nation.

A special screening will be held on September 26 at 7 pm featuring Patricio Guzman’s 2010 documentary ‘Nostalgia for the Light’ based on life under dictator Augusto Pinochet. The 90 minute documentary narrated by Guzman, famed for his political documentaries capturing the history and politics of Chile, includes commentary from those affected by the dictator’s reign, from astronomers to Chilean women who search for dead bodies in the Atacama Desert. Poet and filmmaker Rajula Shah’s film, ‘Sabad Nirantar’ studying the life of the poet Kabir, will be screened on September 27 at 7 pm. Both the screenings will be followed by open house discussions.

On September 28 at 6.15 pm, a public talk will be held by Rohan Shivkumar, an architect and urban designer from Mumbai and the Deputy Director of the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies. His session titled ‘Producing Images, Consuming Images – The spaces of the film industry in Mumbai’, will add to the growing conversation of the nature in which the film industry engages with public spaces.

Though the film festival is in its nascent stage, Subasri hopes it will initiate a dialogue about public spaces, real and imagined.

Some of the films that will be showcased at Urban Lens 2014

Film: Kya Hua Is Shahar Ko?

Director: Deepa Dhanraj

Date and time: September 26 at 3.25 pm

Synopsis: A political documentary based on 1984 Hindu-Muslim riots in Hyderabad. The film, released in 1986, addresses issues of the omnipresent communal conflicts, marginalisation of the Muslims as the ‘other’ community, urban poverty and analyses power struggles in the political arena.

Kya Hua Is Shehar Ko


Film: Wasted

Director: Anirban Datta

Date and time: September 26 at 11.45 am

Synopsis: In the old agrarian system, there was nothing called as waste. But now, waste has become sort of a yardstick to measure development. With the country on its way to becoming an important player in the global economic development, so is the mountain of waste it produces becoming bigger. Combined with footages from Datta’s previous films, ‘Wasted’ examines the concept of waste and recycling in India through the eyes of an easterner with a western vocabulary.

Wasted


Film: Cities on Speed: Bogota Change

Director: Andreas Dalsgaard

Date and time: September 27 at 2 pm

Synopsis: The film studies how the city an explosion on the population living in urban areas can pose serious global challenges. Against this backdrop, it tells the story of two mayors Antanas Mockus and Enrique Penalosa who using unconventional methods create a peaceful city, Bogota.

Cities on Speed


Film: Dear Mandela

Director: Dara Kell

Date and time: September 27 at 12 noon

Synopsis: The film is shot against the landscape of poverty in South Africa and is a fascinating story of the country coming of age. Three ‘young lions’, when they learn of the Government’s plan to ‘eradicate the slums,’ rise from the shacks to take on the Government. But even as they challenge the Slums Act all the way to the Constitutional Court, they learn of the sacrifices that come with leadership.

Dear Mandela


Film: Tracing Bylanes

Director: Surabhi Sharma

Date and time: September 28 at 2.30 pm

Synopsis: ‘When does a city become a city?’ With this question in her mind, Surabhi Sharma went about chronicling the history, sights and sounds of the city of Chandigarh in ‘Tracing Bylanes.’ The 15 minute documentary tells the story of the city which was born out of Partition, and built by Le Corbusier and how after 60 years, it struggles to retain its iconic character.


Tracing Bylanes


First published in The New Indian Express on September 13, 2014

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