The Indo-French film festival held in Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal marked the marked the gradually increasing popularity of short films in India. The selection of films included two Indian entries to the Cannes Court Métrage or short film corner of Festival de Cannes.
Organised by Alliance Française du Bengale, Cine Central and YouthinMotion Pictures, the two day (July 21 -22) film festival was held in Nandan, a heritage cultural centre in Kolkata known for being the hotspot for theatre, culture and art house cinema. The changing space of independent cinema reflected in the capital of West Bengal as the screening hall remained packed with the cinephiles of this city hoping to witness cinema in a shorter and alternate form. Among the many films that were a part of the festival, two were entries by Indian filmmakers that were screened at the Cannes Court Métrage this year- ‘Afternoon with Julia’ by Abhiroop Basu and ‘In a Free State’ by Ludhbhak Chatterjee.
Afternoon with Julia
With dialogues such as “what is Paris without cinema and cinema without Paris?” Afternoon with Julia (11 minutes), directed by Abhiroop Basu, was, in his words “a tribute to Paris as experienced through la nouvelle vague or the (French) new wave cinema.
”I had never been to Paris until the movie was screened at the short film corner of Cannes”, he said. Inspired by the likes of François Truffaut and Jean Luc Godard, (the founders of new-wave in the 1950s-60s), Abhiroop tried to explore a monochromatic café date in an essentially Parisian setting, with espresso as the coffee of choice for the protagonist Anthony, played by Samadrashi Dutta. The movie ended in a surprise with Julia’s absence, a charming, bubbly character played by Neha Panda.
When asked to share his thoughts on how the short films fared in commercial markets Abhiroop revealed that he “didn’t have too many expectations in an industry where pop culture prevails” but was open to the idea of searching for an audience that would cater to his artistic sensibilities rather than altering his vision to suit an unwilling audience.
He also added, “Completing the film was a challenge for me. Due to shortage of funds I had to edit the film myself”. This is not uncommon in India where film audiences are ready to pay a hefty amount for a ticket to a big budget Bollywood films but shy away when it comes to appreciating short films.
In a free state
Delhi based Lubdhak Chatterjee was present at the Indo-French Film Festival with his debut film ‘’In a Free State’’ which also got selected in the non-competition Short Film Corner at Cannes. This ‘28 minute movie’ projected the ‘notion of freedom’ and the survival of two characters; an aspiring film maker and a painter.
The movie tried to project how the society looks down upon abstract art as Schizophrenia. Talking about the difficulties he faced, Lubdhak poignantly said, “Resources were the most difficult challenge both human as well as material. Being new to Delhi, it was not easy for me to procure all what you need. Also persuading actors was not easy initially, especially with me having no background back then, but I am glad and grateful to everyone who came forward to help.”
Passion and freedom are the two most important aspects of this film, as the director spoke about his inspiration stating, “I should say that there were several discrete events in my life and some that I have seen people around me go through over the years which inspired me to work on this theme. Yes it is personal to an extent, but also becomes very universal in my opinion.”
Conclusion of the festival
The two day film festival concluded with the screening of Michael Kohlhass, a French-German drama directed by French filmmaker Arnaud des Pallieres. The movie based on an original story dating back to the 16th century, as an adaptation of the novel by Heinrich von Kleist’s novella “Michael Kohlhaas”. This film was an official selection at the Festival de Cannes in 2013 and was also nominated for the prestigious Palme d’Or.
Some of the other short films that were screened in the festival were – Les oiseaux tonnerre directed by Léa Mysius,Chithra Katha directed by Sandeep Mohan , Sauf Le Silence directed by Léa Fehner, Playboy directed by Shubhajit Mitra,TGV directed by Emie Noblet.
Growing interest in short films
The success of the event shows a steady rise of interest and demand for short films in Kolkata. These festivals should get more encouragement from the cultural ministry of each state in India as a support to the practice of alternative film making. Despite issues such as funding, distribution, screening and most importantly an amicable audience, filmmakers and cinephiles inspired by Europe are gradually trying to create a better space for short films in India.
Myth vs. Reality: Cannes Short Film Corner
While travelling with your film to Cannes, the Mecca of cinema, is always a rewarding experience, there is a prevalent ignorance about the misrepresentation of the Short Film Corner among new filmmakers not only in India but all over the world. The Cannes Short Film Corner is a commercial film market which is often misunderstood and misrepresented as a part of the original Festival de Cannes (Cannes Film Festival). The Short Film Corner’s website reads, “Registration of your film with the Short Film Corner is different from a submission to the Festival de Cannes Official Short Film Competition” and probably that is where it starts to go wrong for many first time filmmakers. We can always give a benefit of doubt to them seeing the reason as genuine ignorance, but festival committees and regional film festival organizers should take a note of this to avoid ambiguity and party line promotions.
However, the hefty entry fee for the Short Film Corner does open a huge market for the upcoming filmmakers apart from the two passes to the actual Cannes Film Festival which is an industry-only event and entry of the general public is discouraged.