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Love Alternate Cinema? Here Are 10 Films That You Must See Before 2015

By Shambhavi Saxena:

Do you feel that mainstream Bollywood’s melodramatic plotlines and choreographed dances (that everyone from the hero, to the street vendors miraculously seems to know) can only be endured so much? You are not alone. The machismo of the male lead, characteristic helplessness (and not to mention size-zero-ness) of his love interest, inexplicable mountain-top song sequences and overdone comedy gags that are your garden variety of sexism, fat shaming, ableism, and all manner of phobe-ishness may work well for India’s masala films and the thousand fans who eat, breathe and sleep Bollywood, but for the rest of us, it can be a huge bummer to find ourselves watching the tired old stories in perhaps louder an flashier garbs. Many movie buffs mourn the condition of story-telling in Indian cinema, ever since the commercial take-over after the 1970s, which has been regarded as the sacrifice of engaging and meaningful film for the sake of box office ratings and immense profits.

But the average movie-goer seeking a more profound cinematic experience needn’t fret, at least not in our day and age, where technology has provided a glimmer of hope in the form of digitally recorded films, online viewing subscriptions, and (dare we bring up this less ethical mode of consuming films) pirated files on the internet. One no longer needs to depend on the whims of the local theatre or multiplex or production houses’ next ‘blockbuster’ release when the world of cinema, and of varied genres and languages, is now easily accessible.

As 2014 draws to a close, and the cold weather seeps in through the soon to be sun-less sky, there’s no better way to spend a lazy weekend at home with some brews and a good movie. Fortunately, there are some of those said weekends left in the year, and here is a list of ten great films you should definitely check out before 2015 rolls in!

The White Balloon

Originally titled Badkonake Sefid, the film was directed in 1995 by Jafar Panahi and is a charming story about Razieh, who wants to celebrate the Iranian New Year by buying a goldfish for the family pond, and receives not only the sum of money but also a string of mishaps along the way. Set in the criss-crossing streets of Tehran’s markets and residences, the film is a contemporary take on life in Tehran from the perspective of a seven-year-old. There are no villains and cop chases, just a simple story and a compelling performance by Aida Mohammadkhani.

Stanley Ka Dabba

Stories about children aren’t necessarily made only for children. In fact, taking on the world we live in from a child’s point of view is a favourite among writers and filmmakers alike to talk about otherwise ignored issues in our society. Without giving too much away about Amole Gupte’s 2011 flick, this is a story about childhood, about friendship, and about recess, the last of which will certainly bring back fond memories of our school days, sharing lunches and cribbing about our teachers’ idiosyncrasies, but this movie is also about … well, watch and find out!

Pan’s Labyrinth

Guillermo Del Toro’s 2006 Spanish language film follows the trials of Ofelia, the stepdaughter of the tyrannical Captain Vidal, a figure of fascist forces, in post-Civil War Spain. There is magic, drama, and CGI galore, but its socio political reflection of guerilla warfare, murder and abuse makes it a much darker take on childhood than the two mentioned above. One may broadly classify it as a fairy tale, which Ofelia is obsessed with, but whether or not the conclusion lives up to that description is up to you.

Mary and Max

Just because it’s claymation, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy this in your twenties and beyond. The 2009 film comes from director Adam Elliot depicting the flourishing friendship between a middle aged man in New York and a lonely little girl in Australia, by way of written correspondence. It is a love story of sorts, but not at all what you would expect. This film is just plain lovely.

Dhobi Ghat

Straight from Mumbai, India, and exactly what one would expect from Kiran Rao and Amir Khan’s cinematic partnership, this 2011 film is terrifically refreshing. Told from the points of view of a reclusive painter, a ‘foreign return’, a strapping dhobi with silver screen dreams, and a young wife who exists only as a video recording, this film will linger on you long after the credits have rolled away.

No Man’s Land

If you’re a bit of a history / political science / international affairs / war movie nut, this one’s a perfect fit for you. Set in a conflict zone in Bosnia/Herzegovina, Danis Tanovic’s 2001 film about what it really means to be in a hot war will have you on the egde of your seat. The most profound moment of the film is the arrival and withdrawal of the UN Peace Corps. If anything, the title says it all.

Ambulancen

Thrills and suspense of a different kind abound in Danish filmmaker Laurich Munch-Petersen’s 2005 flick about two ‘robbers’ who hijack an ambulance and stir up much trouble in south Copenhagen. The film has a simple but haunting quality,that will test your conception of morality and what it means to be a hero and a villain.

Exit Through The Gift Shop

Like Bollywood, Hollywood too is guilty of producing overhyped, formulaic movies en masse, but this English film makes the list simply by virtue of being a non-flashy, well constructed documentation of graffiti and street art, principally that of notorious and elusive British artist, Banksy. The film doesn’t cull out exquisite answers for ambitious questions, it simply tells the story of street art, its anonymity, its dangers and its effects on the eyes that view it. At the core of the film is an exploration of art as a paradox – art as something which tries to escape definition and maintain its ephemerality and transcendental qualities, and is at the same time subject to definition and commercialization.

The Green Butchers

This Danish film directed by Anders Thomas Jensen, and starring Mads Mikkelsen as ‘Sweaty’ Svend in the role of a morally challenged butcher; it is perhaps best to term it as a black comedy. This film is sure to make you do one of two things – keep you in splits, or make you blink in disbelief. One thing is for certain though, it is extremely uncomfortable. The gore levels on this film are practically Dora the Explorer, but the themes may be a bit much for a sensitive audience, unless you’ve enjoyed films like Delicatessen and The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

Himalaya

Part of the reason alternative cinema is so great is because stepping away from mainstream Hollywood or Bollywood (or Tollywood, Lollywood, and all the others) means exploring cinematic and cultural traditions from generally underrepresented areas of the world. French director Eric Valli’s film set in the highest habitable (and inhabitable) reaches of the Himalayan mountain ranges, tells the story of a Nepalese community of yak herders. The events are told gracefully and steadily and there is ample time to absorb the dramatically different customs of the Himalayan people. The trajectory is simple, following a chronological sequence, has a central conflict, rather similar to the tradition of heroic epics, and a final resolution. There is even your standard hamartia in the two main male leads, the older chief Tinle, and the younger Karma.

You must be to comment.
  1. Babar

    Ten films you should have seen ….

    1. A Mother’s NIghtmare
    2. Cyberbully
    3. Pyar Ka Panchnama
    4. Body Of Innocence
    5. Mean Girls
    6. Wild Things
    7. Basic Instinct
    8. Aitraaz
    9. Bad Teacher
    10. Movies Inspired from real life incidents which show how a woman stabbed her love in the back – Gangster and Shootout At Wadala.

    1. Fem

      How I was missing you here. Welcome 🙂

    2. Dhruv Arora

      Site(s) you should check out:
      1. http://www.wikihow.com/Speak-Less
      2. Websites inspired by people not making much sense, – http://zombo.com

    3. Babar

      Dhruv, since my comment was too much for your delicate sensibilities, here is something to cheer you up.

      Brother: How come you always have money and I don’t
      Sister: It is very simple. I have a boyfriend and you have a girlfriend.

    4. Fem

      Great comment Babar. Clears up so many confusions.

    5. Shambhavi Saxena

      It’s kind of a rite of passage to have your post haunted by Babar, if you write on YKA, isn’t it? 🙂

    6. Salman Ravoof

      Whatever the post’s topic may be, you always try to drag it to your own misconceptions. It’s called trolling.

    7. Babar

      Add Wanted (James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie) to my list.

    8. Fem

      He is unstoppable 😀

    9. Babar

      Watch Daawat-e-Ishq. Discusses dowry and 498A.

    10. Shambhavi Saxena

      Rather entertaining isn’t it?

  2. giridhar

    Thank you yaar… Will come again to comment on how I felt watching your list.

  3. Moulshree Kulkarni

    thank you for sharing this amazing collection of movies. Finished watching Mary and Max just now and it has already become one of my favorites. God Bless…

    1. Shambhavi Saxena

      Thank you for the kind comment! I’m glad you liked Mary and Max. Claymation has always fascinating me, and combined with that storyline, I was wowed! Hope you have a chance to watch the other movie 🙂

  4. allenage

    seen 4

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

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A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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