Cinema Of Resistance: A Look At The Kolkata People’s Film Festival

Posted on February 16, 2015 in Culture-Vulture

By Nishant Chhinkwani:

“The basic underlying motive of Cinema of Resistance is not screening movies for movies’ sake, where people come and watch films and go back to where they came from, but to indulge in and encourage and initiate a dialogue. That is the most important objective of this movement,” elaborates Kasturi, one of the organisers of Cinema of Resistance, Kolkata Chapter.

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Harking almost a decade back to 2006, Cinema of Resistance had its humble beginnings in Gorakhpur, a non-descript town on the Indo-Nepal border, as an alternative to cliché and mundane commercially driven cinema being dished out to the people.

The festival started out with the screening of films focusing primarily on content with high aesthetic value, ongoing and past social relevance and certain regional influences, with cinema primarily being made in Hindi and other vernacular languages. Often drubbing out clichéd formulas, the films screened focus on experimental cinema based on real life situations, or are distinct works of art of classical masters who paved way for a pathbreaking, new age, resistance cinema movement. They often portray the trials and tribulations of the common people, and their constant struggle for betterment in terms of struggles and obstacles one faces when not blessed with being born in the ‘right’ cradle.

These films may be described as a wakeup call to the conscience of the average viewer, but they never harp on being preachy or propagandistic.

Since its inception in 2006 in Gorakhpur, Cinema of Resistance has spread its wings far and wide, travelling steadily by word of mouth across the nation. This festival, for lack of a better word, shirks any form of corporate sponsorship. The growth of the movement has been in a very organic fashion, with interested individuals from every city taking out their own time to organize a chapter of this festival in their own city, with a two/three day workshop being organized on tips and methods of hosting the chapter, so as to keep the independent spirit of the movement alive.

Kolkata hosted its second Cinema of Resistance Chapter, aptly named Kolkata People’s Film Festival, spread over a 4 day schedule to showcase relevant cinema from the country and beyond. Commencing on the 22nd of January, it was dedicated to the indefatigable people’s litterateur Nabarun Bhattacharya. True to the rebellious spirit of the event, Dr. Binayak Sen inaugurated the Chapter along with filmmaker Ajay TG and cultural activist Sudhir Suman while renowned documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan delivered the keynote address.

The objective of KPFF and by larger extension, Cinema of Resistance, is simple – to make people aware of the on ground socio-political realities as opposed to a version that we have been spoon fed by the mainstream media. The festival doesn’t have to try hard to be different – it inherently is. No passes, invitations or entry fees are required for attending it. In addition, it is run on solely sundry donations by common people and enthusiasts.

For the first time, KPFF hosted a children’s session where school goers had a special screening of 5 internationally acclaimed short films along with a lecture on the history of cinema, followed by an informal session of love in the time of caste and how it affects the young.

The festival had an interesting itinerary, with films (features, documentaries, short) screened ranging from the famed exiled Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi’s The Accordion and Ajay TG’s Pehli Awaz focusing on the worsening situation in Chhattisgarh to Nakul Singh Sawhney’s take on the Muzaffarnagar riots with his hard hitting Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai being screened on the first two days.

The next two days played host to equally riveting films like The World Before Her by Nisha Pahuja and Anand Patwardhan’s Father, Son and Holy War among others, along with a very dynamic panel discussion on Faces Of Fascism, which seems all the more relevant in the current, volatile political climate.

And, for the first time, the Kolkata chapter spread its wings out to Shantiniketan, organising a one day satellite festival right after the Kolkata chapter ended. The organisers were, however, up for a bumpy ride this time around. The original venue for the event on campus, Nandan Art Gallery at Kala Bhavan, was cancelled at the last minute without any adequate reason.

“The police called up the Principal and asked him to cancel the permission because a screening of ‘Jai Bhim Comrade’, a film passed with a U certificate by the Censor Board, could cause a ‘law and order’ problem and provoke people communally. What is more interesting is that two weeks prior to the festival, there was a massive ‘Ghar Wapsi’ mass conversion of Christian tribals a few kilometres from the venue of the festival. The police apparently had no clue of any such mass conversion happening, but they certainly had a clue of our one day film festival happening, and decided it was more likely to trigger of a communal backlash than a mass conversion,’ observed Kasturi.

Nevertheless, with the generous help of local students and teachers, an alternate venue was booked and the screenings went on without a hitch. The police’s dubious double standards, in fact, backfired on them as the venue was quickly packed by a very interested audience through word of mouth. “It helped people realise that showing movies and starting serious discussions around them is not allowed on a so called democratic campus. So, they came in droves and that helped us achieve the purpose of the festival.”

In the upcoming months, KPFF has a few small screenings lined up before heading off for the 10th Annual Cinema of Resistance Gorakhpur chapter.

KPFF, and by large Cinema of Resistance, does not exist solely for the reason of entertainment. It is one of the few voices of reason on Indian Cinema that attempt to prick your conscience and force you to think beyond the glass bubble of ‘achhe din’ we are being pushed into.

The voice of protest continues to grow louder.

The inauguration by Sudhir Suman, Utpalendu Chakrabarty, Binayak Sen and Ajay Tg.
The inauguration by Sudhir Suman, Utpalendu Chakrabarty, Binayak Sen and Ajay Tg.
Dr. Binayak Sen’s inaugural address.
Dr. Binayak Sen’s inaugural address.
Anand Patwardhan delivering the keynote address.
Anand Patwardhan delivering the keynote address.
The event was attended by a sincere audience.
The event was attended by a sincere audience.
Nakul Singh Sawhney, who’s documentary 'Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai' was one of the festival’s favorite.
Nakul Singh Sawhney, who’s documentary ‘Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai’ was one of the festival’s favorite.
Theatre formation Paribartak after their performance.
Theatre formation Paribartak after their performance.
Panelists at 'Faces of Fascism'.
Panelists at ‘Faces of Fascism’.
An interactive audience actively participating in discussions.
An interactive audience actively participating in discussions.
Filmmaker Nishtha Jain introducing Gulabi Gang.
Filmmaker Nishtha Jain introducing Gulabi Gang.

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