World Premiere: A Primeira Morte De Joana

As published in the Peacock- the official magazine for the International Film Festival of India

The Link- https://iffigoa.org/2021/01/22/page-05-world-premiere-a-primeira-morte-de-joana/

A Primeira Morte De Joana (The First Death of Joana) has its Gala World Premiere at the 51st edition of IFFI today, the 22nd of January. Directed by Christiane Oliveira from Brazil, the film is about a 13-year-old girl Joana (played by Leticia Kacperski) on a quest to know how it was possible for her great-grandaunt Rosa to die as a virgin at 70, without dating anyone. Through this investigation, she understands herself and the women in her family. “Every woman has a way to know and live her intimacy and sexuality and for Joana, being in her early teens, she was beginning to explore this,” Christiane said. 

Speaking about the concept of the film, Christiane told The Peacock that she heard a story about an old woman who died without dating. This inspired her to make The First Death of Joana. She said that South Brazil is known for its macho and cattle ragging culture. This masculinity is an oppression for women. It creates a scenario where young girls are humiliated at school due to the social expectations from the female gender. Isabela Bressane (who plays Joana’s friend Caroline) has experienced this humiliation as a schoolgirl. It hinders the development of women. Caroline subtly inspects and questions Joana about the hidden truth of her family. Joana does not want to hide and expresses herself without shame. She also teaches Caroline to be more expressive about her thoughts and feelings. The film charts the journey of two friends on their discovery of relationships and desires of sexual intimacy of woman from their past. The process of making the film took the actor on a path of self-discovery too. “I learnt a lot about myself; that I have a lot in common with my character Caroline. She is introspective and so am I,” Isabella who plays Caroline told The Peacock. 

This is the first time Christiane is in India to attend a film festival. “Important festivals were either cancelled or reduced to a smaller virtual one due to the pandemic. It is disturbing for us filmmakers as we cannot showcase our work on the big screen. Good films that need to see the light of the day are pushed under the carpet. I am very happy to begin 2021 with this premiere at IFFI with a physical screening at a cinema hall. It is an opportunity to meet people and know their perspective of the film. It is also a great moment as my husband Gustavo Galvao’s film We Still have the Deep Black Night (2019) was selected for screening along with mine. He is the associate producer of my film,” Christian said. 

Informing The Peacock about the challenges, Christian said that they were living in good times, making films that were well funded. It is difficult now as the new government has incorporated changes in the funding of films. She was fortunate though, to receive the funds before the changes. Besides, the film has been funded by Avon, the beauty product company. 

Her first feature film was Nalu on the Border (2017), a story set on the border of Brazil and Uruguay. It premiered at the Berlin International Film Festival. It won 18 awards at 21 national and international film festivals. This is her second feature film. She is currently in the process of making her third film titled, Until the Music is Over, a co-production with Italy. 

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“Green Blackberries Discovered That Which Is Hidden, Something That Doesn’t Exist”

As published in The Peacock- the official magazine for the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in 2021

The Link- https://iffigoa.org/2021/01/20/page-10-green-blackberries-discovered-that-which-is-hidden-something-that-doesnt-exist/

Green Blackberries (2020 )is a short multilingual film based in North East India which got selected for the Indian Panorama category. The film is titled Green Blackberries after a conversation between Prithvi Raj Dasgupta, the director of the film, and a wise man from the village. The village wise man informed that usually raw fruits are green, but berries that grow widely in the region are red. “Green blackberries discovered that which is hidden, something that doesn’t exist.” He used it as an oxymoron to show a contradiction in life. This is a multilingual film due to the region it represents. North East is a place of multiple languages and dialects, and hence it is a combination of Nepali, Assamese, and Bengali. 

The film is about a teenage girl Nishu, who travels every day via the river and forests and fights her way through nature to attend school. “When I visited the North East I saw school students of tender ages six and seven walk and travel via boats for eight hours to reach school. I was disturbed by this and could not bear to imagine their misery. I was eager to portray this through a film, and I made Green Blackberries,” Prithvi Raj said as he informed The Peacock about the concept and reason for the film. 

The plot revolves around the life of Nishu. She is a bright student in the village and unlike any other. She is the hope of the village, someone who can overcome all obstacles. The film focuses on her final exam and the way she fights against nature and society to challenge conventional norms. This film is for everyone and not restricted to a certain age group. The director wants people to understand the struggles of people living in the North East that are overlooked by filmmakers as it is not accessible. Struggles and issues of remote villages need attention. Mainstream cinema has not done much except for some like Nil Battey Sannata (2016). People celebrate the hills as an exotic region but seldom bother to know that sometimes one school has just one teacher who has just passed class ten and can barely pronounce the word banana. “I learnt more about the region as a documentary filmmaker for the Tribal Care Project,” Prithvi Raj said. 

This is the first time his film has been selected for a film festival and he is delighted that it is IFFI, a festival of great stature. Previously, he has worked as an associate director and editor. All the members of the crew, their family and friends are proud of this achievement. He appreciates the efforts of his team, especially Gourav Roy, the director of photography. He shot the film using just two lenses.  

The crew comprised four city residents and the cast was picked from amongst the locals. Being residents of the city, it was tedious for them to understand the geography of the region for filming. “The boats kept rolling in a strange way while the students lost their balance and fell frequently. We had to manage with a limited budget and resources, make do with one light and a torch as lighting. The film therefore took two years to shoot,” Prithvi Raj said. 

Prithvi Raj wants people to focus on educating girls, rather than obsessing over getting them married at a tender age. He is in town to attend the screening along with Vaneeta Sridhar, the producer. 

“It doesn’t matter that you are old, as long as you are alive”

Mehrunisa (2021) as a name means “Beauty of the moon” and as the film title informs the audience that “the beauty of a woman lies in her strength”. The film is directed by Indian-Austrian filmmaker Sandeep Kumar and is a world premiere in mid-fest at IFFI. Sandeep was born and brought up in Delhi but moved to Austria as his parents wanted to migrate being German language academicians. He was a high-school junior of actor Shahrukh Khan at St Columba’s School and shared the stage with him during theatre performances. He prefers making films with older people and children as they are authentic and do not put on a façade like other adults. “It doesn’t matter if you are old as long as you are alive. The older you get, you feel free to decide your journey in life,” he said.

The film is about Mehrunisa (played by Farrokh Jaffer), an octogenarian from Lucknow. The village mourns because her husband has died, but instead of being sad, she feels free from the patriarchal suppression of her husband. She was an artist, and marriage destroyed her dreams. The film is about her journey to explore herself at old-age and the opportunity to be part of a Bollywood film. Unfortunately, this was a small role in a women-centered film. She expresses displeasure through a dialogue that says, “when the story is of a woman, why is it made from the male perspective? When you need to sell a film for its story, why do you need a male face?” She wanted to slash the patriarchal system in cinema and became an inspiration to several women including her daughter (played by Tulika Banerjee) and granddaughter (played by Ankita Dubey).   

“The film selection is the highlight of my life. I could not sleep as I was excited. It fulfilled my dream of coming to India and doing a premier, as this my land of origin. It serves as a tribute for Farrokh Jaffer who is a brilliant actor. This is her first film in a lead role. She previously essayed minor roles in Sultan (2016), Peepli Live (2009), Swades (2004), and Umrao Jaan (1981). I feel blessed to have the opportunity to work with her. This is my first film shoot in India so that the artists, who reside here could attend the premier of the film,” Sandeep said. While narrating his experience of making the film, he informed that Farrokh said, “Hum karenge (we will do this).”

Sandeep is inspired by the work of Mira Nair and Gurinder Chadha. This paved way for crossover cinema of India meets the west in his films. He wants to focus on socially relevant and simplistic films instead of big blockbuster entertainers. He also follows Michael Haneke’s style of filmmaking and is fascinated by the art of joining estranged ideas through a subtext that he calls a mental dialogue of his characters. He is proud of the efforts of his team from Austria, especially award winning crew members like Christian Haake (Director of Photography) and Herbert Verdino (Head of Sound) as they adapted well with the setting and cast in Lucknow, India.  

Sandeep informed that the people from Austria are delighted about the film being part of the festival. They see this achievement as a sign of hope in 2021, after all the bad news around the Pandemic in 2020. His future projects comprise of two films. The first is a psychological surreal film with Dixon Byrne, while the second is with Nawazuddin Siddiqui, to explore the dynamic relationship between a father and daughter. “I like to explore the unknown aspects of filmmaking and challenge myself as a filmmaker,” he said.

“You Need To Have Conviction And Believe In Your Story To Make It”

As published in The Peacock- the official magazine for the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in 2021

The Link- https://iffigoa.org/2021/01/19/page-07-you-need-to-have-conviction-and-believe-in-your-story-to-make-it/

Every year, the selection committee faces the difficult task of shortlisting films for cinema lovers. This year we see some budding young talent presenting their debut work at IFFI. Oru Paathira Swapnam Pole (Like A Midnight Dream) is about a mother who is diagnosed with cancer, and simultaneously discovers a nude video of her daughter on her laptop. It focuses on concurrent conflicts in the life of a mother, who has to deal with her medical condition and question the way to control and protect her daughter.  

The film is shot in Kochi and portrays the private lives of the characters. Informing The Peacock about the concept, director, Sharan Venugopal, said that he doesn’t like to share space often with people and is a man of few words. He connected with a short story titled Vaibhavam written by his friend Susmesh Chandroth about exploring kinship ties in a private space. He chanced upon this and made the film as his diploma project as a student at Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata. He is grateful to his mentor, Putul Mehmood, from Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute for her guidance during the film. He took a group of his close confidants onboard. He was skeptical about the release of the film due to the pandemic but is delighted to be a part of IFFI. He is also happy that South Indian actor Nadiya Moidu played the role of the mother in the film. 

A significant aspect of the making of the film was that it brought young filmmakers from different states together to produce a regional Malayalam film. Sharan is from Kerala, Koustabh Mukherjee from Bengal is the cinematographer, Jyoti Swaroop Panda from Odisha did the editing, Prathik Sonkar from Madhya Pradesh worked on sound, and Prateek Bagi from Punjab is the producer. “Language doesn’t play a role in making a film. We need to understand the concept and be thorough with executing the project,” said Prateek.  

Speaking about portraying two women characters as a male filmmaker, Sharan said, “A filmmaker has to learn to be sensitive to understand characters irrespective of gender. Mainstream cinema, unfortunately, conforms to the stereotype of using the male gaze rather than depict the sensitive side. I wanted to make a film in a sympathetic way. I have been inspired by the work of Polish director, Krzysztof Kieslowski, who has made films on women despite being a male filmmaker. We need more representation from women in cinema and I hope young women are inspired to make more films,” Sharan said.  

The film also deals with the conflicting relationships between parents and children. Speaking about this, Sharan reflected that in our culture, it is common for parents to want to control the lives of their children when the latter seeks independence. Yet in the film, the mother is a liberal woman who encourages open conversations despite wanting to be conservative and assertive. The film encourages such open conversations.  

A great part of the film is based in a closed setting, a house with few shots outdoors. “While working in a private setting, you need to understand the mood of the scene and the way you have to communicate the same. I planned the movment accordingly”, Kaustabh said.  

Sharan plans to work more on films that explore interpersonal relationships. “You need to have conviction and believe in your story to make it”, he said.