Godard In Gorakhpur

From the Times of India:

Bollywood, with its tiresome stream of brain-dead movies, might just need to watch out-world cinema via film festivals and clubs is creeping up in the unlikeliest of places, giving hitherto clueless audiences a few lessons in cinema literacy. Apart from Gorakhpur, there's Gaya, Bhilai, Yamunanagar, Jaipur, Surat and Adipur in Gujarat and many more small towns where audiences are responding to something more than the antics of Akshay Kumar and Salman Khan. Admittedly it's a small wave but cineastes see no reason why it shouldn't lead to bigger things.

Very cool. I remember hearing about Kolkata film clubs being very popular in the days before the Internet and DVD availability, but perhaps that was more due to the opportunity for discerning punters to get in their quota of skin as well as Antonioni. That may well be part of the reason here, but hey, as long as it opens the doors of perception wider, it's all gravy. Plus, there's an emphasis on local non masala fare too:

Joshi, who takes his festivals to different parts of north India, picks and chooses films to suit the place and the taste of the people there. His resistance cinema fest, for instance (which he prefers to call pro-people rather than anti-establishment), comprises films and documentaries that portray the plight of a particular area. "We screen Indian documentaries by directors like Anand Patwardhan and the cinema of film-makers like M S Sathyu and Girish Kasaravalli,'' he says. "We have foreign documentaries too, like we just showed a Brazilian documentary on land reforms. This year, we chose films with the theme Freedom From American Imperialism.'' Joshi says that Cinema Of Resistance is getting a tremendous response.

Sanjay Sahay, another cinema enthusiast, screens films for the people of Gaya from his enviable collection of DVDs, which are often borrowed by other film festival organisers. His festivals showcase the best of world cinema but there's also a special focus on films related to, and made in, Bihar. "We have a cultural centre where we conduct regular theatre and film workshops, he says. "At times, we have live performances as well. We want to generate interest in world cinema so that people are exposed to it and are able to understand, for instance, why Lagaan missed out and No Man's Land won the Oscar.

I found the following particularly heartwarming:

In Surat, a town that's as far removed from film culture as David Dhawan from Federico Fellini, a group of three youngsters has started a film festival. Says Rajarishi Smart, one of the organisers, "It was begun to expose the people of Surat to a certain film culture, as no international film is released here nor are the DVDs available. We booked a hall with a capacity of 250, unsure of how many people would turn up. But to our utter surprise, the entire hall was jam-packed and we had to send people back.''

I am actually wondering whether doing something like this for the SF Bay Area makes sense. While I am fairly sure the cinema savvy public in Palo Alto or Burlingame are sufficiently familiar with Tarkovsky, there's a whole bunch of smart, well made films starting to emerge from India and the diaspora that deserve to be seen. Local film festivals (such as the one organized by Third I) definitely highlight a great selection but it only occurs once a year and worthy multiplex films often miss out due to falling in between the extremes of Bollywood on one end and alternative films on the other. At any rate, it isn't hard to see why there might be thirst for more intelligent fare when crap like this passes for controversy:

If you thought that Vidya Balan has become “shameless in front of the camera”, as she recently admitted in a TV interview, after hearing her bold dialogue in Paa and the expletives she has used in Ishqiya (as is evident in the promos), this one is for you.

ZOMG - bad language! Bring on the soap, forsooth!

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- December 8, 2009 7:13 PM // Bollywood , Film