Artists’ Cinema, the film programme of Kochi-Muziris Biennale, showcases video art films, documentaries, and feature films from across the world curated by filmmakers and film scholars. The first edition of Artists’ Cinema was put together by 12 curators with 163 films screened over a period of 100 days. The current edition of Artists’ Cinema will have 9 curators and several institutional collaborations such as Forum Expanded of Berlin International Film Festival, Lux- Scotland, and National Film Archives of India among others.
Opening week films of Artists' Cinema
Marathi/Hindi/India/2016/96 mnts/with English Subtitles
A documentary feature by Shirley Abraham & Amit Madheshiya
Friday 16th December 6:30 pm, Pavilion, Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi.
Cannes prize-winning The Cinema Travellers is a journey with the traveling cinemas of India, which bring the wonder of the movies to faraway villages annually. Seven decades on, as their lorries and cinema projectors crumble and film reels become scarce, their audiences are lured by slick digital technology. Filmed over five years, The Cinema Travellers accompanies a shrewd exhibitor, a benevolent showman and a maverick projector mechanic who bear a beautiful burden – to keep the last traveling cinemas of the world running.
Special Jury Prize, L’Oeil d’or: Cannes Film Festival (Official Selection)
Grand Jury Award for Documentary: New Hampshire Film Festival
Young Critics’ Choice Award: Mumbai Film Festival
Special Jury Award, India Gold: Mumbai Film Festival
Best Documentary: Batumi International Art House Film Festival
Golden Orchid Award for Best Documentary: Hawaii International Film Festival
Directed by Stephen Page
Sunday 18th December 7:00 pm, Pavilion, Cabral Yard, Fort Kochi
Spear is a contemporary Aborginal story, told through movement and dance, of a young man Djali as he journeys through his community to understand what it means to be a man with ancient traditions in a modern world. Spanning from the outback of Australia to the gritty city streets of Sydney, Spear is a poignant reflection of the continuing cultural connection of Indigenous people. Spear is an intimate journey with Stephen Page, one of Australia’s most celebrated artists, as he brings this modern day mythological story to the screen.
Awards & Festivals
Asia Pacific Screen Awards, Brisbane 2015
Adelaide Film Festival 2015
Toronto International Film Festival 2015
Soz – A Ballad of Maladies
Directed by Tushar Madhav & Sarvnik Kaur
Monday, 19th December 6:30 pm, Pavilion, Cabral Yard
Rhythm and Blues of Kashmir valley: from traditional poetry and Sufiyana Mosuqi to modern hip hop; negotiating questions of survival, expression and resistance deeply embroiled in the complex conflict of Kashmir.
Of folk, rock and hip-hop, ‘A Ballad of Maladies’ is a portrait of different cultural practitioners whose work engages with the political upheavals and its social costs in contemporary Kashmir. The film is a glance into the collective memory of a people and the expressions of its history to understand the emerging voices of resistance and their resonance in the world’s most militarized zone. In a journey through the metamorphoses of Kashmir’s traditional art practices into its contemporary arts of resistance, the film unfolds a transformed cultural fabric of the valley, which departs from the notion of Kashmir as a paradise’.
Kinetic Power Called Caste
A package of films on caste life in Kerala curated by Dr. C S Venkiteswaran
December 23, 24, 25 & 26
Kerala, considered to be an internationally acclaimed ‘model of development’, prides itself as ‘progressive’ in its outlook and egalitarian in it socio-economic policies. A long tradition of vibrant social reform movements, and the spread of socialist and communist ideas especially during the early part and middle of last century, all contributing towards the making of Kerala’s secular, democratic fabric. In public discourses Kerala society appears as if it has cleansed itself of the vestiges of caste discrimination. But what is the reality of caste in Kerala today? One gets a feeling that, in contemporary Kerala society and polity, caste is an underground river that is invisible on the surface and unutterable in public discourse, but very much alive and flowing, feeding everything above the ground. These films probe at caste life and life of caste in Kerala society today.
Curiously, all of them are road movies and their narratives unfold during the course of a day. What is it that prompts these young filmmakers – three of them debutants – to structure their narrative in the immediacy of space and the real flow of time? Most probably because the intricate and subtle workings of caste in Kerala society today can only be captured ‘on the move’ and in its instantaneity, as it has been formally erased from surfaces, and officially overcome in public and formal exchanges. In these narratives, we find the curious lives of caste surging and overflowing through every fissure in the social fabric and gaps in the very real power hierarchies that hold Kerala society and economy together. Caste in Kerala works as a kinetic power, not visible or charged in its static states, but very much at work in any move or movement – social, political or economic.
India/2015/100 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Shanavas Naranipuzha
Gopukesav Menon, an upper-caste Hindu, and Bilal a Muslim, travel from south Kerala to the north to visit the house of Dineshan, a member of the scheduled caste, where preparations are on for an offering to a nearby temple in the form of a mythical dance named karinkaliyattam (karie). Dineshan is an employee of Gopu, who runs an establishment in the Gulf.
Through Gopu’s and Bilal’s journey and meetings with several people on the way, the caste map of Kerala, in all its cruel, discriminatory manifestations, come to the fore.
India/2015/106 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Sanalkumar Sasidharan
The film opens on the high-pitched noise and bustle of the last day of an election campaign in a small town in Kerala. It being a holiday, a group of five friends decide to spend the day in a remote building. The film focuses on the group as they indulge in all sorts of banter that one normally associates with the Malayali male populace. The film thus becomes a journey into their innards, their primal instincts and bestial nature.
India/2016/76 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Ranjit Chittade
James, a taxi driver in Wayanad, hesitantly takes up a driving assignment on Easter, when he should be spending his day with his family. He is an ambitious young man like any other settler whose roots are shallow, and always on the lookout for opportunities to make quick profits. This road movie through the winding ghat roads of Wayanad takes the viewer on a poignant journey though the most ravaged of landscapes in Kerala – whose natural wealth and beauty is being systematically plundered and its cultural identity and historical depth denied any expression.
India/2016/100 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Saji Palamel Sreedharan
The film begins with the death of Kunjikkoru Master, a freedom fighter, thinker, teacher and Sanskrit scholar belonging to the dalit community in Kerala. In a state that swears allegiance to secular ethos,democratic values and egalitarian ideals, caste slowly creeps in, taking the form of denial of respect and honour for the departed’s contributions to society, proving false the dictum that ‘six feet of earth makes us all equal’.
Tangentially Speaking - A Slice of Young Malayalam Cinema
A package of contemporary Malayalam films curated by Dr. C S Venkiteswaran
December 29, 30, 31, January 1, 2 & 3
This package presents young filmmakers from Kerala going beyond the dictates of the market, experimenting with daring themes and fresh narrative styles probing the undercurrents in contemporary Kerala. Working beyond the confines of mainstream cinema, formulae and industry ‘norms’, these films extend the horizons of film language and propose certain tangents that interrogate our taken-for-granted lifestyles.
India/2015/92 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by P S Manu
Keshu, a wayward but loving youngster and his father come to their ancestral home in Munroe Island where Keshu’s grandfather lives with Kathu, the maid. Keshu’s father wants to take him for proper psychological treatment, but the grandfather doesn’t support the idea, instead insisting that his grandson stays back in the island and liberally plan his future. With the father gone, the grandfather tries to develop a genuine intimacy with Keshu by giving him more space. But the space he can afford to give proves too little as Keshu simply defines freedom to extreme limits.
India/2015/83 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by S Sunil
The protagonist of ‘Marubhagam’ is a drifter whose name is not revealed in the film, who apparently floats through life, people and surroundings. The film unfolds over a period of days in his life, where a number of incidents at work and personal life evoke memories and dreams. Ensconced in his own silences and ethical conflicts, rarely does ‘he’ react or respond to things; but his muted but turbulent inner life is constantly in conflict with the outside world, which constantly demands polemical stances, ready opinions, and readymade answers.
India/2016/97 min/ Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Santhosh & Satish Babusenan
Young Akhil lives with his old and crippled father. The two share a difficult relationship, because of the father’s meddlesome, domineering ways. Akhil decides to elope with his girlfriend Nina . But his last day at home doesn’t turn out the way he had planned it.
India/2016/118 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Saheer Ali
This film is a journey into the musical tradition of Kochi, where cultures and religions, art and commerce from different parts of the world mingled, mixed and bloomed. The film follows the life and times of H Mehboob, one of the legendary singers and musicians from Kochi whose music transcended the barriers of religion, caste and class.
India/2016/99 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by KC Cherian
Three young people, Haris, a free-spirited gay painter; Vishnu, a rural kabaddi player and Haris’ object of desire; and their friend Sia, an activist who refuses to conform to dominant norms of femininity, struggle to find space and happiness.
India/2016/85 min/Malayalam with English subtitles
Directed by Vidhu Vincent
The film chronicles the struggles of Shalini, daughter of a manual scavenger to overcome the social exclusion enforced on her by her caste identity. Manhole, the title of the film, becomes a metaphor for Shalini’s predicament.
C S Venkiteswaran is a film critic and documentary film-maker based in Thiruvananthapuram. He has won numerous state and national awards awards for criticism, including the National Award for Best Film Critic in 2009. His publications include A Door to Adoor (editor), Udalinte Tarasancharangal, Malayala Cinema Padanangal and Cinema Talkies.
January 6, 6:30 PM
The Die is Caste
curated by Meenakshi Shedde
January 7, 8, 9, & 10, 2017
Cry, the beloved country
Indian lives in several centuries at the same time, as filmmaker Shyam Benegal once observed. The more modern India becomes, the more caveman-like Indians become, it seems. India launched the Mangalyaan space probe to orbit Mars, our software giants have conquered the world, and our 220 million smartphone users have surpassed US figures. Yet, the newspapers are full of reports of caste atrocities, like Rohith Vemula, the 26-year-old Dalit PhD scholar, who committed suicide in Hyderabad Central University, following oppression by upper castes. Indian Taliban flourish: Parents arrange honour killings when their children marry into the ‘wrong’ caste, villages are burnt, authors like Perumal Murugan are suppressed; Eramangalathu Chitralekha, a Dalit woman who drove an autorickshaw in Kannur, Kerala, had it destroyed twice in 2013 and 2016. There were 47,064 crimes registered against scheduled castes and 11,451 against scheduled tribes in 2014.
We present a powerful package of films and music performances on burning caste issues from all over the country, that explores why caste continue to tick in a modern, globalised India, and the future of caste in India. Bikas Mishra’s Chauranga (Four Colours, Hindi), Nagraj Manjule’s Sairat (Wild, Marathi), BV Karanth’s Chomana Dudi (Chomas’ Drum, Kannada) and John Abraham’s Agraharathil Kazhuthai (Donkey in a Brahmin Village, Tamil) explore how caste is experienced—and fought—in different parts of the country. They tackle a range of issues, from love, education and landlessness, to religious conversions, superstition and music. The music performances, by accomplished artists from marginalized communities nationwide—Manimaran from Chennai performing the Parai, Bant Singh from Punjab singing protest songs, and Karinthalakkoottam from Thrissur, whose songs question caste practices so common, that we scarcely notice them. Nobody will forget Sairat’s climax, in which a child –the next generation–races out terrified by an atrocity, its tiny footprints red with blood. Cry, the beloved country! A time to think, be entertained, provoked, and reflect on what we have become as Indians, and what we want our children to be.
Saturday, January 7th
CHAURANGA (FOUR COLOURS)
6.30pm, January 7
India/2014/88 min/Kortha dialect with English subtitles
Directed by Bikas Mishra
When young, lower caste Santu demands to go to school like his brother Bajrangi, and falls in love with an upper-caste schoolgirl, it can only mean trouble. The upper caste landlord married with a family, sexually exploits Santu’s mother who hopes he will help her children get educated. Caste continues to hold India in a boa constrictor’s grip: the lower castes, when not exploited for labour and sex, are casually discarded or killed if inconvenient. The sexual undercurrents of the blind priest makes one shudder long after. Produced by Anticlock Films, Surya Ventures, Drishyam and NFDC, the film’s prizes include the Grand Jury Prize (Best Feature), Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles, and Best Film, India Gold, Mumbai Film Festival.
Screening to be followed by music performance and Q/A moderated by Meenakshi Shedde.
9 pm: Performance by Manimaran, Parai artist and social activist from Chennai, his singer-wife Magizhini Manimaran, and their sons Samaran and Iniyan. Parai expert and composer Manimaran has a Buddhar Kalai Kuzhu (Buddha Art Group) folk troupe, which tries to dismantle caste through music and dance. The Parai is an ‘open drum’ with cowhide stretched on one side of a circular frame. While Parai percussion is popularly associated with the low castes, Manimaran is feistily moving it mainstream, teaching it in corporation schools, and at ‘Spaces’ in Chennai. Magizhini, his wife, is a playback singer for Tamil films. They have performed in the US, Singapore and Malaysia.
6pm, January 8
India/2016/174 min/Marathi with English subtitles
Directed by Nagraj Manjule
Sairat is that rare film on caste, whose story comes from the director’s lived experience. Opening at the Berlin Film Festival, it won critical acclaim and was a sensational box office hit. Parshya, a low caste, teenage village boy, pays a terrible price for falling in love with the upper caste Archie, with a climax that socks you in the solar plexus. Manjule goes mainstream with song and dance. His feminist film proposes that when women get power, it will tend to dismantle caste. Produced by Zee Studios and Aatpat Production, Rinku Rajguru won a National Film Award Special Mention. Sairat Marriage Groups have sprouted in Maharashtra to help eloped lovers.
Screening to be followed by music performance and Q/A with Bant Singh, moderated by Meenakshi Shedde.
9.30 pm: Bant Singh, a Dalit farm labourer, activist and extraordinary protest singer from Punjab, will perform, along with his daughter Bajlit Kaur. Bant Singh sings revolutionary songs of protest, and the fight for equality. He lost both arms and a leg when savagely attacked by upper-caste Jats, for daring to file a court case when his then minor daughter was gang-raped. Remarkably, a low caste man could actually get justice against upper castes in modern India, as he succeeded in having the culprits sentenced to life imprisonment. His spirit unbroken, he has become a symbol of resistance in Punjab, he continuing his fight for equality and dignity for millions like him.
CHOMANA DUDI (CHOMA’S DRUM)
6.30pm, January 9
India / 1975 / 141 min / Kannada with English subtitles
Directed by B V Karanth
This classic film, based on K Shivarama Karanth’s novel of the same name, is about the untouchable bonded labourer Choma, whose dream is to till his own land. But custom forbids him from owning or tilling his own land, which means he cannot repay his debts to the landlord, despite owning two buffaloes he found in the forest. His family disintegrates: two sons die (one drowns as Brahmins refuse to touch him), and the third converts to Christianity. His daughter sleeps with the landlord, hoping to redeem his debt. Choma dies shattered and lonely, beating his drum till the end. Produced by Praja Films, the film won three National Awards–for Best Film, Best Actor Vasudeva Rao and Best Story by K Shivarama Karanth.
AGRAHARATHIL KAZHUTHAI (DONKEY IN A BRAHMIN VILLAGE)
6.30pm January 10
India / 1977 / 90 min / Tamil with English subtitles
Directed by John Abraham
A stinging classic from John Abraham, Kerala’s cult, avant garde filmmaker. It is his second feature and only film in Tamil. Abraham takes on Brahminical bigotry and superstition in this satire. When a baby donkey strays into an upper caste Brahmin village, Prof Narayanaswami adopts it. Ridiculed by the upper castes, he asks a mute maid Uma to look after it. When Uma’s stillborn baby is found outside the temple, the donkey is blamed and killed. The guilty priests now worship the donkey and ritually burn its corpse, but the fire engulfs the entire village, except the professor and Uma. The Brahmins tried to ban it, but the film, produced by Nirmiti Films, won the National Award.
Screening to be followed by music performance and Q/A with Karinthalakkoottam, folk music group from Thrissur, Kerala. Moderated by Meenakshi Shedde.
9 pm: Performed by Karinthalakkoottam, folk music group from Thrissur, Kerala. Karinthalakkoottam is an ethno-music and folklore study group. An 18-member troupe will perform, led by PR Remesh, an employee of the state road transport corporation, who won the Kerala Folklore Award for folk music. Their repertoire includes songs questioning caste and untouchability, working class farming songs, and songs of aboriginal communities like the Parayas and Pulayas. “When we dance the ‘theyyam’ we are your gods, but once we remove our theyyam ornaments and dresses, we are sent beyond the fence,” goes one of their songs. Traditionally, while the men sing, the women dance with their hair loose, and Karinthalakkoottam means ‘the group dancing with its long, black hair.’
Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin and Dubai International Film Festivals, based in Mumbai. Winner of India’s National Award for Best Film Critic, she has been on the jury of the Cannes, Berlin and Venice festivals. She has been India/Asia Curator/Consultant since 18 years to festivals worldwide, including the Toronto, Locarno, Busan, IFFI-Goa, Kerala, Mumbai and Colombo Film Festivals, and is on the APSA Nominations Council, Brisbane. A journalist for 30 years, she freelances for Variety, Screen, Cahiers du Cinema, Forbes, Midday, CNN-News18 and news18.com. A Mentor on Film Critics’ Labs and Script Labs worldwide, she has been Script Consultant to the Locarno Film Festival, Mumbai Mantra-Sundance Screenwriters’ Lab and NFDC. She has also written for 15 books.
The curator would like to acknowledge with thanks many people, without whose generous support we could not organise this programme, including Onir and Sanjay Suri of Anticlock Films, Zee Studios, Nishant Roy Bombarde, Nagraj Manjule, Aatpat Production, Ashok Suvarna, V Lakshmikanth of Total Kannada, Prakash Magdum, Director, National Film Archive of India, Pune, and Kiran Dhiwar (NFAI), Shaina Anand, Sadanand Menon, Reena Agrawal, Karthikeya Prabu, Jeeva Giridharan, Nirupama Dutt, Shellee, Neha Arora, Bandhu Prasad and Vijeesh Lal AV.
Three Films by Rajeev Ravi
Annayum Rasoolum – January 20
A tale in the mould of a classical love story set to a backdrop of Kochi’s dark underbelly. Rasool (Fahadh Faasil) is a taxi driver, a lucrative career option for under-educated youngsters in Kerala, while his friends lead a life on the edge to make a quick buck. Anna (Andrea Jeremiah) is a salesgirl in an upmarket garment store. The love story takes shape during their boat rides from Vypeen to the city, but the narrative is about life on the margins of mainstream society.
India/2014/116 mins/MalayalamThis film, set in Thiruvananthapuram and starring Farhaan Faasil in the titular role, is about loss of innocence as teenage college student Steve begins to see life in all its murky hues after a number of incidents push him into taking off the rose-tinted glasses. Alcohol, drugs and social media addiction share space with a budding romance as Steve finds life isn’t smooth sailing.
India/2016/180 mins/MalayalamThe film is a hard look at unchecked urbanization set in Kammatipaadam, a slum locality in Ernakulam. The narrative – told via flashbacks experienced by Krishnan (Dulquer Salmaan), a former petty criminal who returns to the city from Mumbai – is woven around the plight of the Dalit community, which was forced to give over their lands to the real-estate mafia.
Water Wets Sari, Sharira and Cinema Too!
January 26-28, 2017
The Indian Cinerotica
Short film is a unique and fascinating form. It creates a space for young minds to express, experiment and break the conventional norms. The program is an attempt to bring together the diploma films,and other exercises of film and media school students from India which not only widens the possibilities of this medium but also questions the ways of looking at it.
Indian Cinema: A Female Narrative
Curated by Bina Paul Venugopal
In the year when Hollywood has revealed that only 4% women work behind the camera, it is interesting to look at our own cinema and see how the female presence has worked. The films will look at work of women in Indian Cinema and its historical context and examine if these films did anything to the narrative of cinema in India.
Bina Paul is a film editor who has been a part of the film industry for more than two decades. She has worked with leading filmmakers in India and has won several state and national awards for editing. Bina has also served as the Artistic Director of the International Film Festival of Kerala for the past ten years, Senior Editor at Center for the Development of Imaging Technology in Thiruvananthapuram and is currently the Regional Director of the LV Prasad Film School in Thiruvananthapuram. She has also served on film juries at several international festivals.
February 9th: Parched directed by Leena Yadav/118 mnts
(Q & A with Leena Yadav and Bina Paul after the screening)
February 10th: Beyond the Wheel directed by Rajula Shah /59 mnts
Panthibhojanam directed by Sreebala K Menon/20 mnts
February 11th: Manjadikkuru (Lucky Red Seeds) directed by Anjali Menon/133 mnts
February 12th: Scribbles on Akka directed by Madhusree Dutta / 60 mnts
Daily 6:30 pm onward
Where Documentary meets the Political Popular: Cinema in the Wake of Kamal Swaroop
Curated by Ashish Rajadhyaksha
Feb 16-18, 2017
Kamal Swaroop effectively hit the Indian film scene with his now-classic Om Dar-b-Dar. Made in 1988, true to its own preoccupations, the film was reborn a decade later as a cult classic. He was known already by then to many as an artistic savant, scenarist and writer extraordinaire, and the conscience-keeper of the cinematic independent. Part of the cult following that Kamal Swaroop enjoys is to do with autobiography, subjective memories and history, and the popular as the privileged site for hard and contentious sagas of birth, death, violence and compassion.
This section of Artists’ Cinema is a tribute to Kamal Swaroop and is planned around the first public screening in India of Battle of Benares (2014). This documentary epic, about the primal political fight between Narendra Modi and Arvind Kejriwal, also continues the Swaroop persona has entered his own film frame as the wanderer: originally entering in Rangbhoomi (2013), which is also on display, and continuing in his film Tracing Phalke (2013).
Parallel screenings of younger filmmakers includes a special focus on Renu Savant. We have the first-ever public screening of Savant’s epic four-hour documentary Many Months in Mirya. The filmmaker spent several months in her native village making what she calls a ‘whimsical ethnographic documentary’, an effort at ‘documenting time’ in her native village of Mirya on the coast of Konkan, Maharashtra. It also includes Savant’s 2014 student film Aranyak: a remarkable whirl of intersecting stories of young men, women, nature, drying rivers, industrial pollution and science fiction.
There is a special presentation of student films at the Film & Television Institute of India that Swaroop directly mentored. We show Pranjal Dua’s extraordinary Chidiya Udh (2014), Prantik Basu’s Makara (2013) and Satinder Bedi’s Kamakshi (2015)
11:00 am: Makara directed by Prantik Basu/20 min/2013
11.30 am: Chidiya Udh directed by Pranjal Dua/20 min/2014
12.00 noon: Kamakshi directed by Satindar Singh Bedi/25 min/2015
3:00 pm: Aranyak directed by Renu Savant, 20 min/2014
4:00 pm: Many Months in Mirya directed by Renu Savant/240 min/2017 (World Premiere)
2:00 pm: Tracing Phalke directed by Kamal Swaroop/105 min/2015
4:00 pm: Om Dar-b-dar directed by Kamal Swaroop/101 min/1988
6:00 pm: Rangbhoomi directed by Kamal Swaroop/80 min/2013
6:00 pm: Atul directed by Kamal Swaroop/52 min/2017
7:00 pm: Battle for Benares directed by Kamal Swaroop/133 min/2014
Ashish Rajadhyaksha is a film historian. He co-edited the Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema (1999) with Paul Willemen, and is the author of Indian Cinema in the Time of Celluloid: From Bollywood to the Emergency (2009). He has curated a number of film and art events, including Bombay-Mumbai 1992-2001 for Century City: Art & Culture in the Modern Metropolis (with Geeta Kapur, 2001, Tate Modern), Memories of Cinema (IV Guangzhou Biennial, 2011) and You Don’t Belong, a major festival of Indian documentary, video and fiction films shown in several cities in China (2011).