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Cut.in Student Film Festival (2015)

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Cut.In, the annual student’s film festival (2015) of the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, School of Media and Cultural Studies (SMCS) celebrated its 8th year, with exuberance and zest. Young and fresh in its outlook, this year the festival received close to 119 entries, from students of diploma, graduate and post graduate programs, from renowned institutions such as FTII, SRFTII, NID, TISS, Sophia College,
L V Prasad Film & TV Academy, Srishti School of Art Design & Technology. Nearly 33 films covering a
large and diverse range of topics were showcased during the 2 day (21st-22nd Dec’15) event.

This year, the eminent jury members, were K.P.Jayasankar (Dean, SMCS), Anjali Monteiro (professor,
SMCS) and Renu Sawant. Jayasankar and Monteiro, distinguished filmmakers, are recipients of national and international awards, for their tremendous contribution to documentary filmmaking.
Along with them, the third jury member was Renu Sawant, an F.T.I.I alumni. She was awarded the prestigious Golden Lotus Award (non-feature film) for Best Direction at the 62nd National Awards 2015,
for her short film ‘Aaranyak,’ and is currently pursuing a T.I.S.S fellowship.

The film festival was inaugurated by Anne Rutherford – a senior lecturer in cinema studies
at the School of Humanities and Communication Arts, University of Western, Sydney. Rutherford emphasized, the importance of one’s ‘freedom of expression.’ Equally, she pointed out that “no one else
can understand and then use this kind of platform better than students. They must grab this opportunity to showcase their talents, as well as to use the freedom to express, through making a fiction or a
documentary as their very first step towards becoming a film maker.“ She further described these kind of film festivals as an open space and added “a tendency of cutting down the voices or the medium
of showing, has grown tremendously. But, through Cut.In (and similar student festivals), metaphorically the point will be reinvented, where the students will use, every single option to literally cutin,
will contribute to fill the open spaces and will revive the language of cinema in every passing year to make it bold and assertive.”

The following are a few highlights from the festival. The film ‘Madarsa’, explores “the Madarsa system of education in India by interviewing Maulavis working at such institutions (Ahmedabad, Gujarat) and other scholars researching about Islamic education” according to the filmmaker, Mustaqeem Khan.
The feel-good film ‘Mishri’ depicts two differently abled individuals and their day to day life activities. In ‘Shifting Tides,’ Ahmedbhai and Ismailbhai’s journey is shown, as one of the last few remaining Unt Maldharis (nomadic camel pastoralists), continuing their forefathers’ business as the caretakers of the Kharai camels (the only breed of camel’s that can swim.) The Filmmaker also added “While making a documentary, I understand that the best thing comes when we don’t force and we let it, come naturally, be it in terms of shot, or coping up with the bad weather, or getting over adversities.”

The film ‘Alpajeevi’ is a comparative analysis of the home and livelihood of the Garian community and
the royal families (those who used to be the original inhabitants of this place, but presently, are no
more.) The “Garians are the illegal workers and watchful protectors of that no-man’s land” claimed
Naomi Shah, the film maker. Another delightful watch was the film ‘This is the moment’ by Ritvick
Sharad. The film was not only a series of interviews about Amrish Puri’s journey from a character actor to stardom, as represented effortlessly, but was also about his love for his craft. The filmmaker mentioned, “I visualized it differently. But once I started, this whole idea has developed into something new, and has flown in such a way that I and my whole team were happy about the final outcome of the movie.” In the film ‘8 rooms and 9 Doors,’ the crematorium, people associated with this line of work, their surroundings, the community and their lifestyle, were the topics that caught hold of the filmmakers lens. The filmmaker Gireesh, talking about his film, added “I did face a lot of challenges, the authorities of crematorium and the hospitals (where the entire shoot had to be done) were not okay with my concept and thus did not allow me to shoot on day 1. It was after my department’s intervention
that I managed to get into the morgue and finish my shoot, timely.”

The second year Master students of SMCS, T.I.S.S, produced a series of five films entitled, ‘A Roof of
One’s Own’ (Ek Chhat ki Talaash Mein). The series explores the issue of housing and shelter in Mumbai.
The five films cover a range of themes, including the housing and real estate bubble, the marginalization of the ‘Adivasi’s’ who live in Aarey Milk Colony, the struggles of those who live in ‘slums’ and in transit housing, the other side of redevelopment, the lives of those who make their home on Chowpatty beach and the experiences of transgendered people in search of shelter. The films premiered during the second day of the film festival. “The themes that we chose earlier, all dealt with a form of erasure — something that is forgotten or swept under the carpet. Housing is not exactly a point of erasure but in the conversation about real estate and investment, we can often forget that it also a question of livelihood and survival,” says documentary film-maker Anjali Monteiro. Through these
films, the student directors wanted to convey that: “Housing as a theme is something that’s very inclusive but it can also be used to explore exclusion.”

The fiction section had its set of gems and jewels. Be it the film ‘Jalasayanam,’ which portrayed the
beautiful art of storytelling without any words, spoken. Or the mesmerizing black and white film ‘Kamakshi,’weaving a conversation, by capturing the sounds of the wind and thus creating a void. Films
such as ‘Chitradham,’ wherein the essence of the film was summed up in the line, ‘killing of dreams is the ugliest of all,’ to light and metaphorical story telling in the film ‘Kahani’, to the very realistic and hard hitting film ‘Sadabahar Brass Band,’ to dark and enthralling film ‘Seek and Hide,’ and last but not least the films ‘Mangal’ and ‘Kotha’ were simple and sweet with an unique touch of humor to it. In ‘E-thill,’ the young director, from Manipur, demonstrated his years of growing up, in a turbulent Manipur. His dilemma and helplessness, in an ocean of persisting problems. As per the director, Manohar Kshetrimayum, he felt, ‘’somehow, over the years, the way Manipur has been projected in the news, only the bad thing has stayed with people, but through this film one can now know that
we can also chill and have fun, do our stuff and play. But I, as a filmmaker, also wanted to show that one cannot escape from the turmoil or the reality, even if he wanted to. Thus I felt, it is my responsibility to represent a glimpse of my hometown through this movie.”

It is through such film festivals, that passions remain burning. A student filmmaker, can make films,
thinking beyond its success or failure, pour their love, blood, sweat and an indomitable spirit into
their films. Professor Jayasankar added “this festival is all about being fearless, giving yourself that space to think and much needed ‘freedom to express’, where we can see the work and collaborations of young, spirited talents.”

In the closing address, Jahnu Baruah, (Padma Shri, Padma Bhushan, National award winning, Assamese filmmaker) also pointed out certain issues, that even young film makers were worried about.Baruah said, “Take your films to the larger audience, this generation filmmakers need to know how to connect with
the young generation. Those, who don’t have access to these kind of films.” Baruah also mentioned the government’s negligence towards documentary films, which, instead of showing, they left as it is inside cupboards, not even bothered to acknowledge. Baruah added “This kind of film festivals aspire and inspire new film makers to create a system, where cinema is a fluid flexible medium, and can bind the humans of the same city (those who are unaware of the kinds of existing problems in their neighbors life, or of those living in the same area, city, state, country) as well as a magic machine, as having a certain language of its own, and will be respected with a proper approach.”

One student filmmaker, Satindar Singh Bedi, (Director of ‘Kamakshi’) mentioned “government can take up an initiative where a free page or an entire online film archive will be dedicated for the students.
Where all the final year diploma and degree projects will be uploaded and can be viewed easily by the students across the nation as well as by the other communities. Thus the skill enhancement and the film culture can be built, and certain existing issues, that other persons are unaware of, can be addressed.”
Anjali, congratulated every student who had participated, associated with their films by saying: “the
freedom of presenting realities and telling the tales through a large range of short films and documentaries has made a straight way into our hearts, as always. There’s (where) this film festival succeeds.” The 8th Cut.In film festival has seen the coming together of a new age of young minds and can hereby proudly claim, that a brilliant set of filmmakers are in the making.

(Basundhra Banerjee, Student of Diploma in Community Media in TISS, Mumbai)

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