Some of the featured shorts like ‘Kanya,’ ‘Public Toilet’ and ‘Dear Bhargava’ dealt with sensitive issues that mainstream films, more often than not, conveniently avoid
Cooking labelled as a woman’s job, travelling while on periods, and an LGBTQIA+ individual’s attempt at trying to get a ‘normal’ job in the eyes of society, were some of the themes in films featured at the Bengaluru International Short Film Festival (BISFF) that recently concluded on September 5, 2021. Amidst a plethora of choices for movie fans, in terms of genres, languages and sections, there were also panel discussions and workshops with filmmakers and industry professionals.
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Film festivals in the age of the pandemic have resorted indefinitely to the virtual model. Even though OTT platforms have made the virtual viewing of films more comfortable and accessible, the traditional movie-going experience is something that cannot be replaced. Film festivals, over time, have become a wonderful platform for filmmakers and movie-goers to engage, discuss and debate over issues that are in currency.
The 11th edition of the week-long BISFF was held online for the second consecutive year after the pandemic struck.
There were short films across the categories of international, Indian, Karnataka, animation and the like, with the film festival aiming to be inclusive in terms of representation. Short films like Kanya, The Kitchen, Public Toilet, Avni, and Dear Bhargava dealt with sensitive issues that mainstream films, more often than not, conveniently avoid.
Show, don’t tell
The short films in the Kannada section had a lot of new filmmakers, which went on to prove that with the pandemic and the emergence of OTT content, the festival came as a wonderful juncture to throw their hats in the ring. A couple of movies also skilfully managed to transcend the usual narrative.
Enu Madodu? by Pawan Kumar of Lucia fame was shot in a single room, with minimum camerawork, and with background music by the late writer Poorna Chandra Tejaswi, portraying how Hindi language has seeped into the regional language culture. The Hindi language dominance in Karnataka politics is a battle that has been going on for a while, and this was subtly brought out in the movie. Throughout the short film, they try to come out of this quagmire by fighting to get the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certificate in Kannada. “Many people in rural Karnataka don’t understand when the certificate reads U, A or U/A because it is in either Hindi or English,” was one of the most compelling dialogues.
Public Toilet by Nagesh Hebbur began on a very promising note, but eventually told viewers a lot than what was shown. The film had strong dialogues, but the visual parts could have been a little stronger. Meanwhile, a parallel could be drawn for Dear Bhargava by Ramnath Shanbagh, with Ek Madhav Baug, the Marathi play by the late playwright Chetan Datar. Like the latter, the short film also attempts to promote gender equality.
There were some eye-catchy titles in the international category which turned out to be as promising as their names. A Godless Country, by Jess Richardson, and Kanya, a coming-of-age short film by the Indian director Apoorva Sathish stood apart.
Stains by Rhea Mathews in the national category brilliantly captured the uncomfortable relationship between travelling and menstruation, while Prem Singh’s Transistor stood out because of the rural setting of the film. Even though it is a romance, because it was set in the emergency of 1975, the narrative made all the difference.
There were also other categories like Women’s Collective Cinema and Kindness Matters. Women’s Collective Cinema featured short films by women filmmakers, and this category was recently included to encourage women filmmakers in contemporary cinema.
BISFF has seen the patronage of Prakash Belawadi, the Indian theatre and film personality. The idea of the festival was to provide a platform for young and amateur filmmakers. Especially during the second year of COVID-19, it turned out that the festival received over 3000 submissions across platforms, with many of them being young filmmakers with zero or very little filmmaking experience. Last year, BISFF was also approved as an Oscar Academy Qualifying Festival.
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