By Robin Bansal
New Delhi, Feb 4 (IANS) What if India's farmers, slumdwellers and rickshaw-pullers could see their lives play out on the big screen? What if they could make these movies themselves?
Right now India lacks the space for real films on real peole even though it has the largest feature film industry in the world, but a clutch of documentary and short filmmakers are trying to create that very platform through niche film festivals.
"There is no proper platform to showcase short films and documentaries in India. Especially, there is no recognition for youth in filmmaking here," Mustajab Malik, director, India International Youth Film Festival (IIYFF), told IANS.
"The mission behind such a film festival is to give a platform to filmmakers to display their talent and show their movies to a meaningful audience," he added.
"We are also promoting the fest to farmers, rickshaw-pullers and in slums and melas to make the masses realise that even they can make films via a bioscope project."
The second edition of the IIYFF was held Feb 1-2 at the Jawaharlal Nehru University campus here. Promoting innovative alternative cinema, the fest explores a multitude of social issues affecting the world like education, health, environment, poverty, human rights and violence against women.
The event saw close to two dozen short films and documentaries from over 20 countries like Australia, the US, Britain, France, Germany, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Israel and Palestine to name a few.
Ranjith Shankaran of L.V. Prasad Film & TV Academy was of the opinion: "These films are not made with a commercial aspect in mind. So somewhere these have to be recognised and there has to be a certain backpacking for them to provide them with a platform and support. And film festivals are the best platforms that can be made available to them."
The Chennai-based Academy produced three movies competing at the fest - "Kal", "Devadasi" and "All Is Well".
"The greatest motivation for any filmmaker is to watch what he makes on the big screen. And at such festivals, the best part is that you have all the elements under one roof - a ready audience, ready critics and the media," Azad Alam, director of "All Is Well", told IANS.
"All young filmmakers should look forward to such film festivals and they must keep sending their films to these. Otherwise, to get people to talk about what you've made is a long game. It'll take years. Look at world cinema. For them a film is a film," he added.
Another platform that creates space for documentary, short and animation films is the Mumbai Internatinal Film Festival and even the International Film Festival of India has a section dedicated to such movies.
Unlike India, short films and documentaries have a feasible market outside.
"There are a lot of international festivals that offer not only cash prizes but also opportunities to tie up with production houses and studios and pitch for the longer versions of these short films or documentaries and re-shorten or lengthen them out further," informed Shankaran.
"The short films are also picked up by a lot of private channels and there are a lot of channels in Europe and America which cater only to short films and documentaries," he added.
Aficionados can, however, rejoice as the IIYFF is now also going mobile.
"We are now making this a touring festival that will travel to Sagar (Madhya Pradesh) and Amritsar (Punjab) before March. It will be a touring film festival this year onwards. The modalities are being worked out and it will happen very soon," said Malik.
But won't that lead to amateur filmmaking in plenty with a lot of technical faults?
"We don't go for technical limitations while choosing a movie because we are ourselves a poor country in terms of technical equipment," he said.
Time for some light, camera and action?