Documentary Todayâ€ƒ 1
From The Editor’s Desk
How time flies! With this issue Documentary Today completes two years of existence. This is the eighth issue of a magazine which many had predicted would be still-born or at best die a natural death after a couple of issues. As can be seen we have survived and grown stronger and better. I still remember the day we first mooted the idea of publishing such a magazine. A magazine devoted entirely to documentaries – and that, too, by a “sarkari” organization. Many predicted death even before birth. The objections were plenty: l Paul Zils started such a magazine several decades ago and it didn’t survive and no one has attempted such a thing again. l There aren’t enough documentaries to fill so many issues. So will it come out regularly? l How can a Films Division magazine take up an independent stand? Won’t it end up promoting its own films? l We cannot get audiences for watching documentaries. Who will read the magazine? The doubts went on and on. The Doubting Thomases were within and without the organization. I held my counsel and persevered with the idea – waiting for a soul mate. When this idea was floated to an old journalist-friend Sanjit Narwekar, an acclaimed author and documentary filmmaker, he not only jumped at it but began to unfold his own vision for the magazine – adding and expanding on my initial ideas. Because I have a little background of journalism I could at once grasp what he was saying and how our vision could be converted into reality. In fact my interaction with Sanjit further increased my confidence and determination to go ahead with the publication of Documentary Today. It became my job to do the initial spadework as well as work on the initial framework of the magazine. Finally, the first issue was out in August 2007 celebrating 50 years of independence The Films Division was holding a festival of the films on the Freedom Struggle and the issue was “released” on the occasion. 2 Documentary Today
We realized that the magazine was a success from the number of phone calls, letters, e-mails and suggestions we received from our readers The general opinion about the quality and content about the magazine was also encouraging. And since then, we have brought out eight issues on every occasion: ten years of MIFF, sixty years of Films Division and the caravan goes on. The objections have since then disappeared or at least gone underground. Some of our earlier critics have also been won over to our side. Also, since the main objective of the Films Division is to promote documentary culture, “administrative implications” have been taken care of. The root cause of such negative thinking among people about this magazine was due to lack of perception and foresight. It also arose from the general perception that documentary films are boring. Most people did not realise the “first movers” advantage in this field. Documentary Today was never poised as a commercial magazine; the intention was to reach as many documentary lovers, film makers and critics as possible. Our endeavor had always been to make ‘Documentary Today’ better than the best. With two years behind it, I am sure Documentary Today is now firmly rooted on the ground and with the patronage of our friends, readers, documentary filmmakers, film critics and all those who matter in the field of cinema, the journey of Documentary Today will continue for ever.
Kuldeep Sinha Editor Kuldeep Sinha Executive Editor Sanjit Narwekar Correspondents Shankar Patnaik Ramsahay Yadav Production Co-ordinator Anil Kumar N. Photographer S. S. Chavan Printed at Work Center Offset Printers (I) Pvt Ltd. A2/32, Shah & Nahar Industrial Estate, S. J. Marg, Lower Parel, Mumbai 400013 Tel.: 24943227 / 24929261 Published by Films Division, 24, Dr.Gopalrao Deshmukh Marg, Mumbai 400026 Tel.: 23510461 / 23521421
Getting The Truth To The People
An in-depth interview with Oscar awardwinning documentary filmmaker Robert Greenwald (Outfoxed, Iraq For Sale)who has said goodbye to traditional film distribution channels and used the internet to “take his films to the people” thus fulfilling the true potential of the documentary format.
Recreating A Legend
Mohammad Rafi is no more but the legend of Rafi refuses to die down. As the versatile voice of every leading man Rafi literally ruled the industry for over a quarter of a century. Singers came and went but Rafi simply sang on. KULDEEP SINHA about the trials and tribulations of making a documentary on the legendary singer.
Plugging Into The Net
The Internet has changed the way we live and work. And yet, few have been able to tap into the vast potential of this single most important discovery of Man. The Internet is now a tool to promote anything from films to a lifestyle. The article is littered with examples of how filmmakers have used the Net for promotion.
Blurring The Boundaries of Fiction
Increasingly one finds fiction films relying on documentary elements to add just that little bit of realism to the proceedings and documentaries adding enactments to recreate situations for which no documentary visuals exist. Are the boundaries between fiction and documentary blurring? That is the question film critic MARC LEE poses while examining films shown at the AFI Festival.
Documenting The Dreaded Disease
Alzheimer’s is the second most feared illness after cancer. Producer John Hoffman and HBO Documentary Films got together to document this dreaded disease and the result was a fivepart epic television series which is the last word on the subject. Documentary Today 3
Recreating A Legend
A man who never forgot his roots … Mohammad Rafi inundated by his innumerable fans.
For three long decades Mohammed Rafi (December 24, 1924 – July 31, 1980) ruled the Indian film industry with his innocent smile and versatile voice. Truly a man of the masses he won hearts with his captivating childlike simplicity and went on to become a legend in his own lifetime. He varied his voice to suit every leading man of the day by simply imagining how he would sing if he could sing. This made him a special favourite of Shammi Kapoor who never missed any of his recordings. Though he is primarily remembered for his Hindi film songs Rafi Sahab sang in practically every known Indian language, including Punjabi, Bengali, Marathi, Kannada and Telugu. Even today his voice echoes not only all over the Indian sub-continent but in every corner of the world where Indians have made their homes. In the following article acclaimed author and filmmaker KULDEEP SINHA, winner of many National and International awards and author of several books, talks about the difficulties of recreating this great legend on celluloid. Read on ... 4 Documentary Today
set-ups, the project was dropped and I went back to working on my routine projects. Soon I left Doordarshan and joined the Films Division as Director. I was posted in Delhi – too far away from the Mumbai film industry to do anything on it.
and came for some praise not only by my bosses but also by the viewing public. The wide success enjoyed by the Mukesh programme charged me up and I thought of making a similar programme on Mohammad Rafi. I put up the suggestion to my superiors and it was tentatively okayed.
And then, on July 31, 1980, Mohammad Rafi passed away and something within me ended. I had wanted to make a film on Mohammad Rafi with him as an active participant but now it would never be. I soon lost interest in the film. There were lots of other projects which would keep me occupied. The years and decades flashed by! In the new millennium I had become the Chief Producer and I saw more files than celluloid. One of the files that swept across the table was a film on Mohammad Rafi. One of our Outside Producers had been assigned the task of making a film on the very subject I had once hankered for. I okayed the subject and forgot about it till … one day he withdrew from the commitment.
I began work in real earnest and began to research the subject. One of the persons I met for the proposed programme was the noted composer Naushad who was also so fired up with the idea that he spent three hours talking about Mohammad Rafi. I met a few more people but the project was not taking off. Of course, meeting Rafi himself was a little too ambitious then. And then, as it often happens in large
This was when my interest in the subject was rekindled. I was inundated with work but I wanted to make the film. Should I commit myself? For a working man there is never enough time to do everything that he wants to do in life but he must make time for it if he wants to do it. The decision was made instantly. I would make the time to make the film. It would also be like a dream come true. After all,
Son Shahid Rafi shows Kuldeep Sinha (centre) and camera persons Ramsahay Yadav and Shankar Patnaik the archives he has created to immortalize the memory of his father.
Even my closest friends do not know that there was a time when I was a fairly in-demand singer at family functions. No! I don’t think I had the talent to become a professional singer and those with sensitive ears will vouch for the fact that I am a better filmmaker than a singer. But yes! There was a time when I sang – delivering a fairly decent imitation of Mukesh. I would have liked to reproduce the vocal range of Mohammad Rafi but I thought that in terms of voice and style I was closest to Mukesh. Thus, I admired Mohammad Rafi from a distance as it were. I admired his versatility and his ability to sing for any leading man in the Hindi film industry. This happened sometime in 1971. I was called for an audition at All India Radio Lucknow on the very day I was to appear for an interview at the Film and Television Institute of India, Pune. I still don’t know what instinct guided me to the FTII interview at Pune but it dictated the very course of my life. Singing took a backseat to editing films and was soon forgotten. But music and Mohammad Rafi remained as a pleasant background to my life. When I was working for Doordarshan Mukesh passed away after a tragic backstage accident in Toronto and I was asked to make a video tribute to the singer. The job was executed
Sound recordist Vijay Bhatt, Shankar Patnaik, Kuldeep Sinha, production manager Bipin Chaubal flank Ameen Sayani, the voice that mesmerised India. Documentary Today 5
Mohammad Rafi was undoubtedly one of the greatest Indian singers of all time. It was the beginning of 2008 when this decision was taken. I knew I needed to have an excellent team in place if the film were to see the light of the projection lamp. I put together my unit with great care. My cameraman was to be my trusted friend Shankar Patnaik, himself a filmmaker of no less renown. Having been a newsreel cameraman Shankar is quick and can adapt himself to any situation. Assisting him was Ram Sahay, another resourceful person. Other camera assistants included experienced lensmen like Ravinder Singh and Nakhwa. Knowing that shooting on location would be a tough job I chose Vijay Bhatt to be the sound recordist. For a project of this size one needs an experienced production manager. Bipin Chaubal had proved to be efficient as well as resourceful. He also had good contacts in the film industry having made an acclaimed film on that rare singer Mubarak Begum. His coming into the project made me comfortable because I knew that research was going to be a headache and Bipin is a good person to have by one’s side in such situations. Finally, I chose one of Films Division’s most experienced editors Bhupen Mhatre to edit the film. He would come in much later but I sounded him off on the project because I knew he could help shape the film from the very beginning. As I had predicted the research was going to be vexing. I knew that from the start. It was amazing that one of India’s top singers could have led such a “private” life. At one time – and some extent even today – Mohammad Rafi was India’s best known voice and yet, so little is known about him. I mean the broad details of his birth, early foray into films and his songs was information in the public domain but there was nothing available on the kind of man he was, his childhood his likes and dislikes, his family life. Bipin, Bhupen and Shankar were 6 Documentary Today
scouting the markets for any scrap of information they could get on the singer but there wasn’t much success. I wrote to Mr Venu Nair at the Mohammad Rafi Foundation but all we got back were songs and photos. I spoke to his son Shahid but even he knew very little. “I was ten years old when my father passed away so I remember very little of him except what I have heard,” he told me. The two persons who were closest to Mohammad rafi and who could have told us about the singer’s early life and struggle – his elder brother whom every one called Tayaji and his maternal uncle who was also his secretary whom everyone called Mamujaan – were both dead.
as well as the ‘Rafi Archives’ for us to shoot. It was an auspicious start because I knew without all that we had nothing. No amount of interviewing other people would get me anywhere.
Anyone and everyone from the industry had high praise and eulogies for the singer but no solid information which adds colour to a biography. I wanted the film to be an assessment of the singer and not an eulogy. I wanted the film to be a celluloid portrait of the man and not a listing of his achievements. And once again I seemed to be hitting a roadblock. Was this film also going to be shelved like my last attempt? I wouldn’t let that happen. This time I decided that I would jump headlong into the project, come what may!
We realized the difficulties of shooting there after he had agreed. The door was so small that we could not get
June 2008. Half the year had gone by without having to show anything for it. After six months of “researching” my subject I announced a shooting schedule. Rafi’s son Shahid claimed to know very little about his father but agreed to be interrogated on camera. He also agreed to throw open the doors of Rafi Mansion A moment with his music .. Rafi at his riyaaz.
Shooting at ‘Rafi Mansion’ set the pace. On the terrace of the bungalow is a large room – almost a barsaati but much bigger – which is the Rafi Archives. It houses all the memorabilia connected with Mohammad Rafi’s life: his records, his awards, his newspaper cutting files … truly a music researcher’s delight. Also the most appropriate locale to talk about Rafi. We decided to shoot Shahid in the room.
Mohammad Rafi – the youngest of six sons of Hajji Ali Mohammad – was born on December 24, 1924 at Kotla Sultan Singh (or Kotla Sultanpur), a town near Amritsar in Punjab. Rafi, started singing by imitating the chants of a fakir in his village. In 1935-36, Rafi’s father shifted to Lahore, and the rest of the family followed later. It was his brother-in-law Mohammed Hameed who spotted his talent and encouraged him to sing. Rafi learnt Hindustani classical music from maestros Ustad Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Ustad Abdul Wahid Khan, Pandit Jiwanlal Matto and Firoze Nizami. Rafi’s first public performance came at the age of 13, when he was allowed to sing at a concert because the legendary singer K. L. Saigal who was the chief guest had turned up late. Composer Shyam Sunder who was at the concert heard him and invited him to come to Bombay. In 1942, Rafi made his debut as a playback singer under Shyam Sunder’s baton in the duet with Zeenat Begum Soniye nee, Heeriye nee in the Punjabi film Gul Baloch. In 1944 Rafi moved to Bombay where poet Tanvir Naqvi introduced him to some of the leading film producers of the time such as Abdul Rashid Kardar, Mehboob Khan and actor-director Nazeer. Rafi contacted the famous music director At first Naushad used him as part of the chorus and then gave him his first Hindi break with Hindustan ke hum hain (with Shyam Kumar, Alauddin and others) for the A. R. Kardar film Pehle Aap (1944). However he continued to sing in the chorus for Naushad and till as late as 1946 he can be heard with K. L. Saigal in Mere sapnon ki rani, roohi roohi from the film Shahjahan (1946). In 1945 Rafi recorded another song for Gaon ki Gori: Aji dil ho kaaboo mein. He considered this song as his first Hindi language song. In 1945
again, Rafi appeared on the screen for the song Tera jalwa jis ne dekha in the film Laila Majnu. In the same year, Rafi married his cousin Bashira (nicknamed “Majhi”) also from his village. Marriage proved lucky and he came to renown with the song Tera khilona toota balak from Mehboob Khan’s Anmol Ghadi (1946). But his duet with Noor Jehan in the 1947 film Jugnu, Yahan badla wafa ka became a huge hit. Following the Partition, Rafi decided to stay in India and had his family flown to Bombay. In 1948, Rafi sang Sun suno aye duniya walon bapuji ki amar kahani, written by the noted lyricist Rajendra Krishan. The song became a great favourite of the Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who invited him to sing for him at his house. In 1948, Rafi received a silver medal from Nehru on the Indian Independence Day. In 1949, Rafi was given solo songs by several noted music directors. Naushad who had been using Talat Mahmood for his songs began favoring Rafi as the male voice in almost every song composed by him. In fact, Rafi’s association with Naushad helped him to establish himself as one of the most prominent playback singers in Hindi cinema. In the late 1950s and 1960s, Rafi found favor with other notable composers of the era such as O. P. Nayyar, Shankar Jaikishan and S.D. Burman. Though Kishore Kumar had already established himself as Dev Anand’s voice, S.D.Burman used Rafi in many of Dev Anand’s slow numbers. There was no looking back as Rafi scaled great heights in these two decades. He sang for all the major male stars in Hindi films. So much so that music directors even got him to sing for a known singer such as Kishore Kumar who was then a busy leading man – too busy to sing for himself. O. P. Nayyar was the first to get Rafi to sing a song for singer-actor Kishore Kumar, Man mora baawara in the movie Raagini.
Later, Rafi would sing for Kishore Kumar in movies such as Baaghi, Shehzaada and Shararat His huge success was welldeserved for he was a God-fearing compassionate man. He also sang for many lesser-known composers. Once, when a minor composer, Nisar Bazmi, did not have enough money to pay him his regular fee, Rafi charged a nominal one rupee and sang for him. Rafi received his first Filmfare Award for the title song of Chaudhvin Ka Chand (1960). He received his first National Award for the song Babul ki duaen leti ja from the film Neel Kamal (1968). Both songs had been composed by Ravi. Rafi again won the Filmfare Award for the song Chahoonga main tujhe saanjh savere from Dosti, composed by Laxmikant Pyarelal. In 1965, he was honoured by the Government of India with the Padma Sri award. 1970s was virtually the decade of Kishore Kumar. Aradhana (1969), in which Mohammad Rafi had sung two songs Baaghon mein bahaar hai and Gunguna rahen hain bhanwar, saw the rise of Kishore Kumar. But Rafi held his own with his share of hits – though the numbers had decreased. In 1974, he won the Film World magazine Best Singer Award for the song Teree galiyon mein na rakhenge qadam aaj ke baad (Hawas) composed by Usha Khanna. In 1977, he won both Filmfare Award and the National Award for the song Kya hua tera wada from Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin, composed by R. D. Burman. Rafi breathed his last on the night of July 31, 1980 at 10:50 p.m. following a massive heart attack. He had literally worked till the last day. On that very afternoon he had recorded a song for Laxmikant Pyarelal for the film Aas Paas: Shaam phir kyun udaas hai dost. The evening was indeed a sad one for Rafi had gone for ever but his voice still lingers … Documentary Today 7
Rafi: The Journey To Fame
With Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, then President of India
With Dr. Zakir Hussain, then President of India
With Shri Y.B. Chavan, then Chief Minister of Maharashtra and later Union Minister of Defence
With Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri, then Prime Minister of India
With Mrs. Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India 8 â€ƒâ€ƒ Documentary Today
With Shri N. Sanjeeva Reddy, then President of India
year on the singer’s birthday on July 31. Small payments were also made from the Trust to needy people as charity.
Bipin Chaubal goes through Pyarelalji’s photo album watched by composer Pyarelal and Kuldeep Sinha.
our camera – an Arri 435 – into the room. Shankar and his team had to sit on the terrace and shoot from there. The room was packed with so much of Rafi’s memorabilia that there was no place to keep the lights. As for the sound the less said about it the better. Some construction work was going on nearby and poor Bhatt had to record the sound negotiating that noise. But that is how documentaries are made. In feature films one has the luxury of creating the environment that one wants. But once the interview was underway it was a great success. The questions that I had prepared for Shahid just went out of the window. He began talking fluently, seamlessly about his great father as a singer and as a family man. He was the one who gave us details about Rafi’s early life in the village and his first brush with fame. We had always known that Rafi had been born in Punjab but Shahid gave us the details: the village was Kotla Sultan Singh a tiny village 25 kilometres from Amritsar. Once we had shot at the Rafi mansion it was as if we had been given the late singer’s blessings. The film just took off after that. We planned a trip to Rafi’s village in July 2008 and were lucky enough to see that the house where Rafi had been born was still there – of course, it had been modernized but enough of the old walls remained for us to recreate the
early days. It was a great challenge for Shankar to position his camera so that the modern portion was hidden and the older portion of the house was exposed. We were luckier still to run into two of Rafi’s classmates who agreed to speak on camera for us about their childhood memories. One of them – Gurbaksh Singh – had very accurate memories about Rafi’s childhood. We were staying and shooting in the village for a couple of days when we were contacted by Sardar Paramjeet Singh Parwana. He had read about the film in the local newspapers and had come all the way from Patiala to meet us. A diehard fan of the singer he had established a Rafi Memorial which held a programme of Rafi songs every
Maybe it was the simple act of paying tribute at the birthplace of the singer but the film simply took off after that. I lined up the personalities I had to meet: Anandji, Ravi, Pyarelal among the composers who had relied on the heavenly voice; and Shammi Kapoor and Biswajeet among the leading men who had “sung in” Rafi’s voice. I tried very hard to get Dilip Kumar, Dharmendra and Jeetendra for the shoot but in spite of good intentions it never happened. The same was the case with the Mangeshkar sisters – though I managed to include them due to some luck. Meeting personalities like Shammi Kapoor, Biswajeet, Ravi, Pyarelal and Anandji was sheer nostalgia. It brought back our childhood memories of the great films that we had all seen. For our Director of Photography Shankar Patnaik, coming face to face with Shammiji was like a dream come true for he had been a great fan of the star since his childhood. And who can forget Ameen Sayani? His “Behanon aur Bhaiyon” is still the clarion call for all music-loving youngsters who grew up in the India of the 1960s and 1970s. It was while I was interviewing the great radio
Composer Anandji converses with Kuldeep Sinha watched by sound recordist Vijay Bhatt, Shankar Patnaik and A.S.Samel. Documentary Today 9
budgetary reasons we could not acquire the footage. And so, it went on. By November 2008 we had also finished our shooting schedule and were all set to edit the film.
Composer Ravi plays a tune for Kuldeep Sinha.
personality Ameen Sayani that I realized he had a substantial numbers of recorded audio interviews with not only Rafi himself but also with the two Mangeshkar sisters Asha and Lata talking about Rafi. I grabbed the opportunity and requested that we be allowed to use the interviews and Ameen Sahab, the gracious man that he is, agreed instantly. They were audio interviews but we were able to integrate them into the film thanks to Bhupen Mhatre’s editing skills. As for Ameen Sayani’s interview it went off without a hitch. He had so many valuable incidents to tell us.
could one want? From another private collector Vijay Prabhu, brother of the late Marathi actor Babban Prabhu, we got several rare photos and songs.
This meeting opened up the possibility of other rare archival footage. Shankar, Bhupen and Bipin Chaubal were already on the look-out. They would make regular visits to old flea markets where the Rafi memorabilia could be picked up for a song. We redoubled our efforts and started raiding the various archives. Shahid had given us a clue that Rafi Sahab, early in his career, had acted in two films: Gaon Ki Gori (aka Village Girl) and Laila Majnu. A quick visit to the National Film Archives in Pune confirmed that both these films were available. We managed to get clippings of the Rafi sequences.
But there were also failures! We did not manage to get so much that would have taken the film to its pinnacle. We were told of some rare footage of Mohammad Rafi shot on 16 mm by his close friend N.P.Abu but for
At the Doordarshan Archives we located rare footage of Rafi as also an entire programme ‘Aarohi’, in which Rafi Sahab had sung extensively. The icing on the cake was Naushad himself compering the programme. What more 10 Documentary Today
From our own Films Division library we got the footage of the Padma Shree being awarded to Rafi as well as the rarest footage: the newsreel coverage of Rafi’s funeral. Even photographs of the funeral were not available and here we had moving footage. This funeral footage was going to be the highlight of the film and when it was unspooled in the theatre there wasn’t a single dry eye in the audience. Our collection was really growing.
Given the mass of footage it took Bhupen almost 3 to 4 months to come up with the rough edit. We had agreed that there would be no commentary in the film. We wanted those who were close to Mohammad Rafi to speak in the film and no external voice. The story of the great singer told through the observations made by his friends and colleagues. At last the film was ready. We had several shows to confirm our judgement. Many felt that we should have ended the film with the funeral. That would have been the conventional end but I felt (and still strongly feel) that the additional footage at the end of Rafi singing underscores that his songs have survived his death and that he is immortal. And audiences have instinctively realized this because the funeral and scenes after the funeral have been received with tears. Many noted people have said many things about the film after it was premiered at the Diamond Jubilee of the Films Division but probably the greatest compliment to us came from Yash Chopraji who, after seeing the documentary, hugged me and said, “Aapne badi shiddat se yeh film banai hai. (You’ve poured your heart into the making of this film).” Need I add anything else?
‘Yahoo! We are with Shammi Kapoor.’ Shankar Patnaik and Kuldeep Sinha are all smiles in Shammi Kapoor’s company.
It was sometime in the middle of September 1963 that my boss Mr. N V K Murthy, then Newsreel Producer at Films Division, informed me through the then fastest available communication – the telegram – that I was assigned to cover the naval exercise to be held in the Arabian Sea on 20th September 1963. The telegram further informed me that the Naval ships would sail from Cochin in Kerala on 19th September.
air-conditioned room provided to me. Later I found out that the PRO had to bypass a VIP demand for the same room. It certainly showed how much of a red carpet could be rolled out for the Films Division. Apart from the ambience of the room, the facilities offered for news coverage by the Navy gave me great satisfaction and excitement while covering various events.
As had been planned with the Defence PRO stationed in Bangalore, I landed at Cochin on the 18th. After the initial briefing by the PRO, the rest of the Press and I were taken around the naval ships that were to participate in the exercise. I arranged to meet the PRO separately so as to have a detailed talk for my special requirements for the visual coverage of the naval exercise and the facilities that I would need to film the event.
With an air-conditioned room, I became the envy of many journalists and VIPs who were invited on board INS Mysore to witness the naval exercise for the next four days. When we first set sail on the 19th it was a hot day. But as the Sun set on the Arabian Sea, the Naval bigwigs, with their well-planned strategy to ward off the humid hot air, laid out the foreign beer to drench and cool the VIPs and journalists who were attending the exercise.
During the one-to-one discussion with the PRO and the top naval officials, I reeled off a list of facilities that would be necessary for effective news coverage. Among the facilities included an exclusive room for my stay because of the expensive and sensitive equipment I was carrying with me. The demand was met forthwith and an
The next day in the morning, the Navy got down to the real business of the naval exercise. INS Mysore was to demonstrate its firepower by firing its long-range, most powerful gun as per the earlier briefing. I had fixed my 35mm EYEMO camera on the wooden tripod. The Bell & Howell Eyemo camera was very popular
with the entire team of FD’s newsreel cameramen. Having worked out how to cover the firing of the biggest gun after visualizing the trajectory of the shell rolling out from the nozzle, I fixed the camera in what I considered to be the ideal position and was ready to capture the event. I saw the naval staff make the preparation before the firing of the gun: removing the cutlery from the range and closing all the windows. We were amused by all this preparation. Then the officers of INS Mysore announced to the assembled journalist and VIPs that the long range gun was ready for firing. I had been told in the special briefing that I should start my camera as soon as the siren began blaring so that I would get at least 5 seconds to capture the shell coming out with big noise. I was confident that I would get sufficient footage of the shell actually coming out of the nozzle. I started my camera exactly when the siren blared. Everything was over in just six seconds. My camera was on the floor. It had flewn off the tripod. I didn’t know what had happened. The entire ship had shaken violently. I thought an earthquake of 9 to 10 degree Richter scale had hit INS Mysore.
Covering the Naval Exercise By H.S.Advani
Documentary Today 11
I am sure; our chief news film editor must have searched every frame of the film to find the planned and visualized shot of the shell coming out of the gun’s nozzle. There was no trace of it except some frames of violent movement which the camera captured while falling. Thus ended the first days exercise. The next day’s exercises were very peaceful compared to what had happened on the first day. There were several interesting displays in which all the ships participated. I spotted as many as ten frigates sailing in a row. The main exercise comprised using a rope to transport sailors from one ship to another: that is, from our ship, INS Mysore to another frigate, INS Ranjit, that was sailing by our side. I took several shots of the thick wire rope being jettisoned to connect the ship cruising along. Then I took shots of sailors getting into a small sack that was hung on the pulley. The sailors were then slowly pulled to the other ship. My camera captured the entire process of several sailors reaching the other side. The event was very exciting but I was still not happy. I had to get the subjective shots from the sailor’s point of view while he was being pulled to other ship. All of a sudden I realized that from being a good point of view shot it would also be an excellent shot showing all the ships sailing one behind another while I passed from one ship to the other. As a test case I decided that I would make that one journey first without a camera. The Naval officers were taken aback with my request particularly since I had no training. They thought I was crazy to take such risks for a mere film shot. My persuasive arguments, however, succeeded. Without the camera, I got into the small sack for a trial run to experience the view for myself. It was more than I had bargained for. It was fantastic! It was a view I couldn’t afford to miss – whatever the cost. As soon as I reached INS Ranjit, I was transported back to INS Mysore. 12 Documentary Today
Though the Defence PRO had agreed to my request for taking the shots I wanted, I knew that in the heart of his hearts he was not really convinced and was worried about what would happen should anything go wrong. Wanting to play safe the PRO took me to the Captain of the ship so that he could decide. The Captain of INS Mysore was a tall hefty personality. He looked at me stubbornly. I told him the importance of taking this shot for the newsreel. I also assured him that I was willing to do this at my own risk. However, that statement didn’t cut ice with him. I added that since I would be thoroughly tied to the chair that would ensure that I did not fall. I said that I fully understood his position but he should also understand how important the shot was for me. Finally he gave in and said “Don’t make any rash movements when you are up there and be careful. If anything happens to you, I’ll surely lose my job. Best of luck.” A steel chair with a strong handle was firmly hooked to the rope with a chain. After I sat on the chair, the officers further ensured my safety by tying me to the chair. I wound up my spring-driven Eyemo camera which was a hangover of the Second World War but still a hardy partner. I checked all the settings. Then I gave them the “thumbs up” to indicate I was as ready as I could be and that they should move me to the middle of both the ships. I kept shooting while I was
on the move. It was a glorious view. When I came to middle, I gave them the signal to lower me a little more so that I could capture the waves rising right in front of my camera. I got all shots I wanted. Oh! What grand view it was! Suddenly, I heard someone shouting at top of his voice through a loudspeaker “Who the hell is that chap? What does he think he is doing? Pull him back at once. Who allowed him to go like this?” It was the Rear Admiral. I was pulled slowly back to the INS Mysore. The Rear Admiral was there when I made a ceremonial landing on the deck with my camera. He said, “Young man, do you know what you have done? You would have made me lose my job. I know you must have got some excellent visuals. But I am responsible for your safety. I am answerable for any mishaps on these ship”. He looked at PRO and howled at him “Why did you entertain his request” Then he stared at me for some time. He was still fuming but slowly I could see he was also cooling down. After all, I had returned safely and the mini crisis was over. Then the Rear Admiral’s face changed. He smiled slowly and said “I know it must have been an excellent view and you must have got some terrific shots. I would like to see this film. Will you show it to me once the film is ready?” The smiles had returned to everyone’s faces.
PLUGGING INTO THE NET The question today, for people who believe that social change can happen through documentary entertainment is not “How do I use the internet to promote my film?” but “How does my film promote an integrated internet campaign that will change society and influence policy?” The internet is not just another component to be plugged in, it is the natural home base, the environment, from which smaller voices can engage and amplify limitlessly. Creating this online space that empowers your “evangelists,” provides inspiration for new audiences, makes information easy for the media to write about and deepens the documentary viewing experience is the best investment a filmmaker can possibly make. When done well, a film becomes a “viral marketing” piece—something passed from person to person — for an internet-based campaign and the
emotion of the documentary can be harnessed for lasting change.
the film and encourages viewership.
Of course, this is a fundamental shift for filmmakers who may see the internet as an alien medium, viral marketing as a fad and social networking as beyond comprehension. But these online tools represent the opportunity for the filmmaker to own the entire chain of production, distribution and campaign organizing, taking advantage of the sudden meritocracy of media that gives even the smallest film a chance to have major impact and gives filmmakers direct contact with their audiences.
The second complementary, but even more powerful form extends beyond promotion and into campaign activism. This “Activation Flow” sees the film as a marketing piece for a campaign web presence where the web presence extends the experience of the film, promotes and sustains offline organizing and provides a centralized information distribution hub. In other words, the Activation Flow leverages the film to become the most visible component of a complete action-oriented campaign, to which the web is central.
The interaction between film and web presence (this includes everything from website to podcast to viral Flash movie), takes on two distinct forms. The first is the more traditional form we think of, that of promoting a film. In this “Promotional Flow”, the web presence creates new audiences for
THE PROMOTIONAL FLOW There are two primary ways in which the internet can become an effective and promotional tool for a documentary film: The first is as a distribution channel, the second is as a viral peer-to-peer marketing tool.
The Mouth Revolution ... Promoting a healthy eating campaign. Documentary Today 13
Strategy Map For An Integrated Action Campaign Built Around A Documentary Film PROMOTIONAL FLOW (SEEKS NEW AUDIENCES) START HERE DOCUMENTARY FILM
WEB-NATIVE VERSION COMPLETE FILM DISTRIBUTED ONLINE
BLOG OUTREACH PARTNER ORG OUTREACH SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
ONLINE ACTION TOOLS
USER-GENERATED CONTENT SITES
HOUSE PARTY KITS ORGANIZATIONCENTRIC PAGES
* * * * * *
TOOLS FOR OFFLINE EMPOWERMENT
VIRAL PASS-ALONG PROMOTIONALS
Audience member has become evangelist and will carry your fi lm back into promotional fl ow.
INTERNET BASED CAMPAIGN SITE
INTERACTIVE NARRATIVES PREMIUM “EXTRAS”
INTO ACTION) NEW AUDIENCES (Individuals, Media, Organizations)
Distribution Channel Putting DVDs in the hands of every organizer, house party planner and potentially interested individual can be cost prohibitive. Thanks to greater penetration of broadband and Adobe’s Flash video technology (which has created a nearly universal viewing format), filmmakers can choose to distribute parts (or even all) of their film to internet audiences at a relatively high quality and low cost 14 Documentary Today
Denotes tools or media that should be developed with input of key stakeholders
on the internet. Video sharing sites like YouTube have further broken down video streaming barriers by at once removing all hosting costs and providing instant networks of eager viewers. Freeing films from their film canisters or DVD cases provides several promotional opportunities. The most conservative is for the filmmaker that sees the ultimate format of the
product as the 90-minute movie and wants to promote the full version. This filmmaker will use the web to distribute (virtually for free), using a trailer with a strong draw to entice the audiences to a website where a full-length piece can be easily bought, or located locally. Ninety second trailer spots of this type can then be distributed to targeted partners and video sharing sites. Links can also be emailed directly to affinity lists.
around the same issues that the book promotes. Another promotional example is Free Range’s piece, BackwardsHamburger, that was used as an online marketing piece for the movie Fast Food Nation. In this piece, many of the issues relevant to the full-length movie were promoted in a humorous, animated short. The short was then hosted on its own campaign site and uploaded You Tube to for maximum visibility: http://www.backwardshamburger. com/
How the Iraq war was won with lies and more lies … the cover of The First War Ever.
A more adventurous filmmaker may want to free the film even further from its native, full-length medium to reach different audiences. The filmmaker can ask “how can a short clip of this film, in its own way, drive the social justice objective in a complementary way to the full-length feature?” This filmmaker may cut several different targeted shorts for direct marketing (through partners, blogs and community sites) to audiences that might not otherwise be reached by the feature version. The implicit understanding is that these viewers may never see the entire film but, if the holistic web presence is strong, may still be activated to support the campaign goals.
video, free from the form of the book itself and posted it on YouTube: http:// youtube.com/watch?v=_qGAqAmuYU
Viral Peer-to-Peer Marketing The second way to leverage online promotion is through viral peer-topeer marketing. Here the internet is used to “arm the choir,” rather than reach out to new audiences, so they are empowered to do the outreach for you. Any movie with a social or political message has its “evangelists.” These may be the people who are already passionate about the message and see the movie as their loudspeaker, or they may be those who were so inspired by the movie that they want to tell everyone they know about what
With virtually no marketing budget, the authors exposed more than 250,000 viewers to the direct message of the book. The idea was not to sell more books per se but to activate audiences
An interesting example of this type of approach comes in the form of the promotion of the recent book The Best War Ever. The authors cut a short Fast Food Nation … Long live the American Burger! Documentary Today 15
they’ve just learned. In either case, the internet can harness this passion by allowing inspired viewers to do much more than simply tell their friends, “you’ve got to see this film.” Internet tools like short pass-around video clips, “send a DVD to a friend” and downloadable house party DVD screening kits allow impassioned individuals to help grow the audiences far beyond their traditional reach. Sympathetic organizations behave similarly to impassioned individuals. These organizations may be motivated to spread the word for you through their own website, blog, email list, etc. Empowering them to do so with on line tools allows filmmakers to do so in a way that is simple, on-message and once set-up—free. A good example of arming the choir comes from Free Range’s viral hit, The Meatrix. Reaching out to a tiny list of impassioned individuals and organizations grew the clip’s viewership from several hundred to over ten million with little distribution investment: http://www.meatrix.com THE ACTIVATION FLOW The Activation Flow works in concert with the Promotional Flow. It challenges us to see the film as a key component of a strategic internet campaign to make serious social change. It recognizes that the power of the film is to create an emotional engagement around an issue. The rest of the campaign nurtures and then engages that emotion, turning it into action. The key first step in the Activation Flow is getting audiences off their couches or out of their theater seats and onto your website. As filmmakers we know the importance of character, human faces, sounds and emotions. These elements must continue seamlessly from the fi lm to the website, drawing the viewer deeper into the story and ultimately encouraging him or her to become an active participant. This can be achieved within the movie itself by allowing audiences to see 16 Documentary Today
The Success Story of Viral Marketing By Douglas Reach
The DVD of The Secret was released in the latter part of 2006. Since then the film, which has only been released on DVD and streamed on the internet, has become an international hit. Its incredible success is due as much to the innovative way the film has been marketed as to the quality of the film or the controversy that it has provoked Love it or hate it The Secret is not going away soon. The Secret is about the law of attraction. The law of attraction is a teaching that has been around for many years and in essence states that what you focus on, you attract. Or as Mike Dooley says in the movie, “Thoughts becomes Things”. If your mind tends to focus on things that it doesn’t want, then we will tend to attract more of the same. The Secret is more documentary than drama and features many wellknown teachers of the secret such as Bob Proctor, Joe Vitale, Jack Canfield and John Assaraf among others. Many of these teachers are also expert marketers and promoters. So what is viral marketing? In many ways viral marketing is like wordof-mouth advertising on steroids. Due to the immense power of the internet it is possible to reach millions of people in a very short period of time. The Secret was immensely successful at getting the world-wide internet community buzzing. Beginning about a year before the films release a short trailer was created. This trailer was incredibly intriguing. Everyone was wondering “What is the Secret?” The films participants, many of whom are master marketers, promoted this trailer to their customers. They were also sworn to secrecy as to what the secret was. This created a great deal of curiosity and turmoil. I remember seeing in many forums irate students wondering why they had not been taught the secret, why were things being held back from them? This put the teacher in an awkward position and he/she was forced to say that the students already had been taught the secret but because the teacher was sworn to secrecy they couldn’t tell them exactly what that was. As you can imagine, this created a huge thirst for this film. People just had to know what the secret was. Subsequent trailers were then released which created even more thirst. What was the secret? By the time the DVD was released an incredible demand had been built up. And the momentum did not stop there. Appearances by the producer and film participants on television programs such as Oprah, Larry King Live and the Ellen Degeneres Show continued the buzz. The Secret provides us with a great lesson in viral marketing. We may not be able to create our own Hollywood movie trailers but web 2.0 resources like YouTube provide us with facsimiles. Perhaps through creative marketing, we can create the type of success The Secret has enjoyed.
that the story may feel complete but its ending is still being written and can be influenced by you the viewer. This goes far beyond tacking a url onto the end of the film. Strategies like offering special extras footage, not available on the DVD, offering interviews and webcasts from characters in the film, even adding web-exclusive epilogues will all draw people to the campaign site. Of course audiences garnered specifically online in the Promotional Flow are even easier to draw to your site because they can do so with the click of a button. Once audiences have made the leap to explore the online campaign, they must be rewarded with a continuousfeeling narrative flow. The site cannot be simply a giant Take Action button (though this should by no means be buried). Instead, an effective campaign website must provide the following key tools and information, available at first glance: l Opportunities to engage more deeply with the film’s narrative l Clear statement of the social issue(s) being addressed l Clear actions the user can take to address these issues and info about The Meatrix ... Viral marketing at its best.
successes achieved thus far Press kits and tools for those who seek to promote the film (including viral marketing tools) Film trailer Stakeholder-specific content and education tools (i.e. media, organizations, educators, policy makers) Offline organizing tools (when appropriate) Community Building tools (when appropriate)
There are enormous creative opportunities to leverage the emotional ad narrative excitement within these structures. The film literally cmes to life on the website as the user becomes part of the story. Countless social action sites provide the ability to “Take Action” but campaigns that take advantage of a filmmaker’s knack for storytelling have a distinct advantage to create explosive buzz. Some sample creative ideas for extending the story on the site and encouraging action: Character Biographies and Ongoing Life Narratives The web can go so much deeper than a film can as it is not constrained
Online documentary sites http://blip.tv/ http://www.brightcove.com http://stage6.divx.com/ http://www.jumpcut.com/ http://soapbox.msn.com/ http://vids.myspace.com/ http://one.revver.com/revver http://www.veoh.com http://www.vimeo.com/ http://ww.youtube.com by time. Sites offer filmmakers the opportunity to give audiences the deeper back stories, thoughts and ongoing life dramas of the characters covered in their films. Users can even get premium access to interact with the characters by leaving messages on the site that the characters themselves will have access to and can even respond to. Free Range explored this possibility with exciting success for ITVS at www.beyondthefire.net. Another example of online, interactive character exploration is Free Range’s soon to be launched project, Facing History: http://fho.freerangegraphics. com/ Filmmakers with continued access to featured characters can even create interactive web casts and chats, offering premium access to committed viewers who are becoming activists. Creating deeper engagement around characters also ties in the opportunity to see the desired user actions as being done on behalf of an individual that the user can relate to, further leveraging the emotional power of film. Organization-specific Campaign Homepages Creating long-lasting partnerships with key organizations requires deep commitment. And this commitment can be cultivated by giving organizations tools that will push their organizational agenda even as they push your shared issue agenda. Documentary Today 17
This year, Free Range created a biodiversity themed cartoon for Harvard Medical School (www. daversitycode.com) that sought to launch to 1,000,000 activists around the world. To achieve this, we did not go out and ask for organizational lists, offering nothing in return. Instead, of asking for their lists, we offered the movie (a $50,000 value) to each organization accompanied by a branded campaign site that the organization could claim as its own. A small up front investment allowed us to create a flexible template into which partner organizations could drop their logo and their specific action. This strategy brought in 9 partners and rocketed us past the launch goal. Further, it created long-term engagement with each partner that benefited from the movie’s success. This approach can be taken even further with a documentary film, by doing up front outreach to organizations to find out what information, tools and narratives would resonate most with their constituents. This information can be leveraged in the execution of the film, within a film’s online site, and on organization-specific pages. Organization-specific Resources and Content Long-term social change requires more than educating an audience and urging them to take online action. A big challenge for social change movements is motivating people to make changes in their everyday lives, and often, means moving them to organize offline. Films can be a powerful tool in long-term social change if they are delivered in collaboration with on-the-ground groups that are already engaged in the issues relevant to the film. There are thousands of grass roots organizations that work on the ground on a daily basis to affect long-term social change. These groups can play an integral role in determining what actions, narratives, characters and stories should be presented on the 18 Documentary Today
Want more junk food … a moment from Fast Food Nation.
website. These groups know best what will resonate with their audiences, what will inspire their evangelists, and what tools will enable them to accomplish their overall social change goals. Providing content that seamlessly fits into their campaign goals and meets the needs of their audiences will create a network of audience members for the film and increase distribution, promotion and viral marketing potential. It also dramatically increases the potential for long-term social change as these are the groups that are moving within a larger social change movement and can leverage your film and the website in their existing social change efforts. A good example of how content could be organization-specific is Active Voice’s work for The New Americans series. Dividing a film into different thematic chapters is a great way to meet the needs of a variety of immigration groups that focus their efforts on different components of an immigrant’s life (that is, increasing civic participation, meeting the needs of immigrant families, etc.). Providing this thematic content in a multi-media fashion with supporting materials on line would allow groups working in the immigration space the ability to see the fi lm series and the website as part of their ongoing campaign efforts.
Online Community Building Tools When audiences are moved emotionally to take action, they want to feel a part of a larger movement. No one wants to feel like the issues they are facing are insurmountable or that they are alone in their fight for change. Integrating community building tools on a campaign site can be an important component of motivating people to take action and keeping them engaged with the film’s issues. Community Building tools can be as simple as blogs, message boards or on-line forums where supporters can talk to each other, talk with the filmmaker, or interact with the organizations working within the social change space. Tools can also be interactive, engaging and visually compelling, giving people a clear sense of belonging to the film’s narrative and messages. Free Range has successfully developed two community building sites, both using a photo uploading tool, as part of larger action campaigns. For the Human Rights Campaign, Free Range enabled people to upload their photo holding a card with a predetermined message, demonstrating their support for those facing the challenges of coming out to peers and family. The site was extremely successful for garnering support and media attention for National Coming Out Day: http://www.hrcsnapshot.org
A unique protest … a still from the Save Teazin campaign.
Free Range recently developed a photo uploading tool as part of a healthy eating campaign for Annie’s Homegrown. The campaign was centered on the viral marketing movie, The Mouth Revolution (www.mouthrevolution. com), and engaged viewers even further by allowing them to join the Revolution online. Supporters became part of the narrative as they uploaded their mouths and essentially became a character of The Mouth Revolution: http://mouthrevolution.com/gallery. php Guerilla Marketing Support Getting viewers to take their emotional connection to a film’s story and translate it into action often involves reinforcing a film’s messages in a branded, experientially rich and creative way. This can effectively and cheaply be done online, but it can also be reinforced offline through guerilla marketing tactics. Bringing a film’s messages offline into the context of audience’s daily lives (where they live, work and play) can be a strong way to get that audience to a website. Guerilla marketing can reach key target audiences in the real world in new and unexpected ways. Though viral flash movies are a form
of online guerilla marketing, Free Range has also had experience with clients helping them make a splash on the streets and sidewalks with real-life disruptive, offline, guerilla efforts.
Tibet credits the Free Range campaign for making the impossible a reality: www.savetenzin.org
For example, a billboard truck that we designed for Amnesty International circled the Saudi Arabian embassy with an embarrassing image highlighting their human rights abuses. Soon after, Amnesty International was granted a meeting with key Saudi diplomats. Another example of a successful guerilla marketing campaign that integrated both online and offline components is Free Range’s Save Tenzin campaign for Students for a Free Tibet. In this campaign, Free Range developed a campaign strategy including a stencil design that activists could download as a pdf and spray paint or chalk anywhere.
The way users are behaving on the internet has evolved tremendously over the last few years, and that evolution continues to accelerate. The rapid increase of what is called “Web 2.0,” where users interact with, create and respond to content, offers exciting new opportunities to documentary filmmakers and social change activists. The web is now a space full of potential evangelists, broadcasters, and supporters who can propel a documentary and its messages forward.
Throughout 2004, thousands of these stencilings appeared around the world from Los Angeles to Rome to Katmandu. The Beastie Boys even got involved, donating their song “Sabotage”, for an online video highlighting Tenzin stencils. In early 2005, the Chinese government mysteriously announced a pardon for Tenzin Delek. Students for a Free
Crafting a campaign strategy that reaches and arms these key audiences can be seen as a critical part of a documentary’s effectiveness. Using a filmmaker’s eye for character development, narrative structure and human emotion can be a guiding structure for moving an audience seamlessly from a film to a website, where they can be drawn deeper into the story and ultimately, towards powerful, real-world action. (Courtesy: Free Range Studios) Documentary Today 19
INTERVIEW Robert Greenwald
Getting The Truth To The People Robert Greenwald is a Hollywood veteran who has risen to prominence over the past few years as an independent producer and director of a number of progressive, left liberal documentaries. The most famous of these include Uncovered: The War on Iraq (2003), Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004), Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price (2005) and last year’s Iraq For Sale: The War Profiteers. Following the success of Uncovered and Outfoxed, Greenwald founded the company Brave New Films, which produced and distributed his subsequent documentaries not to cinema chains, but to members of online grassroots organisations, who hold house parties at which the films are screened and follow-up actions discussed The emphasis throughout is to broaden the appeal of the films’ left-leaning messages, and so to unite and galvanise a more diverse audience to mobilise for grassroots activism around the issues they document, in an era that is frequently characterised as one of declining participation in more formal democratic processes in the USA. In the last few years Greenwald and Brave New Films have developed new strategies of production, distribution and exhibition which they feel are the future. In the following interview by NED SHERMAN Robert Greenwald talks about how he views the future of documentary distribution.
20 Documentary Today
You have had great success as a “filmmaker” in the traditional sense of the word. What attracted you to new media? Focusing on new media has been part and parcel of focusing on documentaries and telling stories that are more directly political in their goals. What I found when I started making my first full length features is that I needed to reach people and reach them quickly. The thing about gatekeepers, good, bad, indifferent, left, right and center, is that they don’t move quickly. That’s the nature of the gatekeeper because there are so many people trying to get in the gate that they have to parse and make decisions. With these films, when we started them, it was really a revolution because it wasn’t about something that happened ten years ago. It was about something happening now, and there was no model out there for this. How do you do a film about something that’s happening now when you want to impact people? You can’t wait two years for it to show on PBS. So that by necessity created the need to reach people quickly. One of my partners, who was MoveOn. org on the first show, knew how to reach people online, so I thought I’m a practical guy, here’s what’s in front of me, let’s try doing that, so we created an environment with MoveOn, and started using them on the distribution side. Then, on the content side, I needed to figure out how to tell a story in two minutes instead of two hours. It’s a way to reach an audience, it’s a way to affect change, and it’s a way to participate in some of these amazing arguments. I wake up in the morning and I can get involved in a way that is not just sending an email to some one about how angry I am. I can actually do something. How has the Internet changed the media landscape? On the one hand, television news ratings are down, more people are getting their news and information online and there seems to be more
segmentation, so that you can pretty much go online and find the point of views that you want to find without having to come into contact with views and opinions that you dislike. On the other hand, there seems to be a bigger opportunity for the truth to get out since the Internet is a democratizing vehicle as well. I’m interested in your thoughts on these two competing and juxtaposed developments.
what they already believe. I think it’s too soon to see how that will play out. We are certainly at a time in the electoral world where the current administration made a decision to use that. They ran an election in 2004 which was designed to turn out people who already agreed with them. Whether that is an inevitable or longterm trend, who knows, but it’s going to be interesting to see.
On the getting truth out side, it is completely liberating. Any day that you have an idea you don’t have to convince the New York Times to run an op-ed or letter or write an article, you can write a blog, you can post something, or in my case you create a video. I can’t tell you what an extraordinary change that is. We are the first generation to embrace this. Can you imagine what it will be like in ten to fifteen years? They won’t even consider the other model existed. This will be the natural way to do it. That’s a wonderful and great radical shift assuming we keep the channels open and they don’t get closed off.
How long can the open and democratizing nature of the Internet last? Is there any fear that big media, or some force, will eventually control these outlets and that the Internet will cease to be the free flow of ideas that it is today?
So I think the democratization part of it is completely positive. In terms of self selecting so that you only deal with what you agree with, that is one of the shortfalls, if you will, that you essentially get people reinforcing
Definitely, there is a huge concern. What’s happened with big media is that it kind of became big media while people were looking the other way. With the Net that’s not going to happen. Net neutrality is a huge movement – right and left – fighting very hard against the system of the fast track or what many people see as an effort to control the pipes. I’m pretty optimistic that given the size of the people who care passionately about keeping it open and given the fact that in my belief democracy was injured when media was allowed to consolidate so greatly, I don’t think Documentary Today 21
we will allow that to happen again. Has the Internet replaced television as the main battleground for social and political causes? I don’t think it has replaced it because television has huge viewership and is still very important, but it’s the ground swell. More and more of the debates you see on television start on the Internet. I’ve seen it with my own experience with some of the stuff I’ve done around Fox News, which started on the Internet and then broke its way to cable news and then the networks. The Internet allows for more debate because you’re not limited to two seconds or five seconds or a quick sound bite. I think we are getting to a place where there will be a thousand arguments on the Internet and five of them will end up on television. Is there more or less accountability in news and information today as opposed to in the past? I try to stick to what I know. I don’t really know the past well enough to say, but we know for sure that as news has become a monetized commodity, the pressure on news to be profit making has increased and this has increased the pressure to be first. It has increased the pressure to get out there sooner. By being first you get more eyeballs, you make more money. So certainly that is a big pressure that removes some accountability in the rush. The other thing we know for sure its that because of the pressure,
22 Documentary Today
journalists are hesitant to criticize those in power because they then cut off their access, which makes it harder for them to get the stories they need to get the viewers to make more money, which also leads to less accountability. These are two strong trends that exist for logical reasons because of the nature of the system. I would assume that there is less accountability today, but I can only talk about what I am seeing. How do you decide what causes to put your energy behind? What is your vetting process for deciding what to do when you wake up each day? It’s frighteningly unscientific for a business audience and insanely instinctive. It really is like that thing that someone said about art: I can’t describe art, but I know it when I like it. It’s purely a gut feeling. Now it’s a gut determined, I believe, by my world views. All of our guts are. Mine is a strong connection to underdogs, a proud tradition of wanting to speak out loudly, and, because I’ve made films all my life, an orientation towards those issues that can become personal stories. There are a lot of great issues, but not all can be addressed in two hours or two minutes, so I have to see a way to reach people’s emotions while feeling deeply about it. I have to bring those to things together. What do you see as the most significant issues that will shape the campaign in 2008, and what role will
your work play in that? First of all, I don’t get involved in electoral campaigns. I stay out of them by choice. I think that my effectiveness can be on the issues. I think we can have a big effect on the issues, whether its Outfoxed, WalMart or War Profiteering. But those films were not about issues of who to vote for. So we’ll stick with that game plan. There’s a new book out by Drew Westen, a psychology professor. Very interesting. He talks about how the brain responds to emotion. In the films and shorts I’ve done, I’m often criticized by people, who agree with me, for not including enough facts. Drew’s point, which I totally agree with, is that this is not how people make up their minds. So in an age of increased video storytelling, be it the Internet or downloaded or the iPod or your telephone, I think that the emotion factor will become more and more important and, therefore, lead to the character factor. In a time of such complexity, people are more likely to vote for someone because they “feel” like he or she is a good guy or “I can trust” him or her, so we’ll see even more of that. Plus there will be a zillion dollars spent on polls and focus groups to figure out how to dot the i’s and cross the t’s. Going back to digital media, any thoughts on where the industry is going? I think a lot of people were caught off guard by the rapid success of MySpace and YouTube. Anything like that that you see coming down the pike? Well, everyone who knows this area better than I do – like Jim Gilliam and Wes Boyd of MoveOn, who I work with, and are quite brilliant at this - says Facebook is going to kick MySpace in the backside, it is so good. They are incredibly excited about it. Of course, it’s a version of the same thing. So that certainly seems to be a specific. And more generally, the explosion of video viewing is off the charts. It’s no surprise anymore, but it’s is great for someone who makes videos. (Courtersy: Digital Media Wire)
Blurring the Boundaries of Fiction By Marc Lee
tangles the archetypal male comingof-age narrative with the mechanics of para-cinema. Using familiar visual tropes of a slasher-zombie-voyeurhorror flick, co-directors Marcel Sarmiento and Gadi Harel make literal the terrifying hyperbolic metaphors of adolescent anxiety. Thus, the story begins under the guise of a film that we have seen countless times. Rickie (Shiloh Fernandez) and JT (Noah Segan) break into an abandoned mental institution to release their repressed energy, getting drunk and obliterating any evidence of order.
Using the horror genre to make a statement … a still from Dead Girl.
Watching the films at the 2008 AFI (American Film Institute) Film Festival I felt that many of the modern-day filmmakers seem to have developed an identity crisis: feature films are beginning to look like documentaries while documentaries look more and more like features. What in God’s name is going on? Are the boundaries between the two blurring to the extent that it will soon become impossible to discern one from the other? “We wanted it all to be very casual, so you feel like you’re going along with the action and not just watching from a distance,” says Gadi Harel who directed Dead Girl with Marcel Sarmiento. In the film, three teenage boys meet one very un-dead girl in the basement of an abandoned asylum. That setup provides more than enough
material for moral crises, teen angst, sexual deviancy and questions about mortality. The filmmakers’ capture it all with a journalistic eye. “Really, the main concept was to not approach the material as a traditional ‘horror movie’,” says Gadi. “There’s a certain level of safety when the audience knows it’s watching one, and we didn’t want to allow for that comfort zone. Except for certain moments, when the material needs to play out that way, we were more interested in capturing the feel of those teen stories we grew up watching: The Outsiders, Over The Edge, Stand By Me. If we did that, we knew the horrific elements of the movie would resonate much more profoundly.” This unexpectedly challenging film
In the sinister basement, they find the body of a hot girl, defiled by grime and bodily fluids. Soon, the initial shock is surpassed by the alarming discovery that her body still moves. When faced with the decision of what to do with her, the boys encounter the dark side of their own pathologies. JT decides to make her the test-subject of a horrific fantasy while Rickie struggles between his own desires and moral responsibility. A dangerous battle of wills erupt and lead to actions that are sadistic, vulgar, and yet somehow predictable… that is, until more people begin to find out about her. In its ineffably lewd climax, all the social constructs begin to corrode. Our repulsion crescendo to a degree that makes Dead Girl as hard to watch as it is to look away from. Daniel Stamm takes the idea of feature as documentary even further. In A Necessary Death (USA 101 minutes), a crew of documentarians decide to film one man’s suicide and the events leading up to it. The film is seen through the camera of one of the characters documenting the process. The perspective is voyeuristic, and it Documentary Today 23
adds just the right touch of paranoia. “We were completely broke, so I knew we would have to shoot on video. I wanted to find a story that would benefit from the video look rather than suffer,” says Daniel. “Cinematographer Zoltan Honti, editor Shilpa Sahi and I had just finished our thesis film and graduated from AFI together. We were aware of the danger that we would have to write scripts and raise money for years before maybe getting to work together again. Zoltan said: ‘Let’s just shoot something. What have you got?’” The difficulties facing today’s independent filmmakers are immense. In addition to securing financing, mentorship and other support, these artists also need a subject or story worth their time and effort. With exploitation and sensationalism ever more rewarded, how can young artists make a name for themselves? It is in this context that a group of young filmmakers have an incendiary idea: What about filming a person’s suicide? Using the popular website Craigslist, they send out a call for proposals. “Documentary filmmaker looking for suicidal individual to follow from first preparation to final act.” To their surprise, they receive numerous responses, and they choose a perfect subject. But the arguments don’t end
Merging documentary into fiction … A Necessary Death from USA.
there. Exploring, with incisive wit, the growing questions of media ethics in the digital video age, this debut feature by AFI graduate Daniel Stamm was shot in and around the AFI campus, highlighting the intensity of every film student’s road to discovery. It is an American independent film that should not be missed. Liliana Paolinelli’s feature Proper Eyes (Argentina), about a film student making a documentary on women in prison, is shot in operating Argentine prisons. “I found it interesting to mix the genres while doing the research, which is always chaotic. To discard any special treatment for the girls
Ana Carabajal and Maria in Proper Eyes, a film on women in prison. 24 Documentary Today
while they film,” she says. “The initial idea was to show the lengths by which a desperate mother would go through for her jailed son. Since I already made a documentary on the same subject a while back, I decided to tell the story from a film student’s point of view. While writing the script the important aspect of ethics emerged, how far one could go to investigate the lives of others without intrusion.” This film – which won best actress awards for Ana Carabajal and Luisa Núñez at the Biarritz and the Mannheim-Heidelberg film festivals – balances social criticism, fear, fantasy and reality in the lives of the women with family in prison. For her college thesis, film student Alicia (Carabajal) is making a documentary about the women whose sons and husbands are inmates at a local jail. The only problem: No one is willing to be interviewed on camera, except the desperate Elsa (Núñez), whose son Luis has recently been arrested for a petty crime. Elsa will grant Alicia an interview only if she agrees to visit Luis in jail. Alicia reluctantly agrees to Elsa’s proposition, but that visit sends Alicia’s world spiraling. Blurring documentary and fiction (the film was shot in gritty, operating penitentiaries in Argentina), Proper Eyes takes the audience on a suspenseful ride. First-time director Liliana
Paolinelli employs unconventional storytelling, asking the audience to actively work to uncover the story behind two fascinating women and eliciting nuanced and insightful performances from her leads. Proper Eyes reveals her as a passionate and inventive filmmaker. On the other side of the ring, Last Days of Shishmaref (Netherlands 90 minutes) director Jan Louter and director of photography Melle van Essen capture the utter emptiness of northwestern Alaska while telling the story of an Eskimo community that’s falling into the sea—thanks to melting ice caused by global warming. Their style is devoid of talking heads and shaking cameras. The lighting, the angles, the viewpoints are all outright cinematic. “This is a film on the edge of documentaries and features. You see that everything is set up as a scene, but the people are playing themselves,” says Jan. “I wanted the audience to feel involved. So, for the first 50 minutes of the film, it doesn’t even mention global warming. It just follows the pace of these people’s lives.” While politicians, scientists and environmentalists debate the effects of global warming, an Inupiaq Eskimo
community in northwest Alaska, just under the Arctic Circle, faces the real world consequences of climate change every day. The ice beneath the small Alaskan village of Shishmaref, on the island of Sarichef, is melting. Homes are falling into the ocean. The situation is so severe that it has been predicted that the entire village will disappear within the next 10 years. How can you move an entire way of life? And should these villagers go to the edges of a city, or retain their rural ways? Filmmaker Jan Louter captures the transience of the Inupiaq’s traditional way of life in the face of the collision of climate change, satellite television and mail order shopping. The icy landscape—its water, smoke, steam and sky—is beautifully photographed, as are the village’s inhabitants. Every frame is a poignant portrait. The film doesn’t present a barrage of facts and figures to make its point, instead giving the viewer entry into the issue of climate change by way of a third eye. We feel the loss, the pain and the sadness of the families as they realize that they will never recover a way of life being swallowed by the sea. From its opening scene with boxer Kassim “The Dream” Ouma jogging out of the shimmering desert heat, Kassim The Dream (Uganda-USA 82 minutes), runs through a series of feature film techniques—slow motion, fades, funky soundtrack—that add
drama to the story of a US middleweight champion who was forced to commit atrocities in the Ugandan army at the age of 6. He’d like to visit his home, but the government threatens to execute him. Director Tony Molina Jr. and crew mix the creative elements with stock documentary techniques, like photos, archival footage, interviews to tell Kassim’s story and the horrible conditions in his home country. Kassim “The Dream” Ouma is a complex character. He’s the 2004 IBF Junior Middleweight champion of the world, a father, a young man who hasn’t seen his mother since he was a teen, and a former Ugandan child soldier who was abducted into a rebel army at the age of six. Kassim brings this powerful and painful personal history into the ring with him every time he fights. Despite the fact that Kassim is closer to the “American Dream” than most people will ever be, his wartime experiences in Africa still gnaw at his conscience. And it’s this ache that sets Kassim on a journey to reclaim his past by seeking a military pardon from the president and government responsible for his abduction as a child. Kassim isn’t asking for anything more than a safe return to the country he fled, but the government publicly declares that if Kassim returns to Uganda, he will be tried for desertion and, if found guilty, executed. Director Kief Davidson (The Devil’s Miner), an AFI alumni, and executive producer Forest
The Last Days of Shishmaref captures the desolate emptiness of north-western Alaska. Documentary Today 25
and fiction and the self-imposed destruction experienced by China in her march toward a free-market economy. Though factories were once the temples in which socialism was built, with their workers treated as heroes, they are now being dismantled all over the country, and thousands of their employees laid off. Jia documents the closing of the “420” factory (once an airplane engine plant, with military implications) to build a luxury apartment complex, “24 City,” on its site, in Sichuan’s capital city of Chengdu. The team of After School which deals with the corrosive omnipresence of web video footage.
Whitaker give us an intimate portrait of a captivating and charismatic young athlete who has reached the point in his life when he feels compelled to transform a legacy of sorrow into hope and inspiration. Kassim The Dream received the American Film Market/Silverdocs Award at the 2008 Silverdocs AFI/Discovery Channel Documentary Festival. Ateenage rites-of-passage drama, After School (USA 106 minutes) vividly captures the corrosive omnipresence of web video footage for American teens. From violent You Tube-style clips to Internet pornography, our new media, this debut film from writereditor-director Antonio Campos suggests, is creating a tangled web of confusion for the young people going through puberty. Among them is the skinny, socially awkward sophomore Robert (Ezra Miller), who already has developed a taste for rough porn. As two girls suffer fatal drug overdoses on campus, Robert inadvertently captures the tragedy with his video camera. When his video begins circulating, the atmosphere of paranoia and unease on campus grows, and he becomes increasingly troubled and withdrawn. Campos’s startling, stylish debut opens us to deeper debate on the corrosive power of 21st-century imagery. But After School scratches gently at this phenomenon, rather 26 Documentary Today
than pushing to excess. Just 24 years old, Campos demonstrates his skill at weaving together a variety of themes and concerns: the alienated angst of voyeurism, the pervasive influence of media violence, and the empowering nature of the web cam. Campos also explores, with great finesse, more familiar cinematic subject matter: the shifting allegiances and power dynamics at an American high school. In 24 City (China 107 minutes) Director Jia Zhangke goes one (magnificent) step further in his idiosyncratic exploration of both the thin border between documentary
You see a sign being dragged over gravel, a building imploding as workers are singing “The Internationale”—but mostly you hear the stories, covering a 50-year period, of the people whose lives have revolved around the factory. Among unrehearsed interviews of real workers or ex-workers, Jia inserts staged vignettes: Joan Chen recounts her romantic loneliness as a Shanghai woman exiled in Chengdu; Lu Liping (The Blue Kite) remembers losing her little boy in the long trip from Shenyang. Zhao Tao (Jia’s muse) is an apparently cynical, ambitious young woman saddened by the fate of her aging working-class parents. This masterpiece sharply addresses the dilemmas of our changing times. (Courtesy: AFI Festival Daily News)
Fulfilling the classic American Dream in Kassim The Dream.
Tracking Down A Historic Documentary By Amrit Gangar Sometimes history gives us surprises and provides some important clues at the same time. Else, why a German filmmaker would stay in Mumbai, become an Indian national and make several significant documentaries that we should cherish to treasure. The German filmmaker I am referring to was Paul Zils whose contribution to Indian independent documentary filmmaking has been noteworthy. Zils wrote extensively about the making of documentary films in India and he was responsible for launching the bimonthly journal Indian Documentary as its co-editor with Jag Mohan. It was Zils who managed to form an Editorial Board with illustrious names such as well known litterateur Dr Mulk Raj Anand, leading scientist Dr Vikram Sarabhai, then Editor of Filmfare, B.K. Karanjia, and then Editor of Trend, Frene Talyarkhan and Zils himself.
said to have been screened nationwide on 15 August 1947 to celebrate India’s first Independence Day. But as it happened, the film was forgotten down the years and no body knew where its prints were or whether they were existing at all. As it happened, I became instrumental in discovering and rescuing this historic film. In this essay, I would like to briefly narrate the story of how it happened, while talking about the film and Paul Zils, its maker, whose ‘Indian’ story itself is quite exciting. PAUL ZILS Paul Zils, who stayed in India for a little over a decade and half, was unique in many ways. He entered India as a prisoner-of-war, having been rescued by the then Royal Indian Navy (RIN). Zils was sailing in a German ship from Indonesia which
was torpedoed by a ship of the RIN. He was one of the survivors picked up from the sea and imprisoned by the British. Zils looked at India for the first four years only from behind barbed wires of the internment camps at Nasik and Deolali, not very far from Mumbai. When in early 1946, Zils was released from the internment camp, he had made up his mind to stay in India and make films. Interestingly, the first move he made was to go to the British authorities who had kept him a prisoner and convince them of his filmmaking ability. As one of his filmologist friends, Jag Mohan, whose article I could include in my small book Paul Zils and the Indian Documentary published by the GoetheInstitut Mumbai, Zils had a charming personality. “Six-foot tall, with a
He also organized documentary film festivals in Bombay and Delhi, and set up the Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA), which still exists after over 50 years. Zils also provided training to a number of associates and colleagues, who went on to become well known filmmakers themselves. Zils identified himself with the Indian film scene in more than one sense. He was a founder and life member of the Children’s Film Society, India. He was also a member of the Indian Motion Pictures Producers’ Association (IMPAA) and represented the IDPA on the Film Federation of India, the apex body of Indian film industry. One of his valuable documentary films was India’s Struggle for National Shipping, which was sponsored by the Scindia Steamship Navigation Company. This film is
Paul Zils with his cameraman Fali Billimoria, later a director of renown. Documentary Today 27
sturdy build, his presence anywhere was noticeable. He had a handsome face, blue eyes and a constant smile. Affable in manners, quiet in talk and impressive with his English which hardly had the continental flavour, he convinced the External Publicity Unit of the Information Films of India (IFI) to take him on its staff.” Not only did he make noteworthy films like the three-reel Ripening Seed on unwed motherhood; Kurvandi Road, the first Indian-made short film to be televised in the US; and the UN-sponsored Mother, Child and Community, but as stated earlier, he was also responsible for organizing the independent documentary film movement in India. Among a number of associates and colleagues Zils provided training to was Fali Bilimoria. Originally a student of medicine, Bilimoria was brought into the industry by Zils and he later became Zils’ professional collaborator and partner. Bilimoria’s film, A Village in Travancore, won a number of national and international awards, as did his The House That Ananda Built, which was the first Indian documentary to be nominated for the Oscars. The Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short & Animation Films honoured the late Bilimoria with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998. Zils had become an Indian citizen too but finally in 1958 when he left India, he renounced his Indian citizenship. Back in the Federal Republic of Germany, he started the production company, Deutsche Condor Film GmbH and took over Filminstitut, Erlangen. DISCOVERY AND RESCUE Even before embarking on the research on and about Paul Zils for Goethe Institute / Max Mueller Bhavan, Mumbai during 2001-02, I had known about his documentary film called India’s Struggle for National Shipping, produced for the Scindia 28 Documentary Today
India’s first President Babu Rajendra Prasad with the Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. by Zils’ production company, Documentary Unit India. As its title suggests, the film included most of the national leaders of Indian freedom movement, whom Zils called his ‘stars’. In the period 2000-2003, during my research, I was successful in finding some of the documentaries that Zils made in Ceylon and some from the Films Division that he made along with Fali Bilimoria, his partner in the documentary film-producing unit. Much against my hope, there was no sign of India’s Struggle for National Shipping anywhere, neither in part or whole. In fact, I would have been happy to get even a single frame of the film. Unfortunately, the National Film Archive of India had no clue of it. In the first round, I tried to find some old employees of the Scindia Steam Navigation Company, and through acquaintances, phones and letters, my search led me to England (where one of the company’s ex-managers lived) through correspondence and common contacts, Vadodara (someone told me someone’s name whom I could not trace) and other places including Mumbai but several people I contacted did not know about the film. I kept trying since somehow I did not
harbour much hope from the company that had now become a “Government of India” undertaking. But since time was passing by, I decided to visit the company’s headquarters at Ballard Pier in Mumbai. Expectedly, in the first couple of rounds there, no one could guide me with any plausible clue. One day, in 2003, an old man sitting there told me that the erstwhile company had shifted its office to somewhere in Andheri, a western suburb of Mumbai and that I might find an old employee there. No more information. But fortunately I remembered the Scindia township somewhere in this suburb – a possible bridge to reach the island of hope. I went there again and again but without success. Finally I could track down the office, a relatively much smaller place with a skeletal staff. One afternoon, I could meet the company’s General Manager who said he remembered having seen the film over four decades back. A small hope flickered in my mind. But then he said rather glumly, “It was likely that in the process of shifting, the cans were thrown away since our office space has shrunk to less than 4000 sq.ft. from a massive 89,000 sq.ft. Under the circumstances, we had to throw
away many things that we had fondly preserved.” Alas, the small flicker in my mind began to dim. But I kept bothering the gentleman regularly for several months. And in the meanwhile, I started making rounds to Mumbai’s Chor Bazaar (flea market) in the hope of getting the film prints – live or dead, intact or injured. Interestingly, in this chaotic bazaar, I could see some of Scindia’s Company’s prototype vessels and several other things, but no film prints. However, the appearance of those small little things in the Chor Bazaar kept the flame of my hope burning. Negogiating the Chor Bazaar’s smelly and stuffy streets regularly for months were an energizing exercise. It was precisely on 18 November 2003 that I got a call from the company’s General Manager. He informed me that he had found some old plastic cans which might contain the film that I was desperately in search of. But he would not know whether the prints were in
a projectable condition. He had not opened the cans, he said, “Well, they have not even been touched for fortyodd long years.” From my far-off Kandivli house, I rushed to his office, filled with anticipation and excitement. I saw the cans that hopefully contained the precious history. As I opened them one by one, I found they were nitrate dupe negatives, badly affected by vinegar syndrome, stinking but apparently still in not too hopeless condition. Just to clarify, ‘vinegar syndrome’ varies in intensity and smell. Even the slightest hint of a smell that remotely resembles vinegar – pungent odour that emanates from a film, which can only be likened to the acetic smell of vinegar – is of concern to the film collector because it is an indication that the film stock is in a state of deterioration. Until 1950, film stock had a nitrate base, which was very imflammable and more vulnerable. The change was made to cellulose acetate base safety stock, which is more stable and burns much more slowly. Well, on the cans, I found no label indicating the film’s title or any other useful mark. Examining the prints, I could see the negatives had sound tracks! That was a positive
The Vanishing Tribe
sign! Often, visual and sound prints are separate. All this while, I was spending my own money and did not have enough resources to bear the travel and other costs. But luckily, I got some help from the Director, Max Mueller Bhavan and I could get the prints repaired and someway restored and get them digitized. Finally, after much perseverance and persuasion, the inflammable nitrate negatives were saved, the film was rescued, and the history of India’s Struggle for National Shipping was brought back to life, in other words an invaluable national documentation was saved. THE FILM I would like to call India’s Struggle for National Shipping, probably the first Indian corporate film that attains epical level through the way Zils structures it and places it in a certain historical context – colonized India’s struggle for independent selfhood. Through the poetic Hindustani (mixture of Urdu and Hindi, the language that Mahatma Gandhi had envisaged for independent India), and minimal music, the film creates a crescendo of sound and image. Unfortunately, in the absence of synchronous sound, we do not hear the original voices of the national leaders and the foundes of the company, but Zils is able to transcend this limitation. As the camera pans over waters and vessels, the film opens with a voiceover saying, “From the ancient times until the 19th century, the India-built vessels were the best in the world. When the British came to India, the East India Company preferred to build vessels in Hindustan more than in Englistan. And when the first Indian vessels entered high seas, all ship builders from ‘Englistan’ raised their voice in panic and said that if the use of Hindustani ships continued, they would be finished. And then the British Parliament passed laws that would systematically destroy the Hindustani ship building industry.” “Our story is to revive this history,” announces Documentary Today 29
who had arrived with his family – wife, children and grand children. We see Indira as a vivacious young girl in this film. Motilalji emphasized two points: firstly, the Captain of the ship and all his crew should be Indian, and secondly, the Indian vessels should have all the freedom to sail in the waters of their own country. Hindustan should aim at achieving these aims, he said.
The Congress leadership … Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel listen closely to Mahatma Gandhi.
the voice over (in the absence of any credits in the print, we do not know the speaker’s name.) This is a kind of Prologue to the film and it is followed by graphical presentation – maps, bar and pie charts and other graphical animated visuals to show how the discriminatory policies of the colonial powers had adversely affected Indian shipping industry despite India’s substantial contribution to total tonnage and overseas trade volumes. As the voice-over informs us, Gandhiji called it a battle between angels and devils. Maulana Azad is quoted saying, “There was a time when our vessels crossed great oceans and reached Hindustani goods and messages to far off countries. And then a time came when the Hindustani vessels were stopped to sail even on their own shores.” As visuals show ships ‘Strathmore’, ‘City of Venice’ and that of other countries with their respective flags, the voice-over says, “In the Hindustani ports we see flags of every other country but the flag of Hindustan, whom we love the most.” The massive Scindia House at Ballard Pier, Mumbai was inaugurated in 1938 by the hands of Vallabhbhai 30 Documentary Today
Patel. We see Viswesvarayya, Lilavati and Kanaiyalal Munshi and other eminent personalities arriving to attend the function. Vallabhbhai Patel is seen being received by Shantikumar Morarjee. Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, HH Agha Khan, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Maharajas and Diwans from across the country had sent congratulatory messages to the company. In his welcome address, one of the founding members and the company’s Chairman, Walchand Hirachand asserts that under any circumstances Scindia would be a Swadeshi company. In his report, the company’s General Manger, M.A. Mater reasserts the company’s avowed ideals. At Scindia House, Bhulabhai Desai unveils the company’s Founder and the First Chairman, Narottam Morarjee’s bust. Scindia Steam Navigation Co. was able to acquire its first cargo vessel JALABALA built in Glagow in 1927. It is shown in the film as being ceremonially launched by Vithalbhai Patel. This was the first ship that unfurled the Hindustani flag. After four months, another Glasgow-built vessel JALADUTA was ceremonially launched by Pandit Motilal Nehru,
What is interesting about Zils’ documentary is the way he provides us the historic as well as contemporary history of the Indian shipping industry along with the visuals that keep the film moving upwards on its emotional graph. As it says graphically, towards making Hindustani shipping industry self-reliant and stronger, Scindia Steam Navigation Co. Ltd. had helped other companies such as Bengal Burma Steam Navigation Co., Indian Cooperative & Trading Co., Eastern Steam Navigation Co., Travancore Steam Navigation Co., and Ratnakar Steam Navigation Co. “Now all these companies are working together and the entire country is helping Scindia in its endeavour.” We see Mohammed Ali Jinnah coming out of Scindia House and as the voice over says, “From the time of the First Round Table Conference, Jinnah was one of the first to raise voice against the British monopoly.” The film is replete with such rare documentation. And as it progresses towards the third and the final reel, we are informed that around this time, Scindia Steam Navigation Co. had acquired eight more vessels from outside and one of them was EL MADINA in 1936, made for Indian Muslims going on Haj to Mecca. At the sailing ceremony, the chief guests are Sir Pherozeshah Noon and Lady Noon. Zils creates an interesting atmosphere that is filled with joy and grace amidst beautiful Quranic verses. It was an absolutely state-of-the-art vessel with all the comforts that it could provide to the passengers. The country was moving towards self-reliance as we see Scindia Steam
Making Indian shipping stronger and self-reliant.
Navigation Co. setting up its own shipyard at Waltair (Visakhapatnam). In its eight berths, vessels up to 550 feet length could be built and there were two more berths to build bigger vessels. This was an up-todate shipyard with all the necessary facilities; waters were deep enough and the workers were provided the best of working environment. Accompanied by Walchand Hirachand, Babu Rajendra Prasad is shown in the film, laying the foundation stone amidst chanting of mantras. The inauguration ceremony of the shipyard is a massive but austere affair – 3,000 guests (including Sarojini Naidu and Acharya Kriplani) and workers present. It is indeed heartening to see how simple our national leaders were those days, no airs around, no fanfare, no inflated egos, and no gun-wielding security guards around. The historic times for the stillcolonized country were exciting, with Gandhian movement surging ahead and strong Swadeshi sentiment electrifying the country. The Second
World War was around the corner and so was eventual independence. As the film introduces us to Scindia Steam Navigation Company’s Board of Directors including Tulsidas Kilachand, Maneklal Premchand, Shantikumar Morarjee, Walchand Hirachand and others, it transcends to wider contours through maps representing the company’s global maritime network and that is India’s – as the voice-over sets into perspective what India should achieve in future – vessels with a total tonnage of 2 million and complete with Swadeshi status. The way Zils creates a montage in the film’s last scene reminds me of Sergei Eisenstein’s silent film Battleship Potemkin (1925) with joyous faces of workers looking at the sailing ships from one of India’s own shipyards, workers working in factories, Indian flags fluttering over vast expanse of waters. CONCLUSION It gives me immense pleasure to have been instrumental in discovering
this historic national document and saving it for our progeny. In retrospect, I shudder to think that had a few more weeks passed, the vinegar syndrome already affecting the fragile prints would have turned them into irretrievable junk, in all probability. When I first saw them, the prints were lying in normal temperature against sunlight in a room. I was fortunate to have acted in time. As the veteran Vijaya Mulay (popularly known as Akka among her friends; well-known actress Suhasini Mulay’s mother) who knew Paul Zils personally, tells me that she remembers having seen an English version of India’s Struggle for National Shipping. I am sure there will be many more such documents that might be still lying somewhere in our country or elsewhere. Let us save whatever we can before it disappears and it becomes too late to retrieve our audio-visual heritage. (Amrit Gangar is a Mumbai-based writer, film theorist and curator.) Documentary Today 31
New Team takes charge at I&B
A new team at the information and broadcasting ministry got down to business as the new Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ms Ambika Soni mapped out an agenda focusing on better coverage of the 2010 Commonwealth Games and a “harmonious relationship with the media”. She outlined her priorities that include mobilising consensus on a contentious content code for news broadcasters. Soni, who had quit the Indian Foreign Service to join politics, emphasised she would partner with the media and representatives of all stakeholders to handle issues relating to content code in as sensitive a manner as possible. ‘We will try to bring a harmonious working relationship to the benefit and advantage of all,’ Soni added. ‘I will speak to all the stakeholders concerned on various aspects of the media industry. Anything related to the media will be made known to you in a transparent manner. Journalists are the important cog of the media machinery and whatever demands have been pending related to them would be addressed,’ said Ms Soni.
It may be recalled that Ms Ambika Soni served as Minister of Tourism and Culture from 2004-2009. During her tenure the ‘Incredible India’ media campaign was launched which lead to 12-14 per cent growth in foreign tourist arrivals. She is an elected Member of Parliament representing the state of Punjab in the Rajya Sabha. Ambika Soni was born on 13th November 1943 to parents Nakul Sen, an ICS officer, and Indu Nakul Sen in Lahore in undivided Punjab. She completed her B.A. (Hons.) from Indraprastha College, Delhi University, followed by Diplome Superiore en Langue Francaise from Alliance Francaise, Bangkok and Post-Graduate Diploma in Spanish Art and Literature from University of Havana, Cuba. She married Uday
C.Soni on 14th October 1961 and the couple has one son. In 1975 she was chosen as the President of Indian Youth Congress. Ambika Soni was selected to Rajya Sabha on March 1976. In the year 1998, she became the President of All India Mahila Congress. She became the General Secretary of All India Congress Committee in the year 1999 and she held the post onwards. On January 2000, she was again elected to Rajya Sabha. From January 2000 to February 2004, she has served as the member of Committee on Public Undertakings. She also held the position of Member of Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Civil Aviation from August 2004 onwards. During 2000-2001, she has been the Member of Committee on Defense. During May 2000June 2004, she became the Member of House Committee. Became Member, Committee on Transport and Tourism from January 2002 to December 2003. From January 2003 to February 2004, she held the post of a Member of Committee on Home Affairs. In July 2004, she was elected to Rajya Sabha and from August. 2004 onwards she was a Member of Committee on Transport, Tourism
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and Culture. October 2004 onwards, she has served as the Member of Consultative Committee for the Ministry of Environment and Forests. March 2005 onwards she has been serving as the Member to the Election to the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh. She was also appointed to implement discipline in the factionridden Congress in Kerala. Ambika Soni visited South Africa, as member of Commonwealth delegation, China, as member of Women`s delegation, Australia, Morocco, U.S.A., Europe, Mexico, Cuba, Russia and Czechoslovakia respectively. Choudhury Mohan Jatua, a former IPS officer and Trinamool Congress MP, and S. Jagathrakshakan, DMK MP, also joined the ministry as Ministers of State. It is after a long time that the Ministry has got two MoSs. Mrs Soni has also allocated work to her two Ministers of State as part of her effort to bring momentum to the working of her department. Mr Jatua will look after the departments of field publicity, Press Council of India, Research Reference and Training Division, Electronic Media Monitoring Centre and Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute. Except policy aspects, Mr Jatua will deal with
the folllowing matters: Department of Space (DOS), INSAT Coordination Committee, IMD being delath with TV(INSAT) section of the Ministry. Among other things, he will also be in charge of minitoring field activity of all units under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland Mizoram and Tripura. He will also deal with all matters except those relating to Group ‘A’ Officers and Prasar Bharati. Dr Jagathrakshakan will be in charge of the Song and Drama Division, Publications Division, Photo Division, Films Division National Film Development Corporation and Chief Controller of Accounts. Except Group A officers and Policy issues, the Minister will look after Community Radio. Besides he has been entrusted with monitoring of the field activity of all units under the Ministry in Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Goa, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra. The new team was complete with Jawahar Sircar taking charge as the new secretary in the ministry. A 1975 batch West Bengal cadre officer, Sircar was holding charge of secretary in the ministry of culture.
Film on General Elections The Election is over and the Election Commission is satisfied with successfully holding the mammoth general elections. Even as Team Manmohan takes charge of India’s myriad problems the Election Commission has come out with a unique video record of this exercise by the world’s greatest democracy. Indian Elections: A Mammoth Exercise was released by Chief Election Commissioner Navin B Chawla and Election Commissioner S Y Qureshi at The Oberoi in New Delhi in the presence of Foreign Secreatery Shivshankar Menon. Produced by Laxmana Dalmia, the documentary is commissioned by the Public Diplomacy Division of the External Affairs Ministry. Referring to the process of holding elections as “a mammoth exercise that contained mind-boggling statistics”, Chawla said the documentary could not have been released at a more appropriate time. “We are a large country. The statistics are of epic proportions.” India held its first General Elections in April 1952 – five years after attaining independence from British Rule in 1947. The Indian National Congress came into power with 245 seats in its kitty. After that elections were held at regular intervals in 1957, 1962, 1967, 1971, 1977, 1980, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1996, 1998, 1999, 2004 and now in 2009. A special highlight of the 2009 elections was that 499 out of the total 543 Parliamentary constituencies were newly delimited constituencies. This was the result of the re-drawn electoral constituencies based on the census, following the 2002 Delimitation Commission of India, whose recommendations were approved in February 2008. Holding elections in India is a mammoth task Documentary Today 33
Short Film Association An association for short film producers was inaugurated in Chennai in May 2009. This association will come under the auspices of South Indian Film and Television Producers Union. The association will play a vital role and act as a guide to all those who wish to produce short films. The Film Chamber President KRG, FEFSI President VC Guhanathan, actress-producer Kutty Padmini, Chennai city Theatres’Association President Abhirami Ramanathan, Distributors’ Association President Kalaipuli G Sekaran and actor Pandiarajan participated in the event.
Ray Award for Indian Nikesh Shukla and Laura Taflinger won the 2009 Satyajit Ray Short Film Competition award for their film The Great Identity Swindle. The competition was organised by the London-based international arts organisation, Motiroti. The oneminute film is part of its 60 x 60 project, which explores the challenges of identity and culture among the south Asian diaspora. Emerging artists from the south Asian diaspora – 20 each from Britain, India and Pakistan – presented their personal perspective on what ‘home and boundaries’ mean to them. Commenting on the winning entry, the jury said, “It fuses perfectly the mediums of poetry, cinema, comic books and music resulting in a hilarious study of Asian culture in contemporary Britain.”
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Docu on Tiger Relocation S. Nallamuthu, a veteran Delhi-based independent filmmaker, is shooting the country’s first documentary on the translocation of tigers from Ranthambore to the Sariska tiger reserve in Rajasthan to replenish the latter’s big cat population, which had gone down to zero. The Indian government decided to relocate tigers from Ranthambore to Sariska in 2008 after the reserve lost all its 15 tigers to poaching. Three big cats - a male and two females - were airlifted to Sariska in a unique move in July 2008. The Wildlife Institute of India has recommended that five tigers be introduced in Sariska by the end of 2009 to breed and restore the population. The dedicated cameraman spends 15 days in a month tracking tigers relocated from the Ranthambore National Park to Sariska with his high definition digital camera. “The hour-long movie on the tigers will be telecast next year. I want to capture their struggle for existence in a new land and how they capture territory from the resident population of leopards in the Sariska Park. For the last four years, not a single tiger has been sighted in Sariska, which was once a busy home for the big cats. The
translocation is a unique project,” says Nallamuthu.. “The proposed film will actually be a docu-drama for a Mumbai-based company, which will telecast it on the National Geographic channel,” Nallamuthu said. A freelance cinematographer since 1987, Nallamuthu graduated from the Film and Television Institute of India in 1986 and worked as a cinematographer for the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the government’s Film Division among others. He has several firsts to his credit. He has worked on the country’s first series on the environment, Living on the Edge, The Great Escape, Off The Beaten Track, and the country’s premier automobile show Wheels. He has also shot a feature film Dharam which stars Pankaj Kapoor.
Karlvy Vary award for Wagah Supriyo Sen, whose latest film, Wagah, which won the prestigious Berlin Today Award in the Talent Campus of the last Berlin Film Festival, has now bagged the award for the Best Documnetary Film (under 30 minutes) at the recently concluded Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2009.
Indian films at Cannes Subhash Ghai, which were showcased in the Short Film Corner of this year’s Cannes International Film Festival. Some of the broadcasters have already shown their interest in acquiring a few of these films.
Subhash Ghai with Claudia Ciesla at the unspooling of the Whispering Woods documentaries.
Last year a feature film called A Wednesday shook Indian audiences out of their stupor. This year Jogvinder Khera’s diploma film Tuesday promises to do the same. The 20minute film is a futuristic film set in today’s times. Farhan (played by Gaurav Ghatnekar) is a 22-year-old University student, who time travels 22 years from the future (2028) to the year 2006 in order to avert his father’s untimely death. Farhan’s aim is to stop his father (Junaid) from boarding one of seven trains that were to be bombed on the suburban railway in Mumbai on 11th July, 2006. He eventually does meet his father and follows him all the way to the railway station. To his horror though, he realizes that his father is none other than one of the seven terrorists who planted the bombs on the trains! Tuesday is based on the backdrop of the terrorist attacks which took place on 11th July 2006. The film was made at a shoe string budget of mere Rs. 5 lakhs in spite of being shot at busy locations like the Mohammad Ali Road and VT Station in Mumbai. Touted to be a mix of reality with
fiction, it is said to be the first film to have a 4 minutes long single take shot on Mohammad Ali Road. Shot on a high definition camera, the film has been made in sync sound. Tuesday is among a batch of nine short films made by the first graduating batch of directors from Whistling Woods International, the film institute founded by the noted feature filmmaker
Speaking at a press meet, Subhash Ghai said that the youth in India today were getting more educated about World Cinema and are preparing themselves for International competition by getting professional training for a long term career in schools like Whistling Woods International. He also expressed his confidence that though India did not have a strong enough presence at Cannes so far, in terms of participation in the competition section, Cannes will soon see great films from India. Jerome Paillard, Executive Director of the Cannes Festival, was certain that Indian filmmakers would shine in the coming years. Christian Jeune, Director of Film Department and Deputy Director Delegate of the Cannes festival, welcomed the constant efforts made by Indian filmmakers and ASSOCHAM to bring Indian cinema to the rest of the world.
Subhash Ghai with Deepti Naval Documentary Today 35
Drop in Indian entries for Cannes Lions
Bihar Boy shines Gaya-born Abhijeet Kumar’s film Namah Shivaya Shantaya opened to rave reviews at the 62nd Cannes Film Festival when it was screened at the Indian pavilion by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting and the industry body ASSOCHAM. The film, bring to life the story of Lord Shiva’s fight for justice, righteousness and peace in the fledgling society of his day, the message that emerges, in essence, is that of unification: the coming together of all people as one; of all minds as one mind; and, ultimately, of all minds with the Oneness that pervades and encompasses all things for all time. Born on January 5, 1983 at Gaya, Abhijeet did his B.A (Hons.) in Psychology from Magadh University and his MA in Film and Television Production. A natural artistic talent, Abhijeet Kumar began his film-making journey with a vision of higher-quality entertainment for society. He has produced and directed many critically acclaimed short films and features, and acted in numerous movies, television serials, commercials and plays. Namah Shivaya Shantaya was made under adverse conditions but Abhijeet’s creative and managerial talents eventually got the film off the ground. Facing numerous creative and logistical challenges, he completed the film within a very short span of time and with extremely limited resources. He succeeded admirably in pulling off a wide variety of creative and production tasks: director, executive producer, actor, script translator (from the original English), and cast and crew coordination. 36 Documentary Today
Indian entries dropped by a significant 10 per cent at the recently concluded Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival the largest gathering of worldwide advertising professionals and advertisers as well as the most prestigious annual advertising awards. Entries from India stood at 982 compared to 1,100 entries last year. Unofficial estimates pegged the drop in global delegate registrations at around 50 per cent, while the dip in India is understood to be around 30 per cent. Agencies from India that sent the highest number of entries this year included Ogilvy & Mather, Publicis India/Ambience, McCann Erickson, JWT India and Leo Burnett. However, many leading advertising agencies like Rediffusion DY&R, Mudra, Saatchi & Saatchi and Lintas Media gave their annual trip to the South of France for the Cannes Lions 2009 a miss this year. Among those who did attend were Piyush Pandey, executive chairman, and Rajeev Rao one of the executive creative directors of Ogilvy & Mather (O&M), India’s largest advertising agency which normally sends 14 to 15 delegates. Also in attendance was Prasoon Joshi, executive chairman,
McCann Worldgroup India, and regional creative director, McCann Asia who was there as a judge for the Platinum Lions category: However, a regular at the festival for the last eight years, K V Sridhar (popularly known as Pops), national creative director, Leo Burnett was among those who did not go to Cannes this year. His agency normally sends 6 to 7 people but this year they will not send anyone. “Cannes is expensive and hence we decided it’s better to send our work there and have 30 entries vying for awards but have no delegate representation,” said K V Sridhar. The situation is similar across the industry as over 30 agencies and client companies like Airtel, Parle Agro, Aditya Birla, Tata AIG Life Insurance and General Motor India — which had attended the festival last year — gave Cannes a miss . Over 10,000 registered delegates from 94 countries and around 12,000 visitors from the advertising and allied industries generally attend this event. Over 28,000 ads from all over the world (this year — 22,600 entries from 86 countries) are showcased and judged at the festival. Winners receive the highly-coveted Lion trophy.
Nalin’s film stars Harman Baweja
Documentary on rare Kathi horses Astha Gohil, a student of the prestigious National Institute of Design, has been selected by the Porbandar-based Kathiawadi Ashwa Society of India (KASI) to direct the first ever documentary on the popular Kathiawar horses. This is a bid to market the hardy horses world-wide. The pre-production work on the documentary –like in-depth research, scrip-writing, location hunting as also other minute details – is already in progress.
Critically acclaimed Indian filmmaker Pan Nalin’s documentary on global warming Echo of Eco was screened for a select group of celebrities and industry professionals at the Hotel Carlton’s Ballroom at the recentlyconcluded Cannes Film Festival. The film stars Harman Baweja who was selected after Nalin saw him in the Bollywood film Victory. Pan Nalin said, “Echo of Eco’s lead role is that of a young Indian software millionaire, who loses everything in the current Economic Meltdown. Like many others in recent times, he too decides to kill himself. Harman has the right look, besides when producer Deepika Gandhi and Mihir Upadhyaya contacted Harman, he read the script and instantly volunteered to participate. He even found dates from his busy back- to-back schedule from Ashutosh Gowarikar’s new film.” Producer Mihir Upadhyaya added “Harman was quick to understand the message of the film and promptly agreed to join us. I found this gesture
of Harman filled with humility and responsibility.” Echo of Eco is one of the thirty documentaries made on the theme of ‘Save Our Environment.’ Pan Nalin was the chosen filmmaker from India.
Indian short in French Popular Tamil producer P.L Thenappan 15-minute film in French titled Ecluse, made under his Sri Rajalakshmi Films banner, was screened in the Short Film Corner at the Cannes Film Festival 2009. The film is directed by Mahendran Baskar, a Sri Lankan Tamil settled in France. He has also scored the music and plays a crucial role in the film. Ecluse tells the story of an Indian family settled in Paris where the parents are busy at work, and find difficult to look after their daughter. The child is neglected and one day the teacher notices that the kid doesn’t feel happy at school and call her parents. Will the kid be handed over to the childcare services?
“Very little is written and documented about Kathiawadi horses. A group of hardcore Kathi horse lovers collectively thought about documenting the history and that is how the idea was generated. We have been collecting information about Kathi horses and after about a couple of months, we will start shooting the first-ever documentary on Kathi horses,” says Rajesh Jadeja, general secretary, KASI “We have always told that the origin of the horses is from the Arab countries. But we are going to challenge this through our research. We have already started working on the book,” Jadeja said. Photographs of Kathi horses taken by the renowned equine photographer Kristel Richards will also be a part of the book. The renowned photograph was in Gujarat recently and she photographed the Kathi horses while visiting several places like Chotila, Gondal and Junagadh. “In the age of communication we have found that Internet will be a perfect tool to popularise the Kathi breed. I have uploaded several video clips of Kathi horses on websites. The responses are many, but we have to be careful in replying them as many of them might be fakes,” Jadeja said. Kishorsinh Jadeja and Dr C M Pandya, former employees of the animal husbandry department, are also taking keen interest in the documentary. Documentary Today 37
Krishnaswamy feted Noted documentary filmmaker and film scholar S.Krishaswamy was felicitaed in Chennai by friends and well-wishers on the occasion of his being honoured by the Government with a Padma Shri. The grand function organised by Catalyst Trust was held at Hotel Ashoka. “He’s a person endowed with nobility, warmth of heart and easy approachability,” said former advisor to United Nations B S Raghavan. Former Chief Election Commissioner TS Krishnamurthy praised Krishnaswamy for his visual presentation of Indian culture and called him “India’s cultural ambassador”. Former Governor of Orissa, M M Rajendran, also had words of appreciation for the filmmaker. Janata Party President Subramaniam Swamy, Scientist M S Swaminathan, Prince of Arcot Nawab Mohammad Abdul Ali, actors Sachu and Madan also felicitated the filmmaker. Longtime friend of Krishnaswamy, R Desikan, became emotional when he started talking about his association with Krishnaswamy. “Babu (Krishnaswamy) is a very dear friend,” said Desikan. When it was Krishnaswamy’s wife Mohana’s turn to felicitate him, she said, “He is an idealist. I respect and admire him.” Speaking about his daughters, Krishnaswamy said, “My daughters Latha and Geetha are pillars of my institution.” Even as a student of cinema Krishnaswamy co-authored what is probably the first single-volume history of Indian cinema with Professor Erik Barnouw. He returned to India and founded Krishnaswamy Associates in Chennai in 1964 after which there was no looking back. Krishnaswamy is best known for his feature-length documentary Indus Valley to Indira Gandhi. One can immediately relate the documentary with its maker Krishnaswamy. 38 Documentary Today
Short Fiction on DVD Two short fiction films made by the internationally recognized independent filmmaker, Ashvin Kumar, will now be available on a single DVD brought out by Jungle Home Video and priced at an affordable Rs 125. The films are Road to Ladakh (2003) and Little Terrorist (2004). The common factor between both the films is that they are short films and have received unanimous global appreciation. Road to Ladakh is a 48-minute film starring Irrfan Khan and Koel Puri. It is a poignant story about two lonely people who are scared to trust each other and who eventually fall in love. Little Terrorist is a touching 15 minute film, based on a real life incident. It is about a little Pakistani boy who mistakenly crosses the border and enters a Rajasthani village where a shepherd and his wife take him into their care and have to find a way of getting him back home. The story brought out the capacity for human goodness despite the existence of borders and war. Little Terrorist was nominated for the Oscars in 2005 and has won over 25 international awards and honours in over 130 film festivals including a nomination to the European Film Academy. Ashvin Kumar began working as
an actor and director in theatre. After taking a degree in Media and Communications (University of London) he began working as an editor. Ashvin set up a digital postproduction business in New Delhi before he relocated to London where he established Alipur Films while briefly attending the London Film School. Ashvin wrote several screenplays one of which became Road To Ladakh. The DVD also has a short documentary on the making of the two films which gives the viewer an insight into how the two films were shot in critical conditions and yet succeeded in not losing the balance on intent. Definitely a treat for budding filmmakers who wish to pick up a few valuable tips!
Michael Moore Tackles Economic Crisis!
David Lynch’s New Online Docu Series Starting June 2, 2009 filmmaker David Lynch began presenting Interview Project, a 121 part documentary series, which will air on his website, www.davidlynch.com, with a new episode premiering every three days for an entire year. Interview Project profiles Americans whose lives exemplify the ups and downs of the human experience.
Michael Moore’s latest documentary which measures the impact that corporate dominance and greed, and out-of-control profit motives have on the lives of Americans and citizens of the world is slated for an October 2 release -- which will be exactly one year and a day since the U.S. Senate approved a $700 billion bailout of a sinking Wall Street. The documentary which was untitled all through its making now has a name Capitalism A Love Story. Asked why he’s elected to do a ‘love story,’ Moore commented that it’s time he focused on ‘relationship film.’ “It will be the perfect date movie,” he quipped. “It’s got it all -- lust, passion, romance, and 14,000 jobs being eliminated every day. It’s a forbidden love, one that dare not speak its name. Heck, let’s just say it: It’s Capitalism.” When the film’s co-financiers and distributors, Overture Films and Paramount Vantage, announced their backing of the project a year ago, during last year’s Cannes Film Festival, the as yet untitled film didn’t have a defined theme or subject.
Moore, who’s delivered three of the highest-earning documentaries in the history of filmmaking -Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko and Bowling for Columbine, to be specific -- has to be the only documentary filmmaker in the world with enough clout to get funding sources to green light a film before its subject is specified. On February 11, 2008 the director posted an open letter on the official Michael Moore website requesting Wall Street whistle blowers to step forward to tell all for the film, and “share with me what they know ... to be a hero and help me expose the biggest swindle in American history.”
In 2008, Lynch dispatched a group of filmmakers, dubbed “the team“ to travel across America and interview the people they encountered about their lives. The filmmakers were given no set procedure, but were allowed to let fate and their personal judgment guide them in their approach to their assignment. Pre-production was limited to specifying the questions each person would be asked. The interviews were to be structured, but in such a way that serendipitous moments might occur. The team found their subjects in bars, along the highway, in front of their homes, in restaurants and other ordinary places. Once shot, the interviews were cut into short segments that provide penetrating glimpses into the hearts and minds of the men and women who faced the cameras. Interview Project debuts on davidlynch.com via a new component, which shows each of the 3-5 minute interview episodes in a context that allows viewers to consider them -- and their subjects -in relationship to each other.
According to reports, the film is funny and ironic, in keeping with Moore’s distinctive documentary style. This Michael Moore project, will inform us about the causes of the worldwide financial breakdown in the most convincing ways, but they can’t really lick the problem -- or the wounds. Overture Films will release the film domestically, and Paramount Vantage will distribute it to the rest of the world. Documentary Today 39
Who Will Play Martin Luther King?
Fulbright scholarship to study impact of Hindi film music Tina Wadhwa, an Indian-American Columbia University graduate has bagged the Fulbright-mtvU scholarship to make a documentary that will explore the impact and influence of Hindi film music on underprivileged youth in Mumbai. She is one of the four youngsters to have been awarded this scholarship announced by the U.S. State Department. Besides the documentary, Ms. Wadhwa will also help develop the Music and Drama Centre at the Akanksha Foundation while focusing on the role of music as a vehicle for collective expression and understanding among the children. Recipients were chosen through a multi-tiered, merit-based selection process, beginning with field and discipline reviews. mtvU and icons like Death Cab for Cutie, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, Santigold and Vampire Weekend reviewed and nominated the top qualifying candidates. The final selection was made by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, appointed by the President. The other winners are Andrew Magill of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Michael Silvers of the University of California at Los Angeles and Rod Solaimani of Georgetown University. 40 Documentary Today
Denzel Washington is the most likely candidate to play the immortal role of Martin Luther King in a biographical being planned by noted filmmaker Steven Spielberg. Washington had earlier essayed the role of Malcolm X. Other actors under active consideration are Jamie Foxx (Ray Charles) and Will Smith (Muhammad Ali). There doesn’t seem to be a most obvious choice--the way there was for, say, Sean Penn to play slain civil rights activist Harvey Milk. After studying Harvey in archival footage presented in the superb documentary The Times of Harvey Milk, Penn captured the slain civil rights activist’s captivating personality in an Oscar-winning way in Gus Van Sant’s biopic Milk. Somehow casting MLK seems a more daunting challenge. To redeliver “I Have A Dream,” an actor would almost have to transcend into a higher zone. Anyone who hasn’t seen archival footage of Dr. King’s signature speech can find it in the excellent documentary View From the Balcony of Room 306 or at MLKonline.net. Steven Spielberg is trying to get exclusive access to materials in Dr. King’s estate,
including the stirring “I Have A Dream” speech delivered in August 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Who can best embody MLK’s inimitable soul and unyielding strength, and show us how Dr. King marched down the path of righteousness to the balcony outside room 306, where he laid down his life to pave the way for civil rights in this land of equal opportunity?
Six docus nominated for Emmy Nanking (director: Dan Sturman), China’s Stolen Children (Director: Jezza Neumann), Taxi to the Dark Side (Director: Alex Gibney), Gorilla Murders (Director: Michael Davie), The Devil Came On Horseback (Directors: Ricki Stern, Annie Sundberg) and Inheritance (Director: James Moll) are the six documentaries nominated for the Best Documentary award at the 2009 Emmy nominations which were announced on July 14, 2009 by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS). ‘Best Documentary’ is one of 33 categories in which Emmy awards are presented for non-fiction production, including Best Report in A News Magazine and Outstanding Investigative Journalism Long Form, as well as Outstanding Informational Programming Long Form and Outstanding Programming in Science, Technology and Nature, Culture and The Arts, History, Breaking News, Investigative Reporting, Outstanding Interview, and more. Additionally, the cinematic crafts of editing, cinematography, graphic design and art direction are recognized by the Emmys, as they are by the Cinema
Eye Awards. The full list of the nominations runs to a full 42 pages – impossible to reproduce here. The News & Documentary Emmy Awards will be presented on September 21, 2009 at a ceremony at Frederick P. Rose Hall, Home of Jazz at Lincoln Center, located in the Time Warner Center in New York City. The event will be attended by more than 1000 television and new media industry executives, news and documentary producers and journalists. This year’s Lifetime Achievement honoree is Barbara Walters, one of the most acclaimed correspondents in the history of television news, and creator and co-host of ABC’s The View. Ms. Walters’ distinguished and groundbreaking career includes over 30 years at ABC News and 15 years on NBC’s Today Show. At ABC she became the first woman to cohost the network news, and served as the longtime co-host and chief correspondent of 20/20. Ms. Walters has interviewed every American President and First Lady since Richard Nixon. She has also hosted numerous primetime specials, including the toprated Barbara Walters Specials.
China’s Stolen Children is one of the six documentary competing for the Best Documentary Emmy.
CNN Productions—the documentary unit of CNN—will receive the President’s Award for the network’s longstanding commitment to long form documentaries. Since its inception in 1998 the award –winning documentary unit has compiled an outstanding body of work. It has particularly distinguished itself in recent years with important documentaries on genocide, religious extremism, the struggle for peace in Northern Ireland, and many other pressing topics. The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) is a professional service organization dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. It recognizes excellence in television with the coveted Emmy Award for News & Documentary, Sports, Daytime Entertainment, Daytime Creative Arts & Entertainment, Public & Community Service, Technology & Engineering, and Business & Financial Reporting. Regional Emmy Awards are given in 19 regions across the United States. NATAS also presents the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences Global Media Awards which recognizes excellence in the world-wide intersection of digital entertainment and technology. Excellence in Primetime programming and international programming is recognized by its affiliate, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. Beyond awards, NATAS has extensive educational programs including National Student Television and its Student Award for Excellence for outstanding journalistic work by high school students, as well as scholarships, publications, and major activities for both industry professionals and the viewing public Documentary Today 41
7 Docu Filmmakers Invited to Join Academy Seven documentary filmmakers have been invited to join the elite ranks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) community as active, voting members. They are: l William Gazecki (Oscar nomination for Waco: The Rules of Engagement); l Rachel Grady (Oscar nomination for Jesus Camp); l Rory Kennedy (best known for Ghosts of Abu Ghraib); l Scott Hamilton Kennedy (Oscar nomination for The Garden); l James Marsh (Oscar award winner for Man On Wire); l Megan Mylan (Oscar award winner for Smile Pinki) l Doug Pray (best known for Surwise) Along with the documentarians, AMPAS extended invitions to eight narrative feature directors, including Rachid Bouchareb, Danny Boyle, David Frankel, Rod Lurie, Thomas McCarthy, Tyler Perry and Henry Selick and to 20 actors, including Casey Affleck, Emily Blunt, Michael Cera, Viola Davis, James Franco, Brendan Gleeson, Anne Hathaway, Taraji P. Henson, Emile Hirsch, Hugh Jackman, Melissa Leo, Jane Lynch, Eddie Marsan, James McAvoy, Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Amy Ryan, Michael Shannon, Michelle Williams and Jeffrey Wright. Membership in the Academy is by invitation only, and there are about 6,000 members in all. Only 134 invitations were sent to prospective new members in all Academy branches for 2009. New members are formally accepted in to the Academy in September. They will participate in nominating and voting for the Oscars for next year. Although the Academy has decided to increase the number of narrative feature nominees from five films to ten, the number of documentaries that will receive nominee nods remains at five. 42 Documentary Today
The release date for the new Michael Jackson documentary, The Trial and Triumph of The King of Pop was to be August 11, 2009, timed so as to ride the wave of interest intended to crest with the superstar’s much anticipated, already sold out final tour. Now, it seems, the 76-minute film will serve instead as another loving memorial to Jackson, and as an upbeat view of his extraordinary talents and turbulent life. Directed by Pearl, Jr. (who also helmed Behind the Scenes at the Michael Jackson Trial in 2005), the forthcoming film focuses on the brighter aspects of the superstar’s persona, and attempts to explain his outlook on life and the behavior that‘s been at the root of so many questions people have had about him. In announcing the DVD’s release, Rock City Entertainment President and CEO Wilson Ebiye said, “We want to unpreserved his legacy of love and kindness that is evident in his music. Our goal with the documentary was to clearly establish the fact that Michael Jackson was found not guilty of child
molestation in a court of law.” The Trial and Triumph of The King of Pop features appearances by Kanye West, Jermaine Jackson, Tom Mesereau, Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top), Jon Voight, Fantasia, Mo’Nique, Aphrodite Jones, Linda Deutsch and others who were within the superstar’s sphere.
New docu on Kashmir Israeli filmmaker Udi Aloni has just completed his documentary Kashmir: Journey to Freedom. The documentary was filmed in Muslim majority Jammu and Kashmir valley – the major part of which is occupied by Indian forces and the rest is known as ‘Azad Kashmir’, an autonomous state under Pakistan. Aloni has interviewed Kashmiris belonging to different walks of life. A great fan of Mahatma Gandhi Aloni sincerely believes in a nonviolent resistance movement in both Occupied Kashmir and Palestine. His documentary, in his words, “shows the desire of new generations of Muslims, Jews, and Hindus who desire to live in together in peace.”
Revisiting A Classic
In 1974 a film about the Vietnam War named Hearts and Minds was premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. At first the film was criticised for being anti-American but when it picked up an Oscar for the Best Documentary Feature audiences began to take notice. Today we celebrate the 35th anniversary of this documentary classic. Here is the story of this film... Hearts and Minds was a film which shook the American establishment because it boldly probed the depths of a still-open wound. The war had barely ended, and the details of the Paris Agreement, which ultimately proved useless, were still being debated. When the movie picked up an Oscar a month later for Best Documentary Feature, there was protest from the Hollywood conservative elite, among them the evening’s co-host Bob Hope. During his acceptance of the Oscar award, co-producer Bert Schneider said, “It’s ironic that we’re here at a time just before Vietnam is about to be liberated” and then read a telegram containing “Greetings of
Friendship to all American People” from the Viet Cong delegation to the Paris Peace Accords. Frank Sinatra retaliated later by reading a letter from Bob Hope, another presenter on the show, “The academy is saying, ‘We are not responsible for any political references made on the program, and we are sorry they had to take place this evening.” Commercial distribution was delayed in the United States due to threats and lawsuits, including a restraining order obtained by one of the interviewees, former National Security Advisor Walt Rostow. After Columbia Pictures refused to distribute the picture, Bert Schneider and Henry Jaglom
purchased back the rights and released the film in March 1975 through Warner Bros. Pictures. The film did more than that. As it made its march through the theatres – probably the first of the documentaries to enjoy a longer stay at the box office – it paved the way for countless other documentary filmmakers who would tread closely on its footprints to cirticise the U.S. establishment. The most notable of these would be Michael Moore who would draw many lessons from the film – particularly in the manner in which it was made. The documentary has now been released in a completely new refurbished DVD edition by Criterion Collection.
Might is right … an American soldier watches a Vietnamese family as it leaves the village. Documentary Today 43
chronological semblance to emerge. Pinpointing the origin of the US involvement in Vietnam in the postWorld War II belief that “we could control the future of the world,” Davis suggests that our policy of Communist containment spawned an altogether different and intractable monster at home, that is, the management of lies and cover-up emanating from the very top. Working with ace editors Lynzee Klingmann and Susan Martin, Davis assembles a montage of presidential speeches, from Eisenhower to Nixon, that implies that beyond masking a progressively hopeless situation, presidential rhetoric conspired to prolong the Vietnam War in a futile effort to bolster national pride and manipulate public opinion. Thirty-five years later, the film manages to evoke a similar degree of pain, even if it is only the pain of recall. Time has eroded its topical urgency, yet Hearts and Minds still resonates as a cautionary tale against unquestioned military might abroad and virulent patriotism at home. The documentary is clearly anti-war in both tone and content, but Davis studiously avoids hitting home any single point, preferring to argue his case through an oblique accretion of testimony and an almost poetic disregard for narrative cohesion. Free-associative in its approach to an already nebulous political dilemma, Hearts and Minds refuses to impose clarity on what was and for many still is the most inexplicable period of recent American history. The title comes from the now infamous speech by Lyndon Johnson in which the president declared that “ultimate victory will depend on the hearts and minds of the people who actually live out there.” Though Johnson was referring to the South Vietnamese, on whose behalf the US fought Communist North Vietnam, Davis has taken Johnson’s challenge as his own. His film appeals to our most primitive emotions as well as our highest 44 Documentary Today
intellect, linking these seemingly competing faculties through visual juxtaposition. Without the aid of a narrator, the movie alternates between eminent talking heads, stock footage, veteran testimony, and scarily, clips from corny Hollywood agitprop. It all forms a dense weave of sound and images that relies on us to connect the thematic dots. Though this is seldom an easy task given the film’s tendency to delay counterpoints and to short-circuit any obvious dramatic momentum, repeated viewings will help the movie’s general, if fitful,
Davis’ claims to journalistic impartiality seem disingenuous in light of such stacked testimony. If, as Davis states in the DVD liner notes, the Vietnam War holds a mirror up to us all, Hearts and Minds smashes that mirror to create a kaleidoscope in which facts and lies are refracted in a deceptive but dazzling arrangement. Foreign policy that may have seemed defensible at the time, like the uprooting of rural South Vietnamese to the cities, is leeched of all legitimacy when edited next to footage of the bombings used to carry out that policy. Complaints that Davis takes testimony out of context and rearranges crucial
Vietnam War hero George Coker arrives to a huge welcome.
Coker, a United States Navy aviator was held by the North Vietnamese as a prisoner of war for 6½ years. Coker returns home to the full celebrity treatment. “If I am a good solider, it is because the military made me one,” he tells an exuberant crowd.
Looking at the devastation of what was once home.
events are accurate to the degree that the film is edited around vague themes of the director’s personal choosing. But Davis’ intent seems less like malicious revisionism and more like egalitarian synthesis. The film acts like an equalizing force, giving commensurate play time to a farmer who has lost his daughter to air raids as it does to the commanders who ordered those raids. In its capacity as a work of journalism, Hearts and Minds embraces the less restrictive definition of impartiality that demands nothing more than an equal voice for all parties. From the more than fifty interviewees, Davis has selected a handful of combat veterans to act as his informal, longdistance war tribunal. Deliberately divergent in their views but remarkably similar in their frayed, youthful obstinacy, they offer consensus-free commentary while reminding us that the war was fought in large part by inexperienced young men. They range from Navy poster-boy George Coker to fugitive Army deserter Edward Sowders. Some of them are missing arms and legs and are justifiably angry (William Marshall and Bobby Muller) while others emerged physically unscathed but psychologically shellshocked (Randy Floyd). General William Westmoreland, who commanded American military operations in the Vietnam War at its peak from 1964 to 1968 and was
United States Army Chief of Staff from 1968 to 1972, is interviewed in the film, telling a stunned Davis that “The Oriental doesn’t put the same high price on life as does a Westerner. Life is plentiful. Life is cheap in the Orient.” After an initial take, Westmoreland indicated that he had expressed himself inaccurately. After a second take ran out of film, the section was reshot for a third time, and it was the third take that was included in the film. Accusations abound, but the movie reserves its sharpest scrutiny for George Coker and his unswerving faith in his country. George Thomas
In a 2004 article on the film, Desson Thomson of The Washington Post comments on the inclusion of Coker in the film, noting that “When he does use people from the pro-war side, Davis chooses carefully.” One of the film’s earliest scenes details a homecoming parade in Coker’s honor in his hometown of Linden, New Jersey, where he tells the assembled crowd on the steps of city hall that if the need arose, that they must be ready to send him back to war. Answering a student’s question about Vietnam at a school assembly, Coker responds that “If it weren’t for the people, it would be a beautiful country.” To the movie’s credit, Coker comes off as a relatively harmless fount of ingrown patriotism. Far more sinister, the movie implies, is the cult of victory that permeates every inch of American culture, from the football fields where it is practiced to the churches where it is preached. Conditioned to win at all costs, youth are reduced to passive
“Life is cheap in the Orient” ... Weeping for loved ones lost in an unjust war. Documentary Today 45
The My Lai massacre brought home the brutalities of the Vitenam War to the American people.
vessels for the warrior spirit. It’s all vaguely fascistic, particularly during a Revolutionary War reenactment in which historical kitsch is paraded about like relics of a de facto national religion. As the movie’s detached sense of irony darkens into shrewd cynicism, the purported difference between our country’s rise from colonialism and Vietnam’s own war against imperialism grows more suspect. Such racist double standards fueled protests at home, though judging by General William Westmoreland’s insistence that “Orientals don’t place the same value on human life as we do,” most top-level officials remained defiantly impervious to the wave of counterculture rebellion. Eventually, Hearts and Minds gets around to blaming everyone. Increasingly beholden to corporate influence, moneyed South Vietnamese are held responsible for enabling the likes of Coca-Cola and Ford to exploit their country for post-war profit. These local fat cats, seen power-lunching on what could be the national corpse, are as complicit (and mock-submissive) as the Vietnamese prostitutes seen earlier indulging a pair of horny 46 Documentary Today
American G.I.’s. Victim and aggressor are equally guilty. Davis finds a third party to implicate: himself. “You were there, too, with your damn cameras,” one angry veteran says directly to us. While political officials such as Daniel Ellsberg and former Secretary of Defense Clark Clifford are allowed to repent, Davis and his producer Bert Schneider acknowledge the exploitative nature of their documentary without condemning it. In his audio commentary, Davis describes how he and cinematographer Richard Pearce obtained permission to film the funeral of a South Vietnamese soldier. Their footage, viewed without Davis’ commentary, is a primal scream against the senselessness of war; viewed with the commentary, it becomes a voyeur’s object of fixation, drenched in equal parts guilt and fascination. “I wanted to include as much as possible a kind of self-consciousness on the part of the film and that we knew we were there, too, exploiting the Vietnamese with our cameras,” says Davis. He concludes with a plea for a similar degree of self-awareness on the part of those who wield military
power today. After nearly thirty years, the lessons of the Vietnam War seem, at best, partially learned. The film has been heavily criticized for its biased presentation of the Vietnam War and its anti-military slant. Colin Jacobson wrote in his review of the movie: “Probably the biggest criticism one can level at Hearts and Minds stems from its editorial bent. Without question, it takes the anti-war side of things, and one could argue it goes for a pro-Vietnamese bent as well....In the end, Hearts and Minds remains a flawed film that simply seems too onesided for its own good.” In his review, David Ng wrote: “The documentary is clearly antiwar in both tone and content.” M. J. Sobran Jr. was even more direct: “... rather blatant piece of propaganda, though as disingenuously one-sided as it can be...,” and goes on to show the cinematic techniques used by the producers to achieve this effect. In the years to come these would be the very techniques which would be picked by Michael Moore and his tribe the world over to embark on their individual crusades. Documentaries would lose their impartiality for ever.
THE ALZHEIMER’S PROJECT
Documenting The Dreaded Disease One of the most devastating forms of memory loss is Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible and progressive brain disorder that slowly destroys memory and thinking skills. Today, Alzheimer’s is the second most-feared illness in America, following cancer, The Alzheimer’s Project is a presentation of HBO Documentary Films and the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health in association with the Alzheimer’s Association®, Fidelity® Charitable Gift Fund, and Geoffrey Beene Gives Back® Alzheimer’s Initiative. The series’ producer is John Hoffman; the executive producers are Sheila Nevins and Maria Shriver. Documentary Today 47
While there is no cure for the disease, The Alzheimer’s Project shows there is now genuine reason to be optimistic about the future. Created by the award-winning team behind HBO’s acclaimed “Addiction” project, this multi-platform series takes a close look at groundbreaking discoveries made by the country’s leading scientists, as well as the effects of this debilitating and fatal disease both on those with Alzheimer’s and on their families. Scientific research is gaining momentum in discovering ways to treat and possibly prevent Alzheimer’s. Aiming to bring a new understanding, The Alzheimer’s Project features a four-part documentary series, 15 short supplemental films, a robust website, and a nationwide community-based information and outreach campaign. A book published by Public Affairs Books was developed by the producers as a companion to the project. HBO will use all of its platforms, including the HBO main service, multiplex channels, HBO On Demand, HBO Podcasts, hbo.com, HBO Channel on YouTube, and DVD sales to support the project. In addition, all films will stream free of charge on hbo.com and will be offered for free on multiple platforms by participating television service providers. “The Alzheimer’s research community welcomed the opportunity to collaborate with HBO, seeking to raise
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new awareness and understanding of this devastating disease,” says Richard J. Hodes, M.D., director of the National Institute on Aging, the component of the National Institutes of Health leading the federal Alzheimer’s disease research program. “There is a compelling story to tell of scientific discovery, of research advances and challenges, and of the human faces behind the disease.”
The Memory Loss Tapes
Directed and Produced by Shari Cookson and Nick Doob The first of the four documentaries in The Alzheimer’s Project is The Memory Loss Tapes, which provides an up-close
and personal look at seven individuals living with Alzheimer’s, across the full spectrum of the progression of the disease: from its earliest detectable changes through death. “We wanted to capture a sense of what it was to be inside the disease,” explains Shari Cookson. “Our plan was to show the progression of the illness through several stories along the way.” But as Nick Doob points out: “There’s nothing clear cut about it. The course of the disease is different from person to person.” Adds Cookson: “They say if you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s you’ve seen one person with Alzheimer’s.” Among the emotionally gripping stories: a mother who holds on fiercely to her simple lifestyle, yet recognizes that her memory failures are making it more difficult to do so; another mother who complains to her daughter “I have lost my independence” after failing a driving test; a woman in a nursing home who thinks her mirrored reflection is her “best friend,” and who is haunted by imaginary snakes crawling over her wheelchair; a onetime computer whiz who keeps a blog to chronicle his activities while he still can; a father who no longer can remember his family, but can still steal the spotlight when performing in public with a local vocal group; a daughter who must build a fence around her farm to prevent her mother
from wandering off; and the onetime host of a kids’ TV show, whose wife brings him to a hospice after his body finally starts shutting down. Says Cookson: “It was moving and life changing that people let us into their lives while this intense experience was happening. You see how much the disease takes from a person, how everything you’ve learned and been in your life is stripped away—yet you still get these glimmers of the person.” As Doob notes, “You get a feeling that there’s a foundation of personality that never leaves. What makes a person a person seems to somehow sustain itself.”
Grandpa Do You Know Who I Am? (30 minutes)
Directed and Produced by Eamon Harrington and John Watkin; based on the book “What’s Happening to Grandpa?” by Maria Shriver Grandpa, Do You Know Who I Am? captures what it means to be a child or grandchild of one with Alzheimer’s. This film tells five stories of children,
ages 6-15 years, who are coping with grandfathers or grandmothers suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. Maria Shriver provides commentary and delivers valuable “lessons” for the kids, urging them not to blame themselves for what their grandparents do or say. “We are all children of Alzheimer’s,” says Shriver, sympathetically making it clear that “if it’s too painful to visit, you don’t have to go.” Maria’s own father, Sargent Shriver, suffers from the disease; comparing his earlier vitality to his present condition is hard, but it is offset by good memories and an unexpected “gift”: bonds between generations that may not have been made otherwise. Ultimately, the film shows how important it is to “go with the flow,” offering up a variety of perspectives on how kids can handle a grandparent’s loss of memory through kindness, patience and compassion.
Momentum in Science (120 minutes in two parts)
Produced by John Hoffman and Susan Froemke
Amidst the heartbreak of Alzheimer’s, there is real reason for hope. This two-hour, two-part documentary takes viewers inside the laboratories and clinics of 25 leading scientists and physicians, who seek to discover what can be done to better detect and diagnose Alzheimer’s, delay the onset of memory loss, affect the brain changes associated with the disease, and ultimately prevent Alzheimer’s disease altogether. Two years in the making, the documentary travels coast to coast to explore this complex disease, which scientists believe may have no single cause, but may develop from a number of factors that interact over many years. Scientists are zeroing in on both genetic and environmental factors that might cause Alzheimer’s or protect against it. The series delves into the intriguing links to heart disease and diabetes, as well as the potential benefits of exercise or diet. Groundbreaking advances in brain imaging are allowing scientists to peer into the living brain to see the disease at its earliest stages, and
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Apart from these four main documentaries, The Alzheimer’s Project comprises 15 supplemental films which provide an in-depth look into the scientific advances being made in research and medical understanding of the disease. These films include: l Understanding l l l l l l
revolutionary approaches to treating and preventing Alzheimer’s, such as vaccines, are reaching final stages of drug testing.
Directed by Bill Couturié; Producers: Anne Sandkuhler and Bill Couturié Caregivers highlights the sacrifices and successes of people who experience their loved one’s descent into dementia. According to an estimate from the Alzheimer’s Association there are currently 10 million Americans providing 8.5 billion hours of unpaid care to people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias.. Seventy per cent of people with Alzheimer’s live at home, cared for by family and friends. As Bill Couturié explains: “Not only is it very expensive to pay for care in a nursing home, but the patient is someone you love a lot – a mother, father, spouse. Someone who has taken care of you, and so it’s only natural to want to take care of them.” Alzheimer’s can take a great toll on the physical and emotional well-being not just of the patient, but of the caregiver as well. “It’s not uncommon for the caregiver to die before the patient. It’s 50 Documentary Today
a 24/7 job and often the caregiver has no help. But it’s a long haul, you can’t live like that and survive. Caregivers must be able to find some respite,” says Couturié. Caregivers is a collection of five portraits, each of which highlights the sacrifices and successes made by people experiencing their loved one’s gradual descent into dementia. “Successful caregivers don’t do this out of a sense of obligation,” notes Couturié. “They truly love their father or wife and get a sense of joy from giving to the person. They also learn to live in the present...a butterfly, a cloud in the sky -- these folks learn to appreciate that.”
l l l
l l l l l
and Attacking Alzheimer’s How Far We Have Come in Alzheimer’s Research Identifying Mild Cognitive Impairment The Role of Genetics in Alzheimer’s Advances in Brain Imaging Looking Into the Future of Alzheimer’s The Connection Between Insulin and Alzheimer’s Inflammation, the Immune System, and Alzheimer’s The Benefit of Diet and Exercise in Alzheimer’s Cognitive Reserve: What the Religious Orders Study is Revealing about Alzheimer’s Searching for an Alzheimer’s Cure: The Story of Flurizan The Pulse of Drug Development The DeMoe Family: Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Genetics The Nanney-Felts Family: LateOnset Alzheimer’s Genetics The Quest for Biomarkers
THE DOON SCHOOL QUINTET
Capturing The Adolescent Struggle The Doon School Quintet produced and directed by the noted ethnographic-filmmaker David MacDougall, is an intimate study of India’s most prestigious boys’ boarding school, located in Dehradun in the state of Uttaranchal. The town lies in the Valley of the Doon, between the Siwalik Hills and the foothills of the Himalayas. Doon School owes its fame to a number of factors, but most obviously to the part its graduates have played in the ruling elites of India since Independence, particularly in government and industry. The school’s impact on public affairs has been enhanced by a powerful network of “old boys” who display great loyalty to the school. Doon School is also notable for spreading a particular style of education: a self-consciously egalitarian, secular approach based upon a commitment to public service and a belief in Western-style scientific rationalism. Within this regime, the school aims to produce “all-rounders” with equal proficiency in studies, games, and social skills. There is an official emphasis on setting one’s own goals and competing against oneself rather than others. Although Doon School has been called “the Eton of India,” it is something of a misnomer. It was always a school for the reasonably well-off, but it was never the preserve of the upper classes, and in fact it attracted the sons of the new technocracy that was developing in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in the 1930s.
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PART 1 DOON SCHOOL CHRONICLES (140 MINUTES/2000) Filmed over a two-year period, this film looks at the life of Indian middle-class boys as they experience the effects of institutional, national, and global pressures during the transitional years from childhood to adulthood. The film explores the ‘social aesthetics’ and ideology of the school through its rituals, the physical environment it has created, and its effects upon several boys of different ages and temperaments. It is divided into ten ‘chapters,’ each headed by a text taken from school documents PART 2 WITH MORNING HEARTS (110 MINUTES/2001) With Morning Hearts continues MacDougall’s long-term study of an elite boys’ boarding school in northern India. This film focuses on a group of twelve-year-olds during their first year in one of the “houses” for new boys. The film concerns their attachment to the house but, more importantly, their attachment to one another in a communal life. It follows, in particular, the experiences of one boy and several of his close associates, from their initial homesickness, to their life as members of the group, to their separation from the house at the end of the year. The title is taken from 52 Documentary Today
a school prayer: Call us up with morning faces And with morning hearts, Eager to labour, eager to be happy If happiness shall be our portion, And if the day be marked for sorrow, Strong to endure it.
is arriving to start their lives at the school. The film follows them from their first day, exploring their emotional and intellectual lives as they experience homesickness, fights, classroom teaching, and the stirrings of group identity. Although these boys are the same age as those in the earlier With Morning Hearts, the group dynamics captured here are very different from that film. Within the group are boys of varied personalities and backgrounds -- some natural leaders, some subject to teasing and bullying, some argumentative, some peace-makers. Especially notable are the conversations among the boys about such matters as the causes of aggression and warfare, homesickness, restaurant food, and how to speak to a ghost. PART 5 THE AGE OF REASON (37MINUTES/2004) In this fifth and final film in the The
PART 3 KARAM IN JAIPUR (54 MINUTES/2002) This third film in The Doon School Quintet follows the main protagonist of With Morning Hearts into the next phase of his life in Jaipur House, one of the five main houses of the school. There he plays hockey, sings, studies, and struggles to settle into the House. He must keep up with his classmates, contend with the authority of older boys, and try to find a way to make his mark. He finds it in gymnastics for which he has an aptitude. PART 4 THE NEW BOYS (100 MINUTES/2003) This film focuses on life in a school dormitory. A new group of 12-year-old students
Doon School Quintet, MacDougall focuses on the life of one student whom he discovers at the school. The film was made in parallel with The New Boys and intersects with it at several points. However, instead of looking at the group, it explores the thoughts and feelings of Abhishek, a 12-yearold from Nepal, during his first days and weeks as a Doon student. This is at once the story of the encounter between a filmmaker and his subject and a glimpse of the mind of a child at ‘the age of reason’. The Doon School Quintet can be used productively to stimulate discussion of ideas in MacDougall’s book, Transcultural Cinema. Specialists on India will find the films useful as a complement to Sanjay Srivastava’s Constructing Post-Colonial India: National Character and the Doon School Says MacDougall,“It was Srivastava who first interested me in Doon School, although I already knew something about it and had become acquainted with several other schools in nearby Mussoorie. He suggested that the schools he was studying might be suitable subjects for a film, and over the years we discussed many possibilities. We have remained in close communication about Doon School ever since, and I owe much of
my understanding of the school to his observations and insights.” Talking about how the approach to the subject matter evolved MacDougall says, “From my initial intention to study the school as a site of crosscultural contact and socialization, I soon began turning my attention to more mundane subjects such as clothing, colors, timetables, eating implements, tones of voice, and characteristic gestures and postures. In one sense, this particularity is the very stuff of ethnography, but in anthropology such physical details tend to become adjuncts to larger questions of belief and social structure. I recognized that the school existed within (and was interdependent with) a complex national, as well as global, economy and culture, I also began to see it as a world in miniature, with its own distinctive material signature. Students moved in and out of this world, to and from other places and other lives, but the school impressed its own distinctive stamp upon them.” Sanjay Srivastava, who is now Head of the School of Communication and Creative Arts at the Deakin University, believes, “The Doon School films are landmark visual essays into the cultures of middle-class modernity in India. Through exploring the
contexts of conflict, loneliness, confidence, trust, and friendship, the film evocatively captures children’s strategies of negotiating a world where belonging can not be taken for granted. This is a poignant document of young lives manoeuvring between personal anxiety and worldly confidence, at once reflective and entangled in the moment. They will prove important tools towards an understanding of the institutional sites and cultures of the self that constitute post-colonized life.” The five films in the series are an extraordinarily insightful and intimate exploration of the social and cultural landscape of India’s most elite boys’ boarding school. They take the viewer into the intimate world of adolescent boys from a variety of backgrounds, discovering and constructing themselves as they are being trained to become the future leaders of India. In following the boys’ daily routines and dramas, the films also affords us a rare glimpse at processes of postcolonial Indian identity formation. The series helps us to understand how young men are being formed in everyday cultural practices and social aesthetics that reflect contemporary India as well as its colonial past. One is impressed with how respectful the filmmaker David MacDougall is of his young subjects in all of these films. This peculiar tact is rare in representations of children’s lives and can teach other filmmakers much about ethical concerns and awareness. And not only will these films be a valuable resource for those concerned with teaching and research on youth culture, it will also be of interest for those concerned with the study of communities, identity formation, socialization, and masculinity. Lucien Taylor of The Film Study Center of Harvard University feels that the series is a wonderful teaching tool that will enhance any course dealing with issues of adolescence, education, institutional structure and ‘habitus,’ or postcolonial elites. Documentary Today 53
WE: ARUNDHATI ROY Nationalism of one kind or another was the cause of most of the genocide of the twentieth century. Flags are bits of colored cloth that governments use first to shrink-wrap people’s brains and then as ceremonial shrouds to bury the dead. When independent- thinking people (and here I do not include the corporate media) begin to rally under flags, when writers, painters, musicians, film makers suspend their judgment and blindly yoke their art to the service of the Nation, it’s time for all of us to sit up and worry. This is an unusual kind of underground production. An anonymous sympathizer has edited a video recording of Roy’s speech over 64 minutes, interspersing an impressive array of archival footage to illustrate themes and specific historical events. Contemporary music overlaid throughout the piece shifts the mood and quickens the pace. The result is a visual essay rather than a traditional documentary, perfectly suited to its creator’s intentions, which is to spread the anti-imperialist, social justice politics of Arundhati Roy everywhere.
GANDHI’S CHILDREN (David MacDougall/185 minutes/ English) A shelter for children on the outskirts of Delhi provides food and accommodation for 350 boys. Some are orphans, others have been abandoned, still others have run away from home. About half are held under a court order, having been picked up from the streets for petty crimes. Living at the institution for several months, the filmmaker explores its routines and the varied experiences of several boys. Despite the harshness of their lives, many show remarkable strength of character, knowledge, and resilience. One day 181 child labourers arrive, placing additional strain on the 54 Documentary Today
building’s deteriorating facilities. The institution does what it can, but is it enough? The film has been widely screened at festivals the world over: Margaret Mead Film Festival, November 2008, Jean Rouch International Film Festival, Paris, March 2009, London International Documentary Film Festival, March 2009, and Munich International Documentary Film Festival, May 2009
GOA GOA GONE (Kurush Canteenwala/22 minutes/ English) Mining is the second-largest industry after tourism in Goa. As mining activity is intensifying across the state, so is the opposition to this unregulated industry by local residents. This film explores the impact of mining on people’s livelihood in Goa - one of the world’s 12 biodiversity hotspots.
I WANT MY FATHER BACK (Suma Josson/70 minutes/ Hindi & Marathi, with English subtitles) Farmers have been committing suicide
in Vidarbha, Maharashtra, as in many other parts of India. The film looks at the reasons behind these suicides, beginning with the fall-out of the Green Revolution and the impact it had on the soil and input costs for the farmers. The other sections in the film include the changing traditional methods of farming especially with regard to seeds, the debt-loan trap faced by farmers, the further fall in prices of commodities owing to globalization, and the devastating effects of Bt. seeds. Since the past two years Bt. Cotton seeds are being sold by the Multinational Company Monsanto. These genetically modified seeds have created havoc in Vidarbha. The film raises these issues through conversations with ordinary farmers and activists. The filmmaker also speaks to some farmers who have been practicing organic farming. The film bagged the first prize at the Kathmandu International Mountain Film Festival, Nepal, 2008. Produced by Salt Films was filmed by Sachin Gadankush, Rakesh Haridas & Atul Hirde and edited by Krishnendu Sarkar. Music is by Neela Bhagwat & Amarendra Dhaneshwar
to cross the line. If any woman dared to cross the magical line, she would risk being kidnapped by Ravan the demon. Women have for centuries been discouraged to cross the line, to remain indoors, and within limits. The lines and limits of their existence have always been defined by patriarchy. So what happens if a woman does cross the line? By circumstances, through need, or just by a desire to dare the magical line?
The excessive use of pesticide in agriculture can be dangerous to food
THE SLOW POISONING OF INDIA (Ramesh Menon/26 minutes/ English) The Slow Poisoning of India is a 26minute documentary film directed by Ramesh Menon and produced by the New Delhi-based The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). It deals with the dangers of excessive use of pesticide in agriculture. India is one of the largest users of pesticide in Asia and also one of the largest manufactures. The toxins have entered into the food chain and into our breakfast, lunch and dinner.
they see that it is the only way out of getting into a spiralling whirlpool of debt created by the high cost of pesticides. Farmers like Tokia Modu in Warangal are waging a silent biological war against pests and are winning.
UNDERSTANDING TRAFFICKING (Ananya C. Chakraborti/87 minutes/English) Legend says that Laxman drew a magical line around Sita known as the Laxman Rekha. No woman is supposed
Understanding Trafficking uses this metaphor of Sita who stepped out of her bounds and got whisked away by the forces of evil but attempts to go beyond the Interpol figures to understand the social milieu that causes women from Nepal, India and Bangladesh to be trafficked across international borders in eastern India. Interpol estimates human trafficking of women and young girls to be a $1 billion global industry that continues to grow year after year. It is a trade that feeds on the miseries of the world’s poor, and the ravages wrought by death and destruction. Understanding Trafficking stresses the difference between women who migrate and join the sex trade and women who are trafficked into the sex trade Focusing on the former, she points out that migration by both rich and poor for better prospects has always existed and will always exist. Nations must recognise this and formulate an appropriate policy
The film showcases startling case studies from Kerala where villagers in Kasaragod district are paying a heavy price as it has been exposed to pesticide spraying for many years. It talks of the health impacts in other parts of India and also on how the magic of the green revolution in Punjab is fading as land and water bodies have been poisoned. But some farmers are bouncing back into better practices, and this is a silver lining shown towards the end. “Many farmers are now switching from chemcial to organic farming as
Understanding Trafficking Documentary Today 55
to deal with it. Lack of such a policy in Nepal has opened the floodgates of corruption in that country, while sending countless women migrants to their doom. There are between 200,000 and 250,000 Nepalese women in Indian brothels, and a sizeable number catering to the tourism industry in Kathmandu. The existence of a very long border, much of which is in rural, sparsely populated Bihar, is a godsend for both migrants and traffickers. Poverty causes many Bangladeshi women into the sex trade when they cross the border into India in search of work. Once they enter the profession they are able to return only if they are “rescued” under an Indo-Bangladeshi initiative. The story in India is not very different from those of countless others who are lured into the sex trade when they venture out to earn a living. There are, in fact, certain communities like the Beria that think nothing of exploiting their daughters for a steady income. Little girls are exposed to the basics of dealing with clients and then gradually groomed to attend to their needs. Once a woman enters the sex trade, there is no looking back. But their entry into the trade is not their worst experience. Raids to “rescue” the women are the worst. When the police raid a brothel, the women are hounded out in various stages of undress. They are then bundled onto the first plane to their homes; from there on, flashbulbs and the media follow them. Scant regard is paid to what the women want. Except for a few minor lapses that leave the viewer unsure of what the filmmaker is trying to say -- like the opening sequences that deal with the migration of well-heeled educated women who wish to migrate in search of better opportunities -- the film is thorough and arguably the first to stress the need to allow migration and migrants whilst, at the same time, pulling out all the stops to prevent human trafficking. 56 Documentary Today
Badshah Khan aka the Frontier Gandhi seen with his idol and mentor Mahatma Gandhi
The other credits of the film include: cinematography by Joydeep Bose, Sound by Sukanta Majumdar, and Editing by Saikat Sekhareswar Ray.
THE FRONTIER GANDHI (Teri McLuhan/English) India may know him affectionately as the Frontier Gandhi but few westerners have heard of the Pathan (or Pakhtun) leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan also affectionately known among his own people as Badshah Khan. He was an unlikely political warrior sworn to non-violence who emerged from the midst of a highly volatile culture that has produced the Taliban. In the period before the partitioning of British India in 1947, Badshah Khan became the undisputed political leader of the Pathan tribes, joining forces with the Indian National Congress under Mahatma Gandhi for
India’s independence. As Gandhi’s Muslim associate, Badshah Khan was instrumental in demonstrating the moral and spiritual strength of a non-violent campaign for freedom and advancing the struggle for social improvement of society’s least fortunate. Badshah Khan raised an amazing army of non-violent soldiers -- Khudai Khidmatgar, or servants of God -exceeding some 100,000 volunteers from among Pathan tribal warriors, for the political and social upliftment of his people. He demonstrated in practical terms the Pathans were as devoted to the ideas of peace, unity, freedom and progress as any other people. His movement became the most serious threat to British rule on the strategic northwestern frontiers of the Indian subcontinent. In physique and intellect Badshah
Khan was a powerful presence, a natural-born prince among his people. He strode out of the Hindu Kush mountains into undivided India’s history as a modern-day Biblical prophet and illuminated the other face of Islam -- of genuine peace, tolerance and embrace of others -- that gradually became obscured by the divisive and bigoted politics of Muslim separatism in India. Badshah Khan was not alone among Indian Muslims to oppose the divisive politics of Muslim separatism, but he was the most charismatic. He suffered the consequences along with other leaders of the congress of being frequently arrested and imprisoned by British authorities. After 1947 Badshah Khan faced the torment of Pakistani authorities, regularly jailed and isolated from his people. But he never displayed bitterness or gave support to politics that would be divisive and unleash violence. He remained until his death a servant of God. recalling Badshah Khan is to keep faith with the alternate future he showed for his people -- the Pathans on both sides of the Durand Line and other Afghans -- of peace and dignity. Teri McLuhan, author, filmmaker and daughter of Canada’s much celebrated intellectual, the late Marshall McLuhan, has produced a hugely inspiring film biography of Badshah Khan called the Frontier Gandhi. McLuhan’s documentary is a work of love and devotion to the cause Badshah Khan symbolized. It brings on screen the story of an extraordinary man and his brave followers mostly forgotten, especially among the present generation of Afghans battered by unending conflict for over three decades.
THE DATA THEFT SCANDAL (Sue Turton/48 minutes/English) In a 12-month undercover investigation, Sue Turton infiltrates criminal networks which trade British
The Data Theft Scandal
consumers’ bank and other confidential information for huge profits in India, the world’s new call center capital. Uncovering the methods used to thieve confidential data ranging from credit card numbers to passport details, Turton exposes the alarming security failures in a number of commercial call centers which allow detailed financial data on individuals to be gathered and sold on with ease. She discovers shocking data protection breaches and a new phenomenon known as ‘data farming’ – the unauthorized ‘harvesting’ of personal data to be sold on or exchanged for profit. This investigation also reveals the scale of some of the call center scams as Turton is offered hundreds of thousands of ‘hot leads’, full banking and financial profiles, to purchase. In the UK, she meets a former data thief and people who have fallen victim to this international trade. She also shows her undercover footage and findings to a UK data protection lawyer who is appalled, saying: “You couldn’t scare me more. This is as bad
as it gets. This is evidence of serious criminal offenses
YI AS AKH PADSHAH BAI (Kavita Pai and Hansa Thapliyal/105 minutes/Kashmiri, Urdu, Hindi and English with English subtitles) “Give us guns and we’ll play our role!” This is what Farhana had to say, less than a week after her sister was buried. Farhana’s sister Shahnaza, and her friend, Ulfat, victims of ‘crossfire’, were barely seventeen when they died - as old as the tehreek that exploded into existence in 1989, shattering forever the peace of the Valley, turning it into one of the most critical conflict zones in the world. Over these eighteen years, flashes of intensified conflict and bouts of negotiations have followed one another with monotonous regularity in Kashmir. Newspapers and television channels manufacture predictable binary images of conflict – angry men and weeping women, misguided innocents and fundamentalist separatists, victims and aggressors. Documentary Today 57
Over and above these is the image that erases all differences – the Kashmiri as terrorist. Kashmir has the power to shock and move, while the stories of both men and women are compelling in their honesty, in their rage, in their grief, in their helplessness, in their contempt, in their fierce refusal to forget; the women’s stories are markedly different in their determination to survive, to nurture. It is through these women – proud, strong, with an undying zest for life – that we try to explore what peace means and how it can come about in Kashmir. The film’s other credits include: cinematography by Ranu Ghosh, Sound by Gissy Michael, Editing by Gouri Patwardhan and Music by Manish J. Tipu.
SHABADNIRANTAR / WORD WITHIN THE WORD (Rajula Shah/74 minutes/Hindi with English subtitles) Producer : Jyotsna Milan Camera: Rajula Shah, Gurvinder Singh Editing: Arghya Basu, Rajula Shah The film looks at how the Word, resonates in and resonates of ordinary lives across centuries as it follows the way spirituality/bhakti is practiced through music in forgotten corners of our society. Beginning from an everyday cloudy monsoon morning in the city of Bhopal we let our thoughts travel with the clouds to Malwa, Madhya Pradesh, (the hub of tribal India) that is also known to be the second home to one of the greatest musicians of our time, Pt. Kumar Gandharva (known for his ingenuity and lifelong effort to strike a consonant unity between binaries of indigenous and classical music). Here within the fast altering fabric of a challenged rural life we encounter the common people, age, caste, gender regardless, fighting hard to earn even a single square meal daily, yet keeping the music alive at the bosom 58 Documentary Today
of gnawing fate. Far beyond the scope of any intellectual resolve it is at once a refusal to die, and more significantly a bid to seize eternity from historic annihilation. Word Within the Word is a crucial gateway to the India we are fast forgetting, one that is difficult to classify and categorize but simpler to understand if you hear its common folk talk. In the present context it feels particularly pertinent to turn to these parallel truths in trying to make sense of the increasingly polarized world we live in. Society is changing at a pace that makes us doubt whether such reassuring voices would be heard for long. Yet, it is this human landscape within which one can aspire to come to terms with one’s contemporary dilemmas stemming from learned responses, fragmented dreams…
THE BICYCLE IS NOT FAR (Subrata Chakrabarty /English) A film about fair trade practices around organic cotton farming in India. Shot over a period of eight months in different parts of India (in the state of Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal) and partly also in Paris, France to depict the existence of market rationality, fairtrade certification, increasing fair trade movement, participatory guarantee system (PGS) etc.
The Bicycle is Not Far
The film’s protagonist is a woman who work in the field of cotton and the film travels with her in the journey of how fairtrade practices improves her and her families’ life. Made simply, the film aims to reach out to everyone who produces and/ or consumes some form of ‘cotton’ in their life!
POTTU (50 minutes/Tamil) The documentary decides the hardships and social humiliation faced by widows and deserted women in Tamil Nadu. Produced by the Kalangarai Trust which works among the widows in the southern district of Nagappattinam (particularly in Vedaranyam, Sirkaali and Poompuhaar), the 50-minute documentary attempts to describe the torture that widows are forced to undergo in the name of tradition. The documentary starts off with a young girl’s story: the gaudy ceremony surrounding puberty, her early marriage (to prevent the chance of the family name getting “spoiled” if she were to be left “free”), the dowry that her parents are forced to pay, the hard work that she is forced to do in her husband’s home, his alcoholism and domestic violence, his death and finally, her enforced widowhood. Although Pottu seemed to make of every cinematic cliché, some issues highlighted by the documentary deserve to be taken up for debate.
Video primer Creating Visual Effects & Motion Graphics (This is a continuation of our series on understanding the world of video.) It is more than likely that, as you progress rapidly up the movie-making learning curve, you will want to include more sophisticated elements in your productions. While most editing softwares provide a wide range of transitions and effects, as well as some capabilities for titling, motion graphics, transparency, and compositing, you may also soon want a specialized tool kit which allows you to do more involved tasks including sophisticated compositing of moving imagery and very precisely controlled 2D and even 3D animations. If you are a graphic designer, you are probably acutely aware of the way in which motion is finding its way into your world—in everything from animated Web banners to business presentations. Your experience with design softwares like Illustrator and Photoshop will make it easy for you to migrate to the world of motion graphics, expanding your creative and business potential. If you are planning to move from one platform to another it is important to look out for compatibility and hence, always better to choose a company which has multiple platforms like, say, Adobe. For example, Adobe After Effects takes off from Adobe Premiere leaves off. It also lets you directly animate layered media from Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Plus, the layering and compositing methodologies in Adobe After Effects build on similar functionality in the Adobe software applications you already know. By adding Adobe After Effects to their tool kits, many graphic designers have found new markets for their talents in work ranging from the Web to the world of music videos and even film titles.
If you already use Photoshop, Illustrator, and/or Premiere, you’ll recognize the Adobe user interface featured in Adobe After Effects. You’ll find the familiar tabbed windows and palettes, similar tools, and common keyboard shortcuts that make it possible for you to work more efficiently and move among the programs with ease. Productivityboosting features such the pen tool, Align palette, rulers and guides, editing tools, and free transform mode work in After Effects just as they do in other Adobe products. Plus After Effects, Premiere, and Adobe LiveMotion use a similar time-based interface. Here are some of the ways you’ll benefit from After Effects integration with other Adobe software applications. l Adobe
Photoshop: Easily transform layered Photoshop images into animations. Import Photoshop files as compositions, one at a time or in batches. After Effects preserves layers, common layer effects, adjustment layers, alpha channels, transfer modes, vector masks, and more. You can then apply visual effects to colorcorrect, stylize, or manipulate each layer, and animate these layers
over time. Use Photoshop paths as masks or motion points. l Adobe Illustrator: Add carefully-
crafted typography or eye-catching graphics to your video productions. Import layered Illustrator files as compositions, one at a time or in batches. Choose whether After Effects preserves the layers or merges them on import. Then resize the Illustrator layers to any resolution without losing detail, and animate them with complete control. Copy paths in Illustrator and paste them into After Effects files as masks or motion points. With Illustrator 9 files, you can preserve transparency and transfer modes. In addition, you can continuously rasterize Illustrator layers in both 2D and 3D.
l Adobe Premiere: Import Premiere
projects as compositions. Each video, audio, and still-image clip appears on its own layer, arranged in the correct time-based sequence in the Time Layout window. You can then manipulate these clips to create the sophisticated effects and animations best produced in After Effects. If you use the After Effects filters included with Premiere 6,
When you import a layered Photoshop file as a composition, After Effects retains layers and other key Photoshop settings. Documentary Today 59
those effects and their associated keyframes are also imported. In addition, you can embed a link in the After Effects movies you output so that you can use the Edit Original command in Premiere to open the original project. l Adobe GoLive: When creating
a marker in After Effects, you can add a URL link that will be embedded in rendered movies. When these movies are included in Web pages created by applications such as Adobe GoLive, the embedded URL is recognized during playback, initiating a jump to the specified URL.
LiveMotion: Create elaborate animations in After Effects and then import them into LiveMotion as Macromedia Flash (SWF) files.
To make the following discussion easier we will give examples from Adobe Affer Effects but it must be kept in mind that there are other software which will create the same effect. Video Compositing Compositing, also known as a superimposition, is the process of combining two or more images to yield a resulting, enriched image. Composites can be made with still or moving images. Compositing, or superimposing, simply means playing one clip on top of another. The terms matting and keying, in video and film production, refer to specific compositing techniques. Keying uses different types of transparency keys to find pixels in an image that match a specified color or brightness, and makes those pixels transparent or semitransparent. For example, if you have a clip of a weatherman standing in front of a blue-screen background, you can key out the blue using a blue screen key, and replace it with a weather map. Matting uses a mask or matte to apply transparency or semitransparency to specified areas of an image. By using keying or matting to apply transparency to portions of an 60 Documentary Today
image that is layered on top of another image, portions of the lower image are revealed. Combining diverse types of media elements is one of the things for which Adobe After Effects is best known. After Effects is the optimal program for layering media in motion because of its extensive transfer mode support (just like in Adobe Photoshop) and its powerful masking capabilities (up to 128 animatable bezier masks per layer), along with its wide selection of keying methodologies Streamlined Editing: In order to composite video clips, you must first edit and assemble them onto a Timeline. Those clips to which keys or mattes will be applied are placed on superimpose tracks above the Video 1 track footage. Adobe After Effects includes tools and commands that streamline the process of constructing and refining compositions by turning time-consuming manual tasks into operations that can be completed with a simple tool or command. Powerful Masking: You can create, edit, and animate as many as 127 masks on every layer in After Effects. Draw paths to create transparencies or add new objects to an animation such as stroked lines. Combine paths to make unusual shapes using operations such as Add, Subtract, and Intersect. Rotate and scale masks, and
apply opacity settings to make masks appear and disappear over time. Lock masks to protect them from change. Extensive masking capabilities give you extraordinary control: l Edit masks in the Comp window: You can copy and paste masks into your compositions from Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, or create masks on the fly by drawing them directly in the After Effects Comp window. This saves time and can make it easier to adjust a mask precisely, relative to other layers. You can also continue to create masks in the Layer window. l Assign mask colors: Assign colors to masks for easy identification. l Mask Expansion property: Create and adjust the inner or outer feather of a mask by insetting or outsetting the mask edge from the mask shape. l Apply Motion Blur to masks: Apply Motion Blur to masks to create realistic-looking mask animations. 2D and 3D compositing: You can work in either 2D or 3D, or mix and match on a layer-by-layer basis. Use the 3D Layer switch to toggle a layer between 2D and 3D at any time. While both types of layers can move horizontally or vertically, 3D layers can also animate numerous properties—such as z-position, xyzrotation, and orientation—in 3D space
In this example, the masks for the letter A (purple and green) use a negative Mask Expansion value inconjunction with a Mask Feather; the mask for the letter W (red) uses a positive value; and the mask for the letter E (yellow) is not feathered.
while interacting with lights, shadows, and cameras. Animating Adobe After Effects provides powerful motion controls. But making things move is only one aspect of animation, and After Effects offers an extraordinary range of features and tools to augment your animation capabilities. Motion Sketch and Smoother: Use the Motion Sketch tool to draw animation paths as easily as sketching with a pencil on paper. Simply select the tool and draw the animation path onscreen. Adjust your drawing speed to vary the velocity of the path. After Effects automatically creates the keyframes for you. Then use the Smoother tool to smooth the shape of the path and fine-tune it until the animation moves exactly as you want. Timeline Implementation: Animation revolves around the concept of elements changing over time. The ability to selectively display control curves with linear keyframe information directly inside the Timeline window lets you fine tune timings of multiple elements. The Time Layout window offers flexibility for viewing and editing all object parameters. Keyframe Control: Keyframes are the heart and soul of moving objects, and After Effects provides precise control over keyframe type, generation, placement, and all other aspects of keyframe functionality. Full curvebased editing of keyframe data
After Effects lets you animate layers, cameras, and lights in 3D space.
Here, parent-child relationships were defined between different layers in order to quickly create a dancing skeleton. As a parent part moves (the upper arm), so do its children (the lower arm and hand).
delivers the ability to exactly tweak motion and animation data to fit a desired requirement for all aspects of motion and effects over time. Parenting: Use parenting to animate layers hierarchically in 2D or 3D space. By defining a parent-child relationship between layers, you ensure that the child layers inherit all of the transformations applied to the parent. For example, when the scale and position of the parent layer are animated, the child layers behave the same way. Parent-child relationships aren’t limited to footage layers— you can also define relationships between light and camera layers in 3D compositions. For example, define a camera as the child to a key footage element in a composition, so the camera will automatically track the movement of that element. Or a light might have a camera as a parent, so that the elements a camera is pointing
Move text along a Bezier path. Animate text attributes such as tracking
at are always illuminated. Text/Character Generation: Adobe After Effects provides a comprehensive set of type animation features. The ability to create animated leading and tracking effects is incredibly useful for professional titling work. It offers text animation along a path, automatic randomization/jitter effects for many character attributes such as scaling and rotation and a wide variety of other automatic text effects. Working in 3D Creating elaborate 3D motion graphics and visual effects is a lot easier, in Adobe After Effects, than you might imagine. View 3D compositions from different perspectives: After Effects provides controls for viewing a composition from six different preset vantage points (front, back, top, bottom, left, and right), the active camera, and three additional user-definable custom views. Keyboard shortcuts make it easy to switch between views. Define cameras and lenses: Create multiple cameras in order to produce the results you envision. For example, you might define a camera using a wide angle 15mm preset, then cut to a second camera created using a 200mm lens to capture close-ups from a different perspective. In addition to standard preset lenses, you can create and save custom camera presets. Documentary Today 61
USEFUL EDITING TECHNIQUES
Changing clip speed: Clip speed is the playback rate of action or audio compared to the rate at which it was recorded. When the speed is accelerated, everything appears to move faster; when the speed is reduced, the action or audio plays back in slow motion. Changing a clip’s speed alters its source frame rate. Some frames may be omitted when the speed is increased; when the speed is decreased, frames may be repeated. Changing the speed to a negative value, (such as -100) causes the clip to play in reverse. You can change a clip’s speed numerically in the Adobe Premiere Project window, or in the Timeline window by choosing Clip > Speed from the title bar. You can change speed visually in the Timeline window by using the rate stretch tool to drag either end of the clip. A 3-point edit can also change the speed of a clip.
Altering clip duration: The duration of a clip is the length of time it plays—from its In point to its Out point. The initial duration of a clip is the same as it was when the clip was captured or imported; if you alter the source In and Out points, the duration of the clip changes. In Adobe Premiere, you can edit In and Out points in the Project window, the Monitor window, or directly in the Timeline. You can change duration numerically in the Project window or in the Timeline window by choosing Clip > Duration from the title bar. You can change duration visually in the Timeline by dragging either end of the clip with the selection tool. It’s important to note that when you perform any action that extends the duration of a clip (which may include ripple or rolling edits) additional frames must be available in the source clip (the clip you originally captured or imported) before the current In point and/or after the current Out point. This is why it’s a good practice, whenever possible, to capture extra material.
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Ripple edit: A ripple edit changes the duration of a clip, correspondingly changing the duration of the entire program. When you use the ripple edit tool to shorten or lengthen a clip by dragging its beginning or ending in the Timeline, the adjacent clip is not affected and, consequently, the duration of the program is shortened or lengthened.
Rolling edit: A rolling edit changes the duration of the selected clip and of an adjacent clip, maintaining the overall duration of the program. When you use the rolling edit tool to shorten or lengthen a clip by dragging its beginning or ending in the Timeline, the adjacent clip will be correspondingly lengthened or shortened, maintaining the overall program duration.
Slip edit: A slip edit shifts the In and Out points of a clip without changing the clip’s duration, without affecting adjacent clips, and without altering the overall program duration. You can use the slip edit tool in the Timeline to drag a clip left or right, and its In and Out points will shift accordingly. In other words, a slip edit alters which specific portion of the source clip is included, but does not alter the duration of the selection. The slip edit is extremely useful for when you slap a bunch of clips down quickly, then plan to go back and fine tune later, but do not want to mess up the pacing and edit points downstream.
Slide edit: A slide edit preserves the duration of a clip and of the overall program by changing the Out point of the preceding clip and the In point of the following clip. When you use the slide edit tool, sliding an entire clip forward or backward in the Timeline, the adjacent clips are correspondingly lengthened and/or shortened by the same number of frames, therefore, the duration of the program stays the same. A slide edit affects three clips: the clip being slid (the duration of which stays the same), as well as the two clips before and after the
slid clip (the durations of which are both altered). The overall program duration is maintained. Three-point edits: When you are lifting and replacing footage in a video program, four points must be specified. Those four are the In and Out points of the source clip (“what segment are you taking”) and the In and Out points for the program (“where are you putting it”). With three-point editing in Adobe Premiere, you need only specify any three of these four In and Out points. The software then automatically calculates the fourth point to ensure a proper edit, and even will adjust the speed of the clip to fill a gap if you like. Monitor Window controls and keyboard short-cuts make threepoint editing quick and easy in Adobe Premiere.
Four-point edits: A four-point edit is useful when the starting and ending frames in both the source and program are critical. In a fourpoint edit, you mark all four points. If the durations are different for the marked clips, Adobe Premiere alerts you to the discrepancy and provides alternatives to resolve it.
Six-point edits: More commonly called a split edit, in a six-point edit, a clip’s video and audio start or end at different times. In one version of a split edit, called an L-cut, the audio Out point is later than the video Out point, so the audio continues to play after the beginning of the next clip appears. The audio from a concert, for example, could extend into the next shot of a nature scene. Another kind of split edit is the J-cut, also known as an audio lead, which you use when you want a clip’s audio to begin playing before the corresponding video appears. For example, you may want to begin hearing a speaker’s voice while showing a relevant scene, then transition to the shot of the person speaking.
enhance, and manipulate layers using a wide array of effects plug-ins; categories include Blur& Sharpen, Channel manipulation, Distortion, Keying, Perspective, Render, Stylize, and Transition. On the opposite page (in the box) are just a few examples of some of the newest visual effects included in Adobe After Effects. Using Expressions Use the Active Camera view (top) to arrange footage, and then adjust the position of layers in space using a Custom View (bottom). Here, the path of the animated camera is visible
Define lights to illuminate layers in 3D space: Create as many lights as you need, and then adjust and animate each light’s properties, controlling its illumination and color, as well as the shadow it casts. For example, spot lights provide dramatic lighting effects by pointing a cone of light at the point you define. Control how layers interact with light sources: Specify material properties that define how a light affects the surface of a layer, as well as how layers interact with lights. You can define and animate Ambient, Diffusion, Specular, and Shininess values. Animate 3D layer properties: Whether you’re working with 3D layers, lights, or cameras, you can animate numerous properties—such as position, rotation, and orientation—to create a wide range of effects. You can also automatically orient 3D layers towards a camera, or animate lights and cameras along a path or towards a point of interest you define. Adding Effects Adobe After Effects delivers powerful, precise tools for creating a limitless
range of visual and audio effects— from the most utilitarian color correction and audio sweetening tools to extremely sophisticated distortion and time remapping features. You can expand your effects toolkit even further with numerous third-party plug-ins. Apply an unlimited number of effects to every layer, and animate every control. Save your most frequently used effects (including keyframes) as Favorites, which you can apply instantly and share with colleagues. Audio Support: Adobe After Effects delivers comprehensive audioprocessing and effects capabilities. For example, you can synchronize animation elements to audio amplitude and drive video effects using audio data. In addition to applying audio effects to your footage, you can also change the volume levels of audio layers, preview them at a specified quality, and identify and mark locations. Use the convenient Audio palette to set the volume levels of an audio level, or use the Timeline window to view the waveform values and apply time remapping. Visual Excitement: You can stylize,
With the expressions feature, After Effects offers support for creating arbitrary relationships between parameters. This allows you to create procedural-type animations without using keyframes. With expressions, you can create a live relationship between the behavior of one property in a composition and the behavior of almost any other property on any other layer—opening up an infinite number of animation possibilities. And while expressions are exceptionally powerful, they’re also easy enough to use that any user can put them to work right away. The most straightforward expressions link one property’s behavior to that of another within the same composition. For example, the opacity of one layer could be tied to the scale of another so that as one layer increases in size, the opacity of the other increases. Or the tracking of path text could be linked to the rotation of another layer, so that the text tracks more tightly as the layer rotates in one direction, then tracks more loosely as it rotates back. To create these types of expressions, simply drag the expression pick whip from the property that is to be animated to the property that the animation will be based on—and voila! After Effects automatically creates the expression for you. You can even drag the pick
In this example, an expression is used to tie a directional blur effect to text tracking. Documentary Today 63
New Visual Effects available in Adobe After Effects
Shatter: Extrude a layer and then demolish it in a variety of ways. Animate a force point to create a shock wave moving through a layer, or explode layers into puzzle pieces, glass shards, and more.
Radio Waves: Create radio waves, pond ripples, and other effects that use a repeating shape emitted from a single point. Choose between Polygon waves (perfect for producing stars, spirograph patterns, and other regular geometric shapes), waves based on user-drawn masks, or wave shapes based on the contours of an image. There are dozens of other properties to animate as well, from selecting the point from which waves emit to frequency, duration, color, opacity, and much more. Even choose to reflect the waves off the edges of the layer to create realistic looking waves.
Vegas: Outline elements with casino-style running lights, flashing pulses, and other path-based effects—around any object. Control everything from the stroke width to the length and spacing of light segments.
Inner/Outer Key (Production Bundle only): Extract an object from its background to create accurate keys more easily. One mask or path defines the inside of the object and another identifies the background: using this information, After Effects automatically extracts the foreground element.
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whip between the Timeline and Effect Controls windows.
Japanese documentary on Indian magic Japanese director Shota Fujimoto and cinematographer Hirotatsu Kimagai from NHK, Japan’s national public broadcasting corporation, shot in Kerala for a 30-minute documentary on how an Indian youngster from a middle-class family overcomes the challenges of life by making the right choices. The documentary will be aired on NHK in the slot titled ‘Asian Smiles’ which features inspiring stories from 20 Asian countries.. Director Fujimoto hopes the film will inspire heavilystressed Japanese youth to overcome their frustrations.
Hey, Harry Potter fans and fans of Harry Potter fans: in anticipation of spending some time with Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, don’t overlook a wonderful documentary called We Are Wizards, in which you will meet and follow a diverse group of extraordinarily enterprising ‘muggles’ who’ve turned their Harry Potter passions into professions. In We Are Wizards, we see that J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter franchise has spawned not only books, movies and merchandise, but an entire subgenre of creativity, as well. Ardent Harry Potter fans have transformed their love for the young hero into ongoing hobbies, some of which are rapidly developing into ongoing careers. In case you haven’t heard it or heard about it, a musical genre called Wizard Rock is the raging fad with Harry Potter fans. The music is made by Harry Potter fans, for Harry Potter fans, and its about, yes, you guessed it, Harry Potter and his adventures as he grows
up and negotiates rough times in the magical world. Garage bands named ‘Harry and the Potters’ and ‘Draco and the Malfoys’ are so popular they’re well on their way to becoming full on professionals-and might, at some point, do band battle in much the same way that Harry and Draco compete in the Quidditch World Cup. Harry Potter has also inspired one young women to take up the issue of fan rights, organizing Potter bloggers to fight against Warner Bros. to be able to use Potter names, images, trivia and other information when they write and create Potter-related art. We Are Wizards showcases some of the bands, profiles other fanbased enterprises, letting you know the extent of Harry Potter’s influence on American youth. The books have clearly inspired them and fired up their imaginations. The film will fire up yours. It’s got tremendous charm and is really a lot of fun. You’ll want to re-watch all the Harry Potter movies or reread the books, and join in the fanfare. Documentary Today 65
Smt. Ambika Soni
is sworn in as Minister for Information & Broadcasting by Her Excellency
President of India.
Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil
66 Documentary Today
Documentary Today is a quarterly journal published by Films Division for Indian documentary makers who wish to keep in touch with the state...