74th Cannes Film Festival: Seven South Asian films seek a break – The New Indian Express
NEW DELHI: Six documentaries in under-production and one South Asian feature-length fiction film in full production are seeking production and distribution breakthroughs in pitching and mentoring sessions coinciding with the 74th Cannes Film Festival.
“Eka (Solo),” the feature debut of Kolkata-born, Mumbai-based Suman Sen, is in La Fabrique Cinema, a French Institute-sponsored mentorship program for young directors.
“We are only a draft away from filming. If the pandemic situation permits, we will start filming in mid-2022,” says Sen, who has worked in the advertising industry for 15 years. “The film reflects the times I have lived in for the past two years: a time of hatred, intolerance and violence,” Sen says.
“Eka” revolves around a large statue of “the common man” about to be officially unveiled in Kolkata. A diabetic insurance agent, a man on the verge of retirement, seethes with the city’s economic, political and cultural failures.
To register his protest, he stands motionless in front of the mammoth statue. His act of defiance sparks a global movement. “I have a love-hate relationship with Kolkata. I wanted to distance myself from the city I grew up in and see it objectively. Moving to Mumbai gave me a new reflective lens to view Kolkata,” Sen explains, who moved to the financial capital of India five years ago.
“Eka”, an Indo-Bangladeshi-French venture backed by Arifur Rahman of Goopy Bagha Productions, is one of 10 La Fabrique Cinema projects.
Another South Asian selection from La Fabrique is the documentary ‘Kabul Melody’ by award-winning Afghan filmmaker Sahra Mani, about two teenage girls facing family opposition and threats from the Taliban as they pursue their passion for music. .
In her statement of purpose, Mani, who directed the acclaimed ‘A Thousand Girls Like Me’ (2018), says, “To be a filmmaker in Afghanistan is to be a social activist. Still, with ‘Kabul Melody’ , I want to show the hope and emergence of agency among women that will shape the future of Afghanistan.
A quartet of South Asian documentaries – one each from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India and Nepal – are in the running for the docs-in-progress awards at Cannes Docs 2021. These projects, all in advanced stages of production , are presented by the International Film Initiative of Bangladesh.
Among the four is “Thirteen Destinations of a Traveler”, a film by Kolkata-based Partha Das.
It intertwines two journeys: one by thousands of Sufi pilgrims who travel miles and days to proclaim their love for humanity, the other by a disabled and marginalized Muslim struggling against physical barriers and social prejudices to the pursuit of happiness.
“Thirteen Destinations of a Traveler”, Das’ first feature documentary, is jointly produced by Mokhalesur Rahman Talukdar from Bangladesh and Soumya Mukhopadhyay from India.
The other three South Asian films in Cannes Docs 2021 are Hezbullah Sultani’s “Birds Street,” on a narrow Kabul alley lined with shops selling birds; “Munni” by Tahrima Khan, which features the work of a former victim of child marriage who launches an all-girls sports academy in Bangladesh; and Subina Shrestha’s “Devi”, the story of a former Nepalese guerrilla fighter and survivor of wartime rape who is now fighting for her compatriots.
Another Nepalese documentary, “No Winter Holidays” by Rajan Kathet and Sunir Pandey, is one of five HAF Goes to Cannes projects. The Hong Kong Asian Film Financing Forum (HAF) is an initiative that helps a new generation of filmmakers access funding, co-production deals and marketing support globally.
The logline of “No Winter Holidays”, a Nepalese-South Korean co-production, reads: “Once married to the same man, two women over 70 must forget the past and work together to care for each other. an empty, snow-covered village through the winter.”