tv & movies

Lens on the city: films with a distinct take on urban life

Films from 10 countries, each with a distinct take on urban life

The hustling, bustling, criss-crossing lines of the Delhi Metro become a heady metaphor for the life of trans-man Anshuman Chauhan, who we encounter in a probing new documentary Please Mind The Gap.

Directors Mitali Trivedi and Gagandeep Singh, in under 20 minutes, subtly demonstrate how his identity and vulnerability play out in daily journeys in the metro, and how he navigates interactions with co-passengers, security staff and travel companions. He hops into the ladies coach just as the train is about to pull out of the station and then slips into the unisex coach with relative ease, but there is also a layer of violent experiences that becomes part of this journey.

Please Mind The Gap was one of the many insightful films in this year’s lineup at the Urban Lens Film Festival, the fifth edition hosted by The Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) in New Delhi. A short version will travel to Mumbai on December 7 and 8.

The festival featured 25 films from 10 countries, including India, Brazil, China, Iran, Spain, Mozambique and Ukraine, tracking the stories of urbanisation, each with a distinct trajectory. “Films lend themselves to different readings at different times, and each film addresses not just one, but several themes, so we were trying to get a variety of films to speak to each other,” explained Subasri Krishnan, lead, IIHS Media Lab and independent filmmaker.

Public lectures

There were two public lectures at the festival, ‘The Cinematic Slum’ by Ranjani Mazumdar and ‘City on the Water’ — which actually wasn’t on film but on photography in the city — by Ritesh Uttamchandani. Another session, ‘On Practice’ with Sameera Jain, reflected on film pedagogy and practice. The effort was to “open the festival to different kinds of conversation,” Krishnan said. Under the umbrella of urban spaces and the people that inhabit them, multiple complex themes came to the fore — music, technology, loneliness, gender issues and caste politics.

The festival featured fiction, non-fiction, animation and experimental films, made over the last 60 years. Chidananda Dasgupta’s 1961 documentary Portrait of the City which captures the essence of a ticking city in a series of black and white frames and shows you just how much has changed, and also how much remains the same. Rooted firmly in the present, the four-minute Spanish film, Lovearthcam by Aitor Marín Correcher dips into a very short new-age love story seen through a webcam placed in Times Square, New York.

In love with trash

Another recent film, Squeeze Lime in Your eye by Avijit Mukul Kishore delves into the quirky body of work of artist Kausik Mukhopadhyay and his special love for discarded household objects with which he consistently turns artistic conformity on its head, teasing viewers to engage with art objects on several levels.

Another short, Saman Hosseinpuor’s The Last Embrace from Iran gives us a little girl who wants to play, but her family is busy on various screens even as a major event unfolds. Among the stand out student films is Bismaar Ghar, a film about the occupants of a 100-year-old house in Ahmedabad moving to a new apartment, giving up a traditional structure for modern uniformity.

Feminist historian Uma Chakravarti’s Ek Inquilab Aur Aaya is the story of the 17th century Firangi Mahal in Lucknow, an institution for rationalist Islamic scholarship and two revolutionary women. Weaving by Yang Wang is about China’s changing family dynamic in an increasingly materialistic society, and As Time Goes by in Shanghai by Uli Gaulke about the Peace Old Jazz Band and its eventful journey over the decades.

How does Urban Lens create a niche for itself in the larger festival circuit? By mining an always-relevant and dynamic theme but not being confined by it. “It’s a lens through which we see the world, but it is not only about the city,” said Krishnan.

The freelance journalist is a lover of cakes, chai, bookshops and good yarns.

Source: Read Full Article