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Published on: July 30, 2021, 12:55 p.m.
Presenting diverse cultures
  • Cinema includes tradition, history, local literature and any sort of idea or way of living

By Lancelot Joseph. Executive Editor, Business India

In July 2021, Culture Cinema 2021, a concept-based film festival that aims at celebrating world cultures via cinema, was held for Indian and global audiences. It has hit the scene, supported by UNESCO’s New Delhi Office, CIFEJ, and JLF Litfest, among others. 

“We organised this unique film festival, which aims to celebrate world cultures via cinema,” explains Praveen Nagda, festival director, Culture Cinema 2021. “Every country has its own culture, which binds people together. Having a platform that allows filmmakers an opportunity to tell the story about their diverse cultural aspects to the world is a wonderful thing. We want to explore the potential of culture to bring prosperity, development, and peaceful co-existence using cinema as a medium. Cinema has always been a great medium of expression and this festival aims to become a preferred platform to explore world cultures through cinema.” The theme for this festival was prosperity, development and peaceful co-existence via cinema.

As many as 74 films, coming from 21 countries, have been selected for this festival, of which, 42 films fall under the competition section and 32 films under the non-competition section. A unique category of super shorts was introduced under the non-competition section.

The film festival is running online at CultureCinema.MovieSaints.com, where the official selection films will be available till 16 August 2021, in the virtual edition. Two films, Kanda Bode (Don’t get whipped), directed by Fekad Kiros and Cheryl Halpern from Africa, and Sindhustan, directed by Sapna Bhavnani from India, shared the top prize of $1,000 at the premiere edition of Culture Cinema Film Festival (C2F2) this year, as also the festival’s top award of ‘Film of the Festival.’

There was also a special award by the jury, which was shared by two films – I am a black sculptor (directed by Robin van Erven Dorens) from the Netherlands and Cumbia around the world (directed by Pablo Ignacio Coronel). Besides, 15 films received ‘Best in Category’ awards for their remarkable cinematic representation in 14 categories of cultural aspects. 

 Stimulating talks 

Culture Cinema 2021 had a great jury mix of acclaimed filmmakers, directors, writers and cinema educators from across the globe. Jury members include Archana Kelkar Deshmukh, Jitendra Mishra, Monarose Sheila Pereira, Ramesh Tekwani, Ritesh Taksande, Vinod Ganatra and Vedakumar Manikonda from India, Gabriele Brennen from France and Theodora Malliarou from Greece.

The festival saw a lot of intellectually stimulating talks by well-known authors, Bollywood personalities, filmmakers and OOT professionals. Several academicians also participated in these discussions. Sanjoy Roy, founder, Teamwork Arts, moderated a panel discussion on ‘The Impact of Cinema’ on the culture and ethos of India, with eminent speakers like Nasreen Munni Kabir (author, director/producer of documentaries), Vikas Swarup (author), Adil Hussain (actor) and Nandita Das (actor, director & writer).

Ashish S Kulkarni, chairman, AVGC, FICCI & founder, Punnaryug Artvision, moderated a panel discussion on animation storytelling, with speakers like Munjal Shroff of Graphiti Multimedia; Chetan Sharma of Animagic India; Vaibhav Kumaresh of Vaibhav Studios; and Ravishankar Venkateswaran, director of Punyakoti; participating. Also, various activities from CIFEJ (such as a workshop by Ema Pendiuc, member, CIFEJ & founder, School of Film & Television for Children in Romania and a panel discussion by Firdoze Bulbulia, festival director, Nelson Mandela Children’s Film Festival Special) were conducted. There was also a special preview of Human O.A.K., an Indo-Italian co-production of Jitendra Mishra, acclaimed filmmaker & president, CIFEJ.

“I think it’s going to have a long history, because there are few places where these kinds of festivals have been done,” said Kulkarni. “Such film festivals are important, because they not only introduce you to various cultures in the world, but also the various ways of thinking and the ways of presentation, while giving you insights into how peaceful co-existence can really happen. I believe even economic activities can be enhanced through the mixing of cultural values and ethos that people have. People also learn the art of self-motivation because of cultural values. And, I think that’s the best way to bring people out of tough times.”

“The UN-declared World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue & Development recognised the potential of culture as a means to achieve sustainable development, peaceful co-existence and also international co-operation,” observes Eric Falt, director, New Delhi Office, UNESCO. “The power and capacity of cinema to bring culture to the main stage and to introduce the audience to many different perspectives from across the globe is crucial in terms of building values of intercultural dialogue, inclusion, pluralism, social cohesion, and what we call in the UNESCO parlance, global citizenship”.

“Young people today are pre-occupied with the larger themes of sexuality, migration, identity and the very essence of being, which is why much of the series you see today across the OTT platforms are getting enormous audiences,” adds Sanjoy Roy, founder, Teamwork Arts. “Indian cinema’s impact on Indian society earlier was defined by, say, Amar Akbar Anthony, for everything that it represented. Today, it’s a more unipolar look at what is possible and what is not. That seems to be defining the new language the cinema is pursuing.”

 Changing and evolving 

“India is constantly changing and evolving in so many different ways,” says Nandita Das, actor, director & writer. “And, it is impacting cinema, which is narrowing the differences. Even what we call alternate film or parallel cinema is now getting mainstream. If art is not allowed to have the freedom to speak its mind, it doesn’t mean you have to agree or disagree. But you know then obviously that it is going to take a beating, because that means anything that is a little bit risqué or anything that question the status quo is not going to find a voice. Then you homogenise or make it more mainstream.”

“Cinema in general has been a prism through which we look at other cultures,” points out Vikas Swarup, author & former senior bureaucrat, who wrote Slumdog Millionaire. “And other cultures look at us. I think it’s important that our films reflect the diversity, which is the staple of India and which is what India is known for. I think that is the best way to promote creativity, because only when you have diverse voices speaking out can you select the voices that, you think, appeal to you the most”.

“This is the most powerful medium to educate, to entertain, to empower, and to engage the audience,” emphasises Jitendra Mishra, president, CIFEJ. “And if we can portray our culture, our art, our heritage, and values through cinema, I think that will be fantastic.”

“The commonality of issues that people have across nations can be portrayed through cinema,” observes Ujjwal K. Chowdhury, professor & pro-vice-chancellor, Adamas University. “And that encourages global citizenship. Reflecting certain cultural aspects is critical to cinema, because cinema influences culture and vice-versa. Cinema can help and protect the ethos and culture of different societies in different times.”

“Cinema is something we all work in but culture is more of a broad topic,” comments Sean Cisterna, Mythic Productions. “It includes tradition, history, local literature and any sort of idea or way of living – how people of a certain culture live their lives, etc. And, this is a unique way to experience what other people from around the world feel, how they share that through cinema.”

“Good stories made with honest intentions to portray characters and their realities have a universal appeal,” contends Aparna Acharekar, senior OTT professional, who moderated a discussion on Indian OTT Stories Travelling the World. “The OTT panel reaffirmed that this truth was all the more pronounced on this medium, as viewers binge-watch for over four to five hours, if the characters engross them. Initiatives like Culture Cinema bring together top minds from the industry for meaningful discussions.”

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