[I]t has been a couple of days since I returned from my pilgrimage-like trip to the 9th Bring Your Own Film Festival at Puri, Odisha. Sea and cinema makes a deadly potion, whose hangover ensures that for the rest of my life, I’ll be in Puri every second last week of February. Add to that a bunch of crazy, carefree people who are singing, laughing and hooting away to glory for no apparent reason, for five days at a stretch, in a world that can’t stop counting fingers. Good food, cheap alcohol, legal grass and a free beach on which musicians, poets, filmmakers, painters, sculptors, dancers let go of all that is tangible and release their medium of expression. Puri turns paradise indeed, as my imageries of the Beat Generation come alive.
As wild as it sounds, the 9th BYOFF was inaugurated by the bearded filmmakers present at the venue, followed by the homage-paying film ‘Duvidha’ from Mani Kaul, who goes down in history as India’s most original filmmaker. Fatih Akin’s documentary on the music of Istanbul, a short film from an NRI teenager, Amlan Datta’s NHK Japan co-funded documentary ‘Bom’ and a large number of foreign tourists amidst the audience continued to give the festival an international impression like previous years, while things managed to retain their extremely informal nature at the core of it all. True to its name, anybody can bring any film to this unusual film festival.
For example, one of the faithful regulars of BYOFF, Viraj Singh screened a wedding video he had made for his cousin, and followed it up by ‘Silent Snow’ an internationally acclaimed documentary on global pollution which he had been cinematographer to. Digvijay Mallah from Ooty; Tamali and Prasenjit from Kolkata and many such first-time filmmakers showed their maiden efforts on the same screen where winning films of a national competition like The 48 Hour Project were screened a couple of nights later. ‘Takashi Deke’, ‘One Such Bedtime Story’, ‘2b not 2b’, ‘Mother India Father Surf’ and ‘Inside The Nucleus’ are some of the other delights I’ll remember for a long time to come.
While Amlan Datta’s ‘Bom’ and his brother Anirban’s ‘Wasted’ received repeated applause from the audience, Hemant Gaba’s ‘Shuttlecock Boys’ and his friend Pankaj Johar’s ’Still Standing’ stirred the viewers into an inspiration-struck silence. Anant Raina’s interesting teasers of his upcoming documentaries, KJ Siju’s film on domestic violence, Shan Bhattacharya’s dramatic short ‘Anniversary’, Saif Kidwai’s funny ‘Delhi NCR ki folkore’, Lokiish Todi’s viral short films and various other films of various genres contributed to the kaleidoscope that the BYOFF schedule was. Anamitra Roy, the founder-curator of a no-budget filmmaking forum called Little Fish Eat Big Fish and his friends brought their annual compilation of no-budget films. He also launched therein a campaign for his next project: curiously called The One-Rupee Film, which he assures, will be a by-the-crowd-for-the-crowd film.
The open stage at this year’s BYOFF upheld the cultural tradition with an unbelievably beautiful performance of the Gotipua dance form, presented by six young local boys dressed as female dancers. Some acclaimed musicians entranced the audience on their violin, tabla and the sarangi.Singer-songwriter Harpreet Singh from Delhi entertained and enchanted everyone on all the five days and gifted the festival an anthem song on the last day, penned overnight by his friend Anant.Impromptu performances enlivened all gathered while Bagula Bhagat’s Electronica Therapy massaged our minds as promised.
Gurpal Singh makes this congregation plausible and devoted BYOFFians propel him to. The enthusiasm doesn’t end. The men at the venue Hotel Pink House befriend all those who attend the festival and the students of the Biju Patnaik Film and TV Institute volunteer all their help for the technical nitty-gritties of the screenings. As this bizarre beach festival of films looks forward to its tenth edition next year, my mental list of the nameless people who selflessly serve the difficult cause of freedom for five days a year keeps increasing. So does the number of voices that scream ‘BhadaasDho!’ during the closing campfire.
Twish Mukherjee is a filmmaker from Kolkata