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Rotterdam 2010 Diary: Indian Shorts

By Editorial Team • Published on February 6, 2010

Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni s short film, Gaarud (The Spell) is an exercise in panoramic realism, the kind that will remind you of Bela Tarr, this time with a deft and grounded passion concern for its subject matter. It is a collective portrait of city tenement dwellers whose lives seem to bring a thread of underclass despair. But this despair is depicted by Kulkarni as if it is a single, connected tapestry of lives that rarely unfold to a single observer. As we connect them together, what emerges is an experience in social critique made possible by cinematic suture of issues and images. In eleven minutes, the film demonstrates the singular strength of short film, eloquence in brevity. This is never easy and the category of short film completion is an excellent example of the strength of the short film form. The film was in Tiger Awards competition.  

Shambhavi Kaul s Scene 32 is an experimental film. In 5 minutes Kaul, who lives in the U. S., takes the viewer to the salt desert of Western Kutch to bring on the screen their materiality. Kaul uses hiDef video and self processed 16 mm film to transform the geologically unique landscape into cinematic textures, in their optical materiality. Kaul says that she “deliberately used two mediums (film/digital) to explore how they may represent the same landscape differently.  The desert landscape, the light that embraces it and the little moisture which devours it all become participants in transforming the geology into layers and levels of textures, images and spaces. Kaul moves the experience of the desert from essentialism to its entire universe, the sound, the wind and the light race with each other. It is an exemplary experimental film that brings the distinct landscape of the salt desert into cinematic world.  

Kutch appears in another short film from an Indian filmmaker. Nina Sabnani, who has already accomplished much as a filmmaker, writer and scholar in visual culture portrays the work of the women artists in Kutch in Tanko bole chhe  (The Stiches Speak). Her equally unforgettable 12 minute short is a work of art in itself. She has taken the work of artists, specifically from Kala Raksha and animated to speak for the story of women, their migration, their support and their embrace of the work that has characterized the region and communities. As the stitches speak, so do the cut outs and characters made by Sabnani. There are layers of meaning here, never to be emptied out in one screening. The film is a tribute to the women artisans of Kutch as much as to Sabnani and the art of animation which never ceases to find newer expressions.

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