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Four student films to be showcased at 5th Urban Lens Film Festival


Jamnapaar, Bismaar Ghar, Facing The Sun, and Still City will be screened at the festival, held in New Delhi from 16 November 2018.

Sonal Pandya

The second part of the 5th edition of the Urban Lens Film Festival begins in New Delhi today (16 November). It will screen over 25 films from countries like Brazil, China, Ukraine and of course, India. The festival also gives significant space to student filmmakers by screening award-winning films from institutes like National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad and the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication.

The four student shorts — Jamnapaar, Bismaar Ghar, Facing The Sun, and Still City — are vastly different from each other but all show an unexplored aspect of daily life that we are have not yet trained our lens to. The first two shorts have won accolades for their makers Abhinava Bhattacharyya and Shreyas Dasharathe, respectively.

Here’s what to expect from the promising shorts being screened in New Delhi over this weekend.

Jamnapaar

Abhinava Bhattacharyya’s 24-minute short documentary Jamnapaar, made as part of the creative documentary course at his institute, takes us to the banks of the Yamuna river, a tributary of the Ganges in northern India. Sadly, it is known as one of the most polluted rivers in India. At one point in time, one could see through the clear river, but not any more.

Bhattacharyya uses unconventional methods to tell his story of those who inhabit the riverbanks and have no choice but to use the polluted river every day. He employs extreme close-ups and only the audio of the young boy, Chetan, the documentary chooses to feature, keeping out the visuals. The visuals are often presented in a dream, as behind closed eyelids.

Jamnapaar also features Puran Khalifa, who has been living by the Yamuna for 40 years, working as a diver for a few months and operating a tea-stall during the rest of the months. He laments on the deteriorating condition of the once mighty river with heart-breaking honesty.

Bismaar Ghar (Withering House)

Another award-winning documentary short, directed by Shreyas Dasharathe, examines three senior citizens who have inhabit a 100-year-old house in Ahmedabad since the past 20 years. The aged home comes with its set of problems, of space and lack of modern amenities, making it harder for its residents — Maheshbhai, Tarunaben, and Ganpatbhai. It’s not as adequate for them any more. However, it’s all they’ve known for most of their lives.

The documentary showcases their eventual move to a brand new flat under the housing scheme initiated by the prime minister. It tracks their urbanisation from old to modern Ahmedabad that comes with an easing of certain problems, but brings up more questions and issues as well.

Facing The Sun

Independent filmmaker Jordan Hardy’s short film in Mandarin, a little over seven minutes, focuses on a few intense voicemails left by a young Chinese man, Sheng (voiced by Chen Yu), to the father who abandoned him when he was a child.

The now-grown Sheng attempts to reconnect with his estranged father, after experiencing love and heartbreak himself. Perhaps, he hopes to gain some insight and paternal advice from him. The short quietly shows through audio and visuals, the growing loneliness of one man in a city of millions.

Hardy uses Beijing, with its old lanes and sprawling skyscrapers to highlight the changes within the city itself and its current modernization. Written and directed by Hardy, Facing The Sun, gives a peek into the plights of the city dwellers who are often away from family in a quiet but crisp manner.

Still City

The 25-minute short documentary, made by a group of friends and aspiring photographers themselves (Madhumoy Satpathy, Mrudula Ravi, Sayan Bhattacharjee, Sukrita Baruah and Vilo Awomi), narrates the ever-changing story of Mumbai through pictures, especially using street photography. It begins with an emerging trend, photo-walks where groups of amateur photographs gather to learn about photography in the iconic lanes of Mumbai — from Chor Bazaar to Crawford Market.

Besides location, the short also brings up the question of permission, of clicking pictures of those you don't know. Most street shopkeepers have a blasé attitude towards the wave of photographers who show up — "First, the foreigners came, now the Indians come," they say. While others decline to have their image used for various reasons.

The documentary short asks why these photographers are turning the lens on the lower strata of Mumbai and speaks with some of the participants of one photo-walk in Chor Bazaar and with professional photographers as well. Of course, in the age of social media, the documentary also looks at how these photographs are then used on platforms like Instagram where every image is mined for likes. One of the filmmakers, a young woman, shares her experience of how her privilege plays a part in who and what she decides to turn her lens to.

The 5th Urban Lens Film Festival is being held in New Delhi from 16 to 18 November. The first part of the festival was held in Bengaluru on 20 to 23 September this year.

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