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Must-watch films at the Open Frame festival 2018


As the Open Frame Film Festival starts in the capital, we bring you a list of documentaries that are not to be missed.

A still from Feras Fayyad's film, Last Men In Aleppo

Sukhpreet Kahlon

The 18th Open Frame Film Festival, organized by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT), will be held from 10-18 September at the India International Centre, New Delhi.

With an exciting line-up of new voices, films, conversations and workshops, the festival offers an array of films and events in its packed programme which celebrates diverse stories and their courageous telling. 

The films engage with a range of concerns from the relevance and value of traditional wisdom, conversations on death and dying, and the magic of music, sound, creation and innovation to sports as a means of finding freedom, the relationship among history, language and people, and the ways in which oral traditions, knowledge systems, and performance arts are preserved and sustained, among others. 

We bring you a list of must-watch documentaries from the festival.

KOOTHU 
Sandhya Kumar | 53 min | 2018

Koothu, a living theatre tradition from Tamil Nadu, brings to life stories about gods, demigods, kings and demons from Indian epics. During the festival season, many koothu companies tour the countryside, often commissioned by villages to perform for several consecutive nights. Despite its enduring rural popularity, because of its low-caste associations, koothu struggles to find place and patronage in urban art circles. The film delves into the art, aesthetics and politics surrounding koothu through the work of two masters, P Rajagopal and Sambandan Thambiran.

LAST MEN IN ALEPPO  
Feras Fayyad | 104 min | Denmark, Syria, Germany

After five years of war in Syria, the remaining citizens of Aleppo are getting ready for a siege. Through a portrait of volunteers from the White Helmets, we experience daily life, death and struggle in the streets of the city. They fight for sanity where war has become the norm. Khalid, Subhi and Mahmoud are among the first to enter destroyed buildings, scouring the rubble to look for bodies and survivors. They struggle with the same dilemma as other civilians: should they flee with their families to safety or should they stay and fight for their city?

The film has won numerous awards, including the World Cinema Grand Jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and received a nomination for Best Documentary at the 90th Academy Awards.

THE DEATH OF US
Vani Subramanian | 76 min | 2018

Women's rights activist and documentary filmmaker Vani Subramanian’s film is a quiet contemplation on a range of cases in which the death penalty was pronounced, ending in execution, commutation to life sentence, acquittal or even pardon. Speaking only to those who have been on death row or those closely involved with the cases, we engage in complex conversations on crime and punishment, revenge and justice, popular rhetoric and personal experiences. Only to find ourselves confronting larger ethical and moral questions across time and space.

ANTHROPOCENE RELOOKED 
Vipin Vijay | 54 min | 2018

The problems that the Anthropocene poses are those that have forever been at the heart of humanistic inquiry: what does life mean in the face of death? This is a video essay on the Ghoramara lowlying islands, disappearing quickly due to erosion and the rise in sea level — in the process, also documenting the disappearance of its grassroots imaginaries.

ZARA NAZAR UTHA KE DEKHO
Anindya Shankar Das | 24 min | 2018

The documentary juxtaposes personal narratives of cruising from the LGBTQ community, against diverse visuals of Indian public spaces, revealing different facets and complexities of urban cruising.

BREAKING THE CYCLE
Tomas Lindh | 58 min | Finland

A deputy warden from the world’s most humane maximum security prison, Halden in Norway, goes on a mission to change one of the most notorious prisons in the world — Attica Correctional Facility in New York State. Inmates describe the facility and atmosphere as predatory, aggressive and inhuman. How will the Nordic ideas about dialogue and humanity be received by the staff and inmates in Attica? What type of treatment would you, as a citizen, be okay with?

ONE MUSTARD SEED: ABOUT DEATH, AND DYING 
Aparna Sanyal | 41 min | 2018

National award-winning filmmaker Aparna Sanyal’s film delves into questions about death. Why do we have such a contentious relationship with the idea of dying? What keeps us from looking at death, or the dying, in the eye, from making peace with the process? The film wonders if the process of dying can become meaningful and if embracing our own mortality might be the key to a more fulfilling life.

PLEASE MIND THE GAP 
Mitali Trivedi and Gagandeep Singh | 21 min | 2018

Research scholar Mitali Trivedi and lawyer and theatre practitioner Gagandeep Singh examine what for many is the daily ritual of travelling by the Delhi Metro. Thousands board and alight from the Delhi Metro, encountering many faces, expressions, voices, bodies and odours, all of which narrate a distinct story. The film is a journey with one such passenger, Anshuman, reclaiming public space and his own self. 

MEGIDDO
Itzik Lerner | 52 min | United Kingdom, Israel

Israel’s most controversial series follows 1,000 Palestinians held at the Megiddo prison in northern Israel, where they are guarded by 300 Israeli wardens. Unprecedented access to Megiddo for a year and a half resulted in a series that documents the tense reality at the high-security facility and the complex relationship between the prisoners and wardens, and especially between Fatah and Hamas leaders in the prison and the commanders of the prison itself.

RANG MAHAL (COLOUR PALACE) 
Prantik Basu | 26 min | 2018

Until recent years, the Santhal tribe of eastern India did not have its own written language. Their stories and myths were preserved and passed on orally through the generations. Each narration has a different form, much like the rocks of a nearby hill that come in various hues. Never seen and only heard, a woman from the community narrates a tale about the origin of creation and how the first house was built. 

PEACOCK PLUME 
Shabnam Sukhdev | 51 min | 2018

A personal documentary celebrating Indian classical dancer Shubhada Varadkar's indomitable spirit as she wins her battle with cancer and overcomes heartbreak with the gift of her dance.

Related topics

Open Frame Film Festival