From Tacita Dean to Francesco Casetti, via Chris Marker and Agnès Varda

Philadelphia area is in going through the lucky fortunes of three important cinema events. The moment is significant for both cinephiles and film scholars.

Sexy Durga (2016), Sanal Kumar Sasidharan- IFFLA 2017

When a filmmaker takes liberties with his craft and takes a leap to experiment new modes of story-telling and image-making, we ought to pause and pay attention. Independent cinema retains its verve because there are filmmakers who stretch the limits of the conventions, often without regard to the established codes or with the desire to survive in safety. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s Sexy Durga tests the mettle of the film viewer to see if we are willing to take the risks to watch how a director unwraps the mysteries of story-telling, while he also unravels his cinematic palette.

Ananya Kasaravalli’s Harikatha Prasanga/Chronicles of Hari (2016)- IFFLA 2017

This is a simple and elegant film, made with the creative dexterity of a talented director. It is also a film about theater, history of performance, and about gender identity. There are many strengths of this film; the closer you get to it, the more there is to discover.

Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Pinneyum-Once Again (2016)– IFFLA 2017

A new film from Adoor Gopalakrishnan after absence of nearly eight years is welcome news to anyone in Indian cinema. A lot has changed for the doyen of Malayalam cinema; digital technology has taken hold and neoliberalism has shaped the middle class even in rural areas.

Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Death in the Gunj (2016)– IFFLA 2017

The setting of the story is a familiar one. A family goes on a visit with grandparents to welcome the New Year. Their friends join in too and slowly the fabric of their relationships unravels until it reaches a critical crisis. This is director Konkona Sen Sharma’s first film, based on a story told by her father, writer Mukul Sharma.

Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016)–IFFLA 2017

This year’s IFFLA programming boasts of a number of women filmmakers: Konkona Sen Sharma, Ananya Kasaravalli, and Alankrita Shrivastava, Bobby Sharma Barua, Shirley Abraham, and Sonejuhi Sinha. It is a rare, celebratory, and well-deserved programming accomplishment, a tribute to the unseen but vibrant part of Indian cinema.

Kothanodi/The River of Fables: an exercise in magic and the occult! IFFLA 2016

Bhaskar Hazarika’s debut feature received funding from Busan’s The Asian Cinema Fund and premiered at the BIFF in October 2015. The film is an important event for Assamese cinema, which remains less visible on the landscape of multiple language cinemas in India.

Vetri Maaran’s Visaaranai (Interrogation): Popular Cinema of Intervention- IFFLA 2016

I have been watching police thrillers made by John Woo and Johnnie To for a while now. They have reinvigorated the police-crime dramas by instilling into them a cinematic style and finesse of mise-en-scène. They inspire filmmakers from around the world, Martin Scorsese among them.

Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair’s Ottaal (The Trap): Tragic, Wise, and Dignified! IFFLA 2016

Anton Chekhov’s short story, Vanka, is a memorable portrait of an orphan who longs to return to his grandfather and the early days of childhood. Nine-year old Vanka finds cruelty in the labor for a local shoemaker. The trappings of Moscow appear to him too cold and inhuman.

Island City: A Prelude to a Future We’ve Already Lived Through!

Ruchika Oberoi’s debut feature is a three part anthology, a bold move that broadens the palette to portray the deep seated alienation and schizophrenia of life in Bombay. In varying style and narratives, she deepens the pain of the prosperous future we see and the suffering that never leaves us.

Anup Singh’s Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost (2013)

One of the earlier passages of Walter Benjamin’s elegiac meditation on the art of storytelling captures the essence of the cherished art form.   The fourth “stanza” of that piece begins with an observation: “An orientation toward practical interests is characteristic of many born storytellers.”

True Love Story (2014), Gitanjali Rao- L. A. Premiere, IFFLA-Apr. 10. 2015

I watched Gitanjali Rao’s Printed Rainbow (2006), in India when it was just released in Cannes, winning Best Short Film Award in Critics Week. It was a stunning discovery of a film and an artist. The film is not merely a masterpiece in painted image, propelling an entirely new aesthetic and bright new parameters for animation.