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Space for films

BYOFF is just two years old but it has provided a platform for young and serious filmmakers to screen films and exchange ideas, writes PRAFULLA DAS.

Bring Your Own Film Festival on the beaches of Puri, Orissa 16th to 20th Feb 2005.

THE second "Bring Your Own Film Festival" (BYOFF) on the Puri beach from February 16-20 brought together many promising filmmakers from different parts of the country.

Apart from showing their work to a large group of cinema lovers, the filmmakers had time to exchange views and experiences among themselves during this one-of-its-kind film festival.

Reality zone

Talking to Sekhar Das, Supriyo Sen and others, one realised that our young filmmakers are now filming more in the reality zone than in the fictional world. They seemed determined to depict the burning social problems in the country.

Most young filmmakers had a penchant for picking their characters from among the commoners to bring larger issues to light.

Sekhar's "Mahulbanir Sereng" (Songs of Mahulbani) was in the Indian panorama last year. The film, which has been to several festivals by now, was well appreciated by the audience at BYOFF. The 35 mm 137-minute film is fiction, but does not ignore facts. It is an attempt to understand the borderline between the village and the city, the urban and the tribal.

Tribal movement

The film is narrated against the backdrop of the tribal movement in the Jharkhand region in the 1980s demanding an identity for the community and claiming statehood of their own. It also documents the changing mood of a community in transition and the contradictions that exist in different layers of that society.

The storyline of "Mahulbanir Sereng" was taken from a novel written by Tapan Bandopadhyay based on his experiences as the Sub-Divisional Officer in Midnapur. But the film was shot in Dumka area of Jharkhand with Roopa Ganguly, Shilajit, Sabyasachi Chakraborty and Chandreyi Ghosh.

Well appreciated film: Sekar Das.

"The tribals form around 14 per cent of the country's population. We have to learn many things from the tribals who live in complete harmony with nature unlike those of us who live outside the forest limits," said Sekhar, who had no formal training in filmmaking. "Formal training in filmmaking is not a must. What is required is a clear understanding of life and love for humanity."

Sekhar's next film "Kranti Kaal" (Critical Encounter) deals with the problem of terrorism in the northeast region of the country. The 110-minute film is likely to be released by May this year.

For the ambience

Supriyo's presence at BYOFF was slightly different. He did not bring any of his films to the festival. "BYOFF is one of its kind in the world because filmmakers are not required to go through the bureaucratic hassles to screen their films screened. There is no process for selection of films, no jury and no awards at BYOFF and this is what makes it unique," he said. "I came this time to feel the ambience again." Supriyo's last film, shown at BYOFF last year, was "Way Back Home" about the problems of those affected by the partition.

His next film, "Group of 54", is against war. It portrays the plight of the families of 54 prisoners of 1971 Indo-Pak war.

"I have been working on it since 2003 and it will be ready in another four/five months," said Supriyo. "Of the 54 Indian soldiers who have been languishing in the Pakistani jails since 1971, I have traced the families of 12 soldiers in Delhi, Chandigarh and other places. `Group of 54'will be an anti-war film, though I want to show how war degenerates people and affects the lives of the soldiers and the civilians," he observed.

Siddharth Tripathy's documentary, "Bony Kosaya", features three artistes from Raigarh area of Chhattisgarh — a paan-shop owner who is good at Hindustani classical music, a barber who is a master tabla player and a rickshaw-puller who plays the Nagada and also sings folk songs called Dadaria.

BYOFF-II saw the screening of as many as 136 films of different duration and types. The filmmakers and other participants who thronged the venue outside the Pink Hotel and Restaurant bid adieu to Puri promising to return next year with their new work.

Among the films that won appreciation from the audience were "Mahulbanir Sereng", "Urf Professor" by Pankaj Advani, "Is God Deaf" by Sanjivan Lal, and "A Wall Behind Us" by Souparno Mitra. "The Last Stand of the Ridleys" by Shekhar Dattatri — a 45-minute documentary highlighting the causes behind the large of number of deaths of the Olive Ridley sea turtles on the Orissa coast every year — received a grand applause from the audience.

Incidentally, the poster of BYOFF had an Olive Ridley turtle carrying a VHF cassette on its back with the sea and coastline forming the backdrop.

Right environs

The audience at BYOFF, an intimate gathering without hierarchy of any sort, largely formed the filmmakers and a large number of students from the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, and the Biju Patnaik Film and Television Institute (BPFTI), Cuttack. The films in different formats were screened in the makeshift auditorium "Bhadaas Dho".

After nightfall, many films were screened in open air. The screening of films continued till late in the night on all the days. "While attracting a number of established filmmakers, BYOFF, like the previous year, also provided the right environs for the young directors and students to show their work to one another and exchange their ideas and experiences," said Himanshu Khatua, a senior faculty at BPFTI.

BYOFF is just two years old but it seems to have created a space for itself. Organised by a group of adventurous filmmakers, the film festival could go a long way in providing a platform for young and serious filmmakers. With filmmaking becoming easier by the day and the young generation developing a never-before passion to capture life on celluloid, social problems will never go unnoticed.

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