A strange decision for a film festival, but aside for the obligatory duties connected with having a film here (note to self: show up for own screenings) I’ve decided to privilege live people (friends, panels, film events with people attached) over sitting in a dark room watching flickering images.
In this way I was happily swept into a panel discussion on the ongoing project CINEMA CITY, represented at the festival by several films and a series of installations dotting the city. A multi-disciplinary, multi-year research project, it maps the interplay between Bombay, cinema, history, imagination, desire.
The panel was moderated by Nicole Wolf, a writer and academic whose specialty is Indian films, and included Madhusree Dutta, a true force of nature (there was a ripple of laughter each time she grabbed the microphone) the curator of the Cinema City project, who is also a filmmaker, activist filmmaker, researcher, producer and activist; Dorothee Wenner, filmmaker, journalist, one of the film programmers of the Forum section of the Berlinale, and perhaps the person most responsible for the current interest in Indian film in Germany today; and the architect and educator Rohan Shivkumar, among others.
There’s no way to sum up the topics covered in the panel – two things that struck me:
The impossibility of separating out the history of Bombay from the history of its cinema. Those who wrote, the educated upper class, were not interested in the changes occurring in the lives of the populace that surrounded them. But Bollywood was. Without Bollywood, there would be few records of the human history of its difficult modernization. There’s no other city (over-filmed New York included) whose collective and individual imagination appears to be so tied to the way its been portrayed on film.
A woman’s voice, speaking a haunting line, imperfectly remembered, from the end of one of the short films screened: How does desire die? When not even one desire is fulfilled they all start to fade away. When even one is fulfilled all the others come awake….
It’s 4:26 am, far too late to be typing this.
Phantom Lady on Light Boxes: Performance Photography (Pushpamala N)
“When the film image comes alive like a planet in the night sky of the theatre, it seems to behave like a dream that our sleep projects: it releases itself from its moorings, the strings, needles, threads, and labouring breaths that have struggled to get it life. This project is an attempt to moor that image again. To also look at the labour that takes the needled thread through the cotton wad and makes a bed for fantasy.” Cinema City catalogue