This is a shortened version of the more detailed report made to Film South Asia ´97 by the Festival Jury, which comprised of noted filmmaker Pankaj Butalia from Delhi; Colombo-based journalist and educationist Nalaka Gunawardene; and theatre, television and film personality from Lahore, Salman Shahid.
The independent South Asian documentary is still in its infancy and needs to be nursed for some more time. Initiatives like the Bombay International Film Festival for Shorts and Documentaries, as well as Film South Asia, can go a long way in establishing fora at which voices from the Subcontinent can be heard. Over the last decade in which documentary film festivals have established themselves in India, they have already generated a desire in Indian documentarists to interact with their environment on film and video. We hope that Film South Asia will play the same role for other filmmakers from all over the Subcontinent.
Since Kathmandu has seized the initiative, we hope it will become a permanent venue for such a festival – that its popularity will grow over time. We look forward to the day when film festivals the world over will flock to Kathmandu to see the best of South Asian documentaries.
Our initial fears and expectations on seeing the list of strong entries from India was that all the top awards would be cornered by Indian films. But something unexpected happened. Two films from other countries stormed their way into the final reckoning – making it impossible for us to take any decision other than the one we have taken, in all objectivity. And so, we announce the following awards.
For its powerful recreation of the euphoria of an event long forgotten by the world, the Jury would like to make a Special Mention of the film Muktir Gaan by Tareque and Catherine Masud.
There were three strong contenders for the “second best film” category – so strong that we preferred not to choose between them. The films and citations are: For its ability to make connections between patriarchy and communal aggression – to draw upon a huge reservoir of images that suggest as well as reinforce this relationship, the Jury awards the prize of Second Best Film of the Festival to Father, Son and Holy War by Anand Patwardhan.
The subject matter of poverty and economic deprivation is common to many documentaries. However, only rarely is a film able to build a substantial argument that details the chain of circumstance that binds people perpetually to their situation. For the sincerity and commitment with which it approaches and explores the politics of “rice” in South India, the prize for Second Best Film of the Festival goes to Meals Ready by Surajit Sarkar and Vani Subramanian.
Creativity and control are not easily found in filmmakers. Which is why the alternating between restless energy and control strike such a fine balance in a film about a man we all knew but rediscover in this film. The prize for Second Best Film of the Festival goes to Nusrat has left the building… but when? by Farjad Nabi.
Coming to the main award, the Jury would like to state that one of the important signs of a good documentarist is his or her ability to pick up seemingly insignificant subjects and breathe life into them through painstaking efforts and elaboration of small details. It is rare to find a film in which a filmmaker makes so many right choices throughout the film – where the camera attains a proximity even while it never loses sight of a crucial distance without being intrusive.
For an extraordinary portrait of a traditional Tibetan faith healer and for the sensitive exploration of relationships within his family, the Jury awards the prize of Best Film of the Festival to The Spirit Doesn´t Come Anymore by Tsering Rhitar.