Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Hybrid Film Festival


Hybrid Film Festivals


Films convey stories from most diverse geographical regions.  They become a fine tool that tide over geographical and language boundaries to portray events and voice out significant aspects of human endeavor and culture.   Film Festivals thus turn into a vital link that bridges distances and touch core aspects of human mind processes and emotions.   Each year a number of film festivals are held across the world.  However this year, Covid 19 pandemic has drastically altered the way Film screenings and festivals are going to be conducted around the world this year and years to come till fears arising out of spread of novel covid 19 and other mutant viruses are put to rest.

Hybrid literally means a mix and in terms of Film Festival being termed Hybrid, it would in reality mean a mix of real theatre screening with an admixture of digital virtual screenings of movies and discussions thereof.  Today technology has empowered us to virtually cross over physical boundaries and be connected to each other through digital platforms.  Film Festivals are no exceptions.  Those finding favor with digital platforms would root for seamlessly crossing over to digital formats even for organizing Film festivals that could bring in a larger audience and become more inclusive event than conventional festivals.

Perhaps the earliest festival to try out the Hybrid form was the Locarno Festival in Switzerland which adopted a semi-virtual format.  Held in the town on the shores of Lake Maggiore, the Italian speaking region of Southern Switzerland the 73rd Festival held between 5th and 15th  August 2020 was switched to a hybrid format with films and filmic content made available online.  It is estimated that about 5950 people saw films in Locarno Indoor cinemas and about 320000 visits were made on festivals digital platform where full length films, short films, panel discussions and talks were made available online.

45th Edition of the Toronto Film Festival is implementing a hybrid film festival in the month of September, 2020. The edition will combine physical and online screenings with upto 50 features and five short programmes. Digital screenings, interactive talks and Q&A sessions have been planned besides  a drive in format ensuring physical distancing.

Cinefest Sudbury in Ontario, Canada too is expected to be a Hybrid festival scheduled between 19th and 27th September, 2020.  Ontario movie theaters are allowing 50 people per screening.  The organizers are hoping that local film makers and producers would be appearing in person and the industry could take part in the event online.

64th Edition of BFI London scheduled through October 7th 18th, 2020 too has pivoted towards a Hybrid version with introduction of Audience Choice Awards this year owing to Covid 19. The festival is planning a 50 virtual festival premiers with upto 12 previews of upcoming films that will be screened across the UK.  In a marked change from earlier versions, audiences are expected to replace the festival’s official jury and will vote on audience awards in four categories that will include fiction feature, documentary featue, short film and XR (extended reality).  Awards will be announced in a live virtual ceremony on the final weekend of the festival .  The full programme of the festival will be launched on 8th September, 2020.  Sundance Film Festival,  Raindance Festival and a number of other Festivals are expected to be on the Hybrid mode this year. In view of Covid 19 pandemic, India too is expected to host a 'Hybrid' International Film Festival in the month of November this year.

Friday, August 7, 2020

Story of our Loom


Today is National Handloom Day.  Swadeshi  Movement was launched on this very day i.e.  7th August, 1905. Handloom reflects the glorious traditions of Indian Textile Industry and an era of self reliance in the area of garment production and fashion.  History is replete with instances of Indian textiles occupying high demand within Indian borders and far across the oceans. Handloom is also a significant source of livelihood which holds capacity to empower artisans associated with the profession.  It is estimated that 70% of all handloom weavers and allied workers in India are women.  However, being a household activity and entrenched in rural backgrounds, imperfect and often cheap imitations through power looms and illegal inroads through mills have brought this sector into a state of slow decay and death.

I belong to Kerala and hail from the district of Palakkad. For several centuries handloom weaves from the Villages of Kollengode, Chittoor, Devangapuram, Kallanchira, Neelikkad and Karimpuza in this district have been great demand.  In the pre-Independent India dress material including sarees, dhoties, towels and cloth lengths were weaved and marketed to rest of Kerala and other princely states from this district.  However, post independent India saw weavers joining hands and pooling resources into cooperatives to run these handloom centers.  However, piling up losses and lack of income in the profession led youth from these villages to move away from this profession and its slow death.

Today we see that polyester, artificial yarn and multitude of textile materials have emerged across the world as viable medium of fabric.  However the ‘comfort and breathe’ factor of handloom can never be equated with any alternate textile material.  Use of hand looms in weaving spectacular patterns not just enable large sections of labour to be gainfully employed in this profession but also props up local creative talents in design setting, pattern development and manual colour coding.  Use of local motifs, shades and designs sublimely carry the flavor of its local community into the hearts of textile users.

India sits on a treasure trove of indigenous cultural richness.  Each state in this country has its unique tradition and contribution in handloom weaving.  Ikat from Odhisha, Bandhani (tie and dye), Patan Patola from Gujarat, Kalamkari from Andhra Pradesh, Brocades of Uttar Pradesh, Zari works from Madhya Pradesh, Kancheevaram from Tamil Nadu, Kantha stitches from West Bengal, Kosa from Chattisgarh, Kunbi from Goa, Lepcha from Sikkim, Pachaculi from Uttarakhnd, Pachra from Tripura, North East Weaves prominent from Mizoram, Nagaland apart from multitudes of patterns, styles and textures like sambhalpuri, Muga, Maheshwari, chanderi and Khadi makes India a well defined centre from Handlooms.

Yet the real story of handlooms can be seen from the dwindling number of families engaged in this profession.  Surveys show that while 124 lakh weaver families were engaged in this profession in 1970s their numbers reduced to 64 lakhs in 1995 and it dwindled further down to 44 lakhs in 2010.  The narrative of Policy vs production techniques have seriously impacted handlooms in our country. While introduction of standard yarn into our country in the 1840s changed the course of handlooms, replacement of natural yarn with synthetic ones for use by power looms further played havoc with this segment. Global players and technology has further robbed local identities. Today artificial dyes coupled with computer controlled looms, churning out global designs and textures in a copy paste environment, has brought the entire economics of handlooms into a grinding halt.  No amount of protection or unique identification is able to save the handlooms from extermination from one roof global operators.

Need of the hour is identity ability to distinguish ‘real from an imitation’.  The responsibility of a buyer increases with the awareness of purchase of a real product not a cheap copy.  Price alone should not be a consideration for purchase but a larger emotional attachment with the product being bought.   Buying a Handloom product should be more than a symbolic gesture of helping a needy weaver but it should be a nationalist move to revive our rich culture and traditions of our nation by empowering our local talent and rural weavers.

 Story of our Loom would be incomplete without a simple picture of Charkha.  Time has come when we join hands to help the spirit of enterprise spread amongst the rural weaver folk and support weavers and handloom by buying truly hand woven fabrics made in our country.


                                                                       REUNION   The other day my wife broached upon the subject of scho...