Saturday, 24 March 2012

Participatory Video - the role of the Trainer and the Researcher



Namita Singh is currently pursuing a PhD on Participatory Video in UK, at the Open University. She is a researcher and consultant focused on participatory media. We welcome her guest contribution to this site and thank her for her insights into and for sharing her reflections on Participatory Video.

"Namita Singh, the Trainer Vs. Namita Singh, the Researcher :
 Things I taught and things I learnt!" 

This one week taught me so much about doing Participatory Video, as a researcher. Going in, I never thought, it will be as tough – negotiating the thin line between Namita Singh, the trainer, and Namita Singh, the researcher. The former being my role throughout my working life prior to my PhD, the latter, I am supposed to strictly adhere to, so as not to lose sight and data, while I am at it.

Every bit is important. Every bit might have some key, some vital insight – a hidden answer to my research questions – some serious business, this!

I had wanted to use PV in my research, as I wanted to work with a method that the participants would be very comfortable with. Since both the groups I am doing my research with, have been doing PV for more than three years, it seemed like the most apt method for my research. They know the technique, they are already experts in what they know, and they do make films…

I thought, what better than PV, in such a case. It was a rather uncomplicated decision for me. So I discussed the possibility of doing PV as a part of my research with the organisation.

It was a definitive ‘yes’… The participating girls were really excited about it too. Then came the little request from them, ‘Why don’t you train us a bit too, while we make this video for the research? We could learn some more’.

Tricky! How could I say no?

They are giving me their time for my research. They are participating in it. They just want to learn a bit more, while being a part of it. On the other hand, it is a research, I did not want to compromise on my data-collection, while trying to train them and mixing up two very different things.  

Would research be research, if things did not complicate themselves?

So I put my dilemma aside, and thought, ‘Well, I could probably design the video-making in a workshop-format. I have done this as a trainer, as it is an extremely participatory process. I can do the same, as a researcher too.

It was not as easy as it seemed. There are things I did as a trainer, which I could not as a researcher, and vice-versa…..

Agenda-setting

Namita Singh, the trainer, has been used to negotiations – between the participants’ agenda and the organisation’s or that of the funders’. Being on the middle ground, as a trainer, it was always difficult to take a position, but I still had the option of choosing one or the other. But, there could never be any of ‘my agenda’.

(I had even been told off once, for calling the community ‘my community’, and asked by one of the organisations involved, to stick to the plan!).

Choosing the participants’ agenda here, would have meant, making this video to showcase their work. Something they could show to their community, other NGOs…  

Fair negotiation, this…

But here, Namita Singh, the researcher, had one of her own – the content of the video. It was supposed to be analysed for the research – some serious business, this! It was supposed to respond to my research questions. I had such an urge to control! Fair negotiation, this too…

So I kept looking to balance it out, so that, while they make such a video, I get my data. While discussing the concept of the video, it did take me a lot to not keep pushing my agenda, and negotiate with them on the content of the video.

Fair negotiation… is always a tough task! Research taught me…

Production

The production side of things brought out the other part of the urge to control – the urge to make them use the tripod, the urge of taking the camera in my hand to frame a new kind of shot for them, the urge to set the pace of the video in the edit…

Namita Singh, the trainer, after all, has had trained participants in making videos – scripting, shooting, editing…the works!

Participants were trained for months to shoot good quality video. They had to learn the nuances of good editing. The video had to look good. There is a norm of what ‘good’ means.

But Namita Singh, the researcher, even with all her training skills? It was clear to me before we began making the video that my prime objective is the research, and I could not lose sight of it. I had to give up my notion of a technically perfect video. I had to keep reminding myself that it does not matter here.

I decided, I would not compromise on their wish to learn more though. Instead, I would attempt to make the entire process an experience, without interfering with the technical stuff…

Falling into the trap of a norm is always such an easy one! The research made me understand…


Dissemination

For Namita Singh, the researcher, the dissemination of this video would be of the research kind – used as part of the thesis. Probably show it in some conference. Maybe use it in some other research, or with other research participants for… Namita Singh, the trainer, of course, gets reminded, there’s another here, that would be of the organisational kind.  

They will screen it in communities. They’ll show it to other NGOs. They’ll probably use it to pitch to funders.

There was a suggestion from their coordinator, that they can make the video in English. It’ll make an impact on the NGOs, and the funders.  

That would make a useful point in my research as well – the confidence of the girls and how far they have come.

They are not just making a video, but making it in English. In most of the communities in India, it is a sort of a statement to be able to speak in English.

But the girls pointed out, ‘Our communities don’t know English. They’ll not understand what we are saying. Even if we put subtitles, they don’t know how to read. Those who know English can read. So let only the subtitles be in English’.  

The girls were sensitive about their community, and vocal about it too.

As a trainer, the focus was always to respond to such needs of the community. In fact, use of local words, encouraging local songs, etc. was an integral part of the process. After all, for them, it was for the local community that was to engage with the video more.

My ‘audience’, as a researcher had changed. I was sensitive to the needs of those. Here, it was not for the needs of any other.

An alteration of sight on certain aspects can, and do happen! This research just taught me to be aware of, how and what.

……………………………………….

The week ended with both the participants and me feeling happy. They said, ‘We love our video’, and smiled at me. I smiled back. ‘We liked it this week…come again.’, as I was leaving.
I will be going again, ready to learn some more.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Cult Auteur Film Directors: A 14-point toolkit for your career


1. The auteur typically employs multiple perspectives on the same scene. This approach will enable the auteur to transform a short story into a film of epic proportions. The auteur characteristically demonstrates disregard for linear plotting. For the auteur Repetition is at the core of Deconstruction.

2. The auteur prefers grainy features to suggest the archaic; s/he prefers black and white to colour. The auteur composes lyrical essays on the lure of the silent film era; employs super 8 film, and cuts up video tapes using a manual process. At the other extreme, the auteur films his homage to Battleship Potemkin (1925) using only mobile cell-phones and skateboards.

3. The self-presentation of the auteur in interview situations is a form of self-preservation.

There are two starting positions that should be adhered to without irony:

(a) sentences that deploy stream-of-consciousness; multiple subclauses (think Henry James's Golden Bowl); polysyllabic terms - especially those derived from arcane aspects of postmodern theory or sub-atomic physics. See my Heisenberg-Eisenstein thesis;

(b) subhuman grunts and shrugs predominate; a demeanour of whimsical indifference to any form of aesthetic responsibility or ownership.

4. For dialogue many auteurs take Harold Pinter as their master. Gaps between inconsequential dialogue are essential. In mainstream populist cinema dialogue carries the plot. For the auteur dialogue is best conceived as symptomatic of a consumerist approach based on wish-fulfilment. (A psychoanalytic mirror to the infant's fort-da games). Long silences support a morbid focus on the grim, brutalist cinematography.

5. Participate in an auteur tradition but proclaim that your work has been misunderstood. You may not have a name but you do have a heritage. Oblique references to Godard, Truffaut and Lars 'von' Trier are de rigeur. At least one of your early films will be a tribute to Alain Resnais' Last Year at Marienbad (1961), or potato-peeling from Chantal Akerman's Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1976).

6. Actors in auteur directed films are untrained. Acting will be self-consciously uneven, mechanical, contradictory, or improvisational. Nay, let the actors pay for the privilege to be participants in your chef d'oeuvre.

7. A shadowy Gothick look is recommended in the lighting of auteur films. Slow fade or burn sepia-tinted family photographs. Unlight scenes in order to heighten a vague sense of imminent peril.

8. Play with pitch in your sound scape. Sound in auteur film hurts. Auteurs amplify banal sounds of everyday life. Sounds played at 1/50th of their actual speed are a sure-footed route to that essential sense of Gothick nihilism and horrific erasure.

9. Plot - either avoid this bourgeois element altogether or present multiple strands in a tangled loop. A bowl of well-dressed Spaghetti best visualises the complexity of plot.

10. If the auteur employs music, she or he will be aiming for dramatic contrast. Think foul-mouthed punk-rock for historic or heritage films; baroque or medieval plainchant for modernist scenes of gritty and brutalist realism.

11. For the auteur director, film theory is always to be preferred to film practice. Recall the specific danger involved in making a film, and prefer rather to expound the complexity of film as ideological state apparatus.

12. The auteur hints at irritation with cheap imitations of his or her work.

13. The auteur fiercely attacks the quasi-independence of fellow-film-makers. Clearly they have sold out to the market.

14. The auteur only attends independent film festivals in order to denounce them. The auteur must stage a walk-out in protest at the corporate degeneracy and/or indifferent malaise of the contemporary film industry.

© Dr Ian McCormick. But please do contact me if you want to use the TEXT of this article as a guest post on your blog. With attribution offered I seldom refuse!


Sunday, 18 March 2012

India's answer to Hollywood and No-Budget film production


Anamitra Roy, Indian filmmaker and no-budget forum member talks to Ian McCormick about his life and work in this interview conducted on 4th March 2012.

See previous blog entry for a critical and contextual review of Anamitra Roy's film work and ideas.

How long have you been making films?

I don’t know if I’ve been making films. I think I’m mocking films because the set up one needs to make films is not accessible for me. I just shoot with whatever I get. I write scripts keeping in mind my resources like friends who can act, or the lights and cameras I and my friends own etc. I started editing back in 2006. I used to choose just any stock and chop something out of it. In 2008, Sriparna, my girlfriend, bought a second hand miniDV and in the same year I met poet Arupratan Ghosh. We made the first film together in the month of December. There was another guy named Arkapratim Mukherjee with us. I acted in and edited the film. It was not something good, mostly a failure except the fact that this film caused the birth of Little Fish Eat Big Fish, our forum.

 How did you first discover your interest in film making?

In 2004, I watched Four Hundred Blows, yes, the famous one by Truffaut. I found that film to be different, I mean, in my country and my society, watching good films is not a regular thing for a teenager. Television and the industrial products have blinded our youth successfully. You’ll be amazed to know that there are independent filmmakers even in the Bollywood (like most of the people in India understand something related to Anurag Kashyap or Abhay Deol when they come across the term). I used to be a poet-writer. I used to write for Bengali ‘Little Magazines’ (I still do that sometimes). But the problem here is that parents are sending their children to English Medium schools often so that their next generation doesn’t have to face the problems they had regarding language. This is how the mother-tongue is becoming an unimportant second language for Bengalis. They are not finding any interest in their own literature. Then there are the big publishing houses and media to suppress the alternative and promote trash. I wanted to break this barrier. I thought audio-visual would be a good medium to reach out. Probably that’s why we have hard-coded English subtitles in all our works.


What was your first ever film? (Tell us about it)

The first film that I made? Well, that’s quite a story.
The film was called “Jean-Luc Godard Had No Script”. It was a part of the Five No Budget Films (2010) compilation. The film is available on Youtube. It is one of the most popular films produced by our forum.
Lot of people have praised it, but no one ever raised a question, which is rather depressing. Some people also consider this to be a tribute to Godard, but that’s not true either. It was a critique of Kolkata’s worship and illusion of Godard. I mocked Godard there. My face was painted full white like Europeans, but my hands did reveal the colour of my native skin. I distorted my accent but what I spoke was Bengali. All I wanted was to break the illusion that has given birth to an all-talk-and-no-work culture as well as to provide a theoretical basis for the ‘Indian No-Budget Filmmaking’ which was started by us.


What camera did you use and how long did it take to make?

It was Sriparna’s miniDV, that was the only camera we could avail for free at that point of time. Developing the concept took three months before I wrote the script in October, 2009. I planned to shoot the whole thing in just a day but it took one more as the first day’s shoot was interrupted and we had to shift the location due to excessive mass gathering. The post-production took almost two weeks as we had to dub some dialogues and the tape was damaged in some parts. We had to capture those damaged shots in slow motion and then reconstruct the sound for it which was completely out of plan.

How do you find working with others on a film? What works best?

It depends on some other factors. If I have a tight script I’d just like people to follow my instructions. But if I don’t have one I’d like people to be imaginative and improvise. For instance, Secret Footage_The Encounter was a film without a script. But I had the whole idea inside about the sequences and things I wanted to shoot. I shared the concept and the purpose with actors and asked them to perform accordingly. It was the same with the character of the journalist (played by Snigdhendu Bhattacharya) in JLG Had No Script. He knew about the situation in Lalgarh better than I did. So I just told him where to focus, the dialogues were absolutely on him. And for Memories… of a Dead Township (2012) I told my father and sister to improvise on the basic melody (the theme) as I thought the music must resemble the memory in pattern, that is to say, which can not be reconstructed and whatever you play is the perfect and the imperfect at the same time.

Do you make a living from film? How do you support yourself in your work?

Yes, I do. I’m a freelancer. I work on commissioned projects as Editor, Director, cinematographer or whatever just to earn a living and to continue working independently outside the mainstream industry. See, I have this problem of ethics. I feel guilty whenever I think of applying for foreign-funds for some documentary or something. My govt. does not support my initiative and they better not waste money I feel. If they have money they should try to provide food and basic infrastructure for people. I have not applied for any film fund yet. But maybe I’ll do that too one day in order to survive.
 
Where do you get your ideas about film from?

From life, from the content always. And my life is my content.

How do you work on an idea and develop it?

I walk with the basic schema inside. I keep on looking at people’s faces, posters, signboards, I try to hear others’ conversation and add up whatever seems suitable. I steal from the nature, whatever is passing by me.

What for you is the film making and creative process?

A method of communication. See, the basics are the same. I don’t write or make film until I feel like. I have no such urge to become famous or a celebrity. If I feel that I need instant relief I sit with a pen and a paper and start writing. I keep on working on it until I’m satisfied. Same thing happens with my films. First, an idea comes to my mind which I can not convey in words. I take a walk, I try to understand it myself. Whenever I feel that I know it all now, I start to steal, as I said earlier.

Who are your favourite film makers?

There are no favourite film makers for me. There are favourite films only. I one I feel most close to is from my country and my language – Ritwik Kumar Ghatak. He is special for me. Except him, I like a lot of filmmakers from all around the world and from all the genres almost. The range is like from Bela Tarr to Emir Kusturica. Or from Andrei Tarkovsky to Mikhail Kalatozov . From Renoir to Godard to Breillat sometimes. Kenji Mizoguchi to Takashi Miike; it’s hard to specify really. Even Jon Jost.
I love films.
 
Which people or works (in any art form) have been influential for you?

Almost everything which can be called ‘art’ has been an inspiration to me in different times. If I try to name all of them the list is going to be much longer that the incomplete one above.

Why is community or collaboration significant in your work?

I need my voice to be heard. It’s better to sing a chorus than shouting alone in the street. We didn’t even have money to submit to any international film festival till this year. So, if I have 10 friends to watch my film my filmmaker friend knows another ten. Ten of us together can reach out to 100 people. That was the basic concept behind Little Fish Eat Big Fish. 

Except that, community is the place every human being belongs to. The origin of my family is actually Bikrampur Pargana, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Before the riot (I really don’t know why) our family moved to Agartala, Tripura, India and became the royal priests. I, at this point of time, live in a district called Hooghly in West Bengal, India and I don’t like the fact that I don’t have any connection with the origin. Everything was alright, I got this gut feeling since I realized that my life has changed a lot after we moved out of Dunlop Estate (The place in my last film). Maybe that’s the reason, just because I miss the thing it becomes highlighted in my works.

What do you think about Hollywood and big-budget film?

They understand what business is i.e how to invest wisely to fool others and make a lot of profit out of that.
 
What perceptions or impressions do you have about life and work for film makers in Great Britain?

Not much knowledge really. Chaplin, Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Michael Winterbottom – are they what you mean? Chaplin is almost everyone’s all-time favourite. I love his works and the story of his life. But these are the names I came to know because of the big industry. I don’t have a perception really except that some of them are / were great!

What challenges do you face as a film maker in India?

Almost everything is a challenge here or one might say there are no challenges at all. I don’t get a theatrical release, but how does it matter to me anyway. India has nothing to do with it. Had I been in Burma things would have been the same for what we are doing. The only irritating factor is Bollywood and its influence over people. There used to be good people in the movie industry earlier. For instance I love Bimal Roy, Kishore Kumar or RD Burman or Tulsi Chakraborty. There used to be good films once upon a time even in the Bengali Film Industry. The most popular film in Bengal for all times is ‘Saptapadi’ probably, an Uttam Kumar-Suchitra Sen starrer. Yes, they used to copy Hollywood realism but it really doesn’t matter when I compare ‘Saptapadi’ or ‘Sare Chuattar’ to some ‘Pagloo’ in Bengal or ‘Don 2’ in India.

The main challenge is to keep on working without going insane, I think.

What will you be working on next?

I have already started raising funds for a 90 minute feature. Right now I’m calling it ‘The 0ne Rupee Film Project’. It’s going to be a film on the independent Film Scenario of India.

What are your fears about culture/politics for the future?

We are already going through the worst. What’s left to fear about? The civil war is here. Govt. has launched Operation Green Hunt to let MNCs loot the minerals without facing much resistance. In the name of killing Maoists they are killing or putting behind the bars just anyone they suspect. The police is ruthless in Bengal, Orrissa, Andhra, Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and wherever people are trying to resist. The Armed Forces Special Power Act is still on in Manipur. There are threats of war with China and Pakistan

The so called democratic political parties are engaging in armed clashes, killing people in the name of political colour. And also the only option we have except this Sonia Gandhi – Manmohan Singh rule at the central is the great communal Bharatiya Janata Party led by persons like Narendra Modi and L K Advani. Maoists are also killing people in Police, Military or anyone they suspect to be an agent of the govt. I mean, what’s going on, I really don’t understand! 

In this June, it’ll be two years since I was hit by a bomb in my own hometown. Culture is great! You can hear it coming out of any local shop during any festival. We need naked women in our films to become recognized independent filmmakers.

What is there left to fear, can you tell me?

Do you have a dream project for the future?

Anything or everything I work on becomes my dream project for that point of time as I know that life can throw me in a gutter just any day and I might not be able to make films anymore. I’m on the edge and I don’t feel that my society has accepted me whole-heartedly. So, now, my dream project is to make this crowd-funded feature. I know I will be able. After completion only, I’ll think about the future and the next dream.

You can follow the updates of ‘The 0ne Rupee Film Project’ on this blog http://onerupeefilm.blogspot.in/
and this facebook page http://www.facebook.com/onerupeefilm

Thanks for your support, it means a lot.

Beyond CinemaScope and Technicolor: the World of Anamitra Roy





Anamitra Roy’s recent ‘film’ Memories of a Dead Township (2012) expresses clearly the concept of existential angst but it also avoids falling into the trap of the student film maker's addiction to ambiguity and bleakness as merely self-indulgent ends in themselves. We sense that there is a difference between philosophical games and hard thinking. But in his latest intriguing film he is also presenting a sense of home that is always slipping away, and needing to be deconstructed and reconstructed. It is home as absence of home. But it is not just another exercise is postcolonial deconstruction theory.


For Anamitra Roy there are two aspects to the issue of community. One is practical and economic; it is a case of voice and aesthetic survival:

“I need my voice to be heard. It’s better to sing a chorus than shouting alone in the street. We didn’t even have money to submit to any international film festival till this year. So, if I have 10 friends to watch my film my filmmaker friend knows another ten. Ten of us together can reach out to 100 people. That was the basic concept behind Little Fish Eat Big Fish.” (Interviewed on 4th March 2012)

But in my interview with him, Anamitra Roy also suggested that

“community is the place every human being belongs to. The origin of my family is actually Bikrampur Pargana, Dhaka, Bangladesh. Before the riot (I really don’t know why) our family moved to Agartala, Tripura, India and became the royal priests. I, at this point of time, live in a district called Hooghly in West Bengal, India and I don’t like the fact that I don’t have any connection with the origin. Everything was alright; I got this gut feeling since I realized that my life has changed a lot after we moved out of Dunlop Estate (The place in my last film).” (Interviewed on 4th March 2012)

 

In his film work Anamitra Roy presents his themes with a degree of playful interrogation and poetic charm. These aesthetic aspects keep the viewer (and listener) engaged in the subject matter of home on a more immediate and deeply personal level. He explores the precarious notion of a return to the 'home'; and the impossible necessity of the return. The narrator’s experiences in turn become a metaphor for film making as an attempt to frame a shot, and find a perspective, as a mean to locate and to remember. This process also suggests the idea of building an identity that involves a gain and a loss of self; and perhaps that is also what happens in film editing; a kind of psychoanalytic censorship: reconstruction, displacement, and synthesis. It is dream-work but also a way of ciping with the trouble of reality, and the return of the repressed, as Freudians would say.

Anamitra Roys’ recent work led me to reflect on the work of others who have written about time, memory, and home. In his book Imaginary Homelands (1991) Salman Rushdie has written about the genesis of his novel Midnight’s Children in familiar terms of longing and alienation:

“I realized how much I wanted to restore the past to myself, not in the faded greys of old family-album snapshots, but whole, in CinemaScope and glorious Technicolor. Bombay is a city built by foreigners upon reclaimed land; I who had been away so long that I almost qualified for the title, was gripped by the conviction that I, too, had a city and a history to reclaim.”

While Rushdie is an alienated globe-trotting superstar, Anamitra Roy is more of an inner exile (passionate about Bengali issues) who came to the audio-visual media in a last ditch bid to secure a minor part for the oppressed to share in a dialogue about the ownership of space and the right to participate as an authentic member of the local community. In our interview recorded on below he explains that used to be a poet and writer working with Bengali ‘Little Magazines’ (he still does). But parents are sending their children to English Medium schools with the result (as he sees it) that “their next generation doesn’t have to face the problems they had regarding language.” As a consequence, “the mother-tongue is becoming an unimportant second language for Bengalis.”

Anamitra Roy does not have the benefit of an international readership and lucrative publishing contract. His canvas is smaller than Rushdie’s, but no less significant. In the case of Rushdie there is a revealing irony in the way that he positions himself on the big Hollywood screen, while Anamitra Roy is in the business of subverting large-scale corporate film production.

Where perhaps Rushdie and Hartley would agree is that, in the words of L.P. Hartley’s The Go-Between “The past is another country, they do things differently there.” Viewers have commented on narration and soundtrack in Memories of a Dead Township as major strength of film. Certainly they add a lyric dimension and provide an emotional continuity as well. In Memories of a Dead Township the creative narration deployed a variety of styles and cinematographic techniques in order to provide ways of exploring a landscape and homeland that is being erased. It's not an overtly political film; it is not propaganda, or a programme of reform. But it does make a statement about the nature of self-identity and the creative-destructive force of 'civilization' I have just been reading the book Dialectic of Enlightenment by Adorno and Horkheimer and was pondering how it took the devastation of two world wars for Europeans to reflect on limit-case-rationalism’s complicity with colonialism and capitalism over the last three centuries. Today everything is being thrown in question. The British and the French are arguing over the award of lucrative Indian defence contracts for much-needed fighter plains. In the Western media today India is likely to be represented as the emergent superpower and motor of economic growth alongside China, Russia and Brazil. ‘Creative-Destruction’ is just another phase of capitalism without boundaries or limits. As Marx noted in his Communist Manifesto (1848)

Modern bourgeois society, with its relations of production, of exchange and of property, a society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells. [...] It is enough to mention the commercial crises that by their periodical return put the existence of the whole of bourgeois society on trial, each time more threateningly. In these crises, a great part not only of existing production, but also of previously created productive forces, are periodically destroyed.

Creative destruction has also been taken up as an idea by the Austrian-American economist Joseph Schumpeter who adapted and popularized it as a theory of economic innovation. In celebratory terms, take the publisher’s advertisement to Tyler Cowen’s Creative Destruction: How Globalization Is Changing the World's Cultures:

A Frenchman rents a Hollywood movie. A Thai schoolgirl mimics Madonna. Saddam Hussein chooses Frank Sinatra's "My Way" as the theme song for his fifty-fourth birthday. It is a commonplace that globalization is subverting local culture. But is it helping as much as it hurts? In this strikingly original treatment of a fiercely debated issue, Tyler Cowen makes a bold new case for a more sympathetic understanding of cross-cultural trade. Creative Destruction brings not stale suppositions but an economist's eye to bear on an age-old question: Are market exchange and aesthetic quality friends or foes? On the whole, argues Cowen in clear and vigorous prose, they are friends. Cultural "destruction" breeds not artistic demise but diversity. (Princeton University Press, 2004)

These days it is not so fashionable to write about inequality, damage and distress, unless you are a minority political activist and outsider. We hear less now about the world that V. S. Naipaul described in his book India: A Wounded Civilization (1976). Naipaul’s world, like Rushdie’s, was also modern and transnational, a relocated and dislocated homeland. But Naipaul also saw how money and power worked, and used all his poetic skills and creative engagement to describe it. Symptomatically, his book opened from the perspective of Bombay airport as he watches the new nomads of capitalism: the passengers from an earlier flight, by Gulf Air; he notes the ‘Indian businessmen in suits’ and ‘a few Arabs in the desert costumes which now, when seen in airports and cities, are like white gowns of a new and suddenly universal priesthood of pure money.’ (Foreword, p. vii) But he also felt and transmitted the sense of being the outsider trying to remember the displaced ancestors who had inhabited the plains of the Ganges:

“In India I know I am a stranger; but increasingly I understand that my Indian memories, the memories of India which lived on into my childhood in Trinidad, are like trapdoors into a bottomless past.” (Foreword, p. xi)

In Anamitra Roy’s film there is also a ghostly/spectral quality; the sense of a life that is haunted by the past; by sounds and images; that reminded me - again quite deconstructively - of the work of Jacques Derrida in his  Specters of Marx (1994) phase. So it was fascinating to have the opportunity to interview Anamitra Roy and to find out more about his life and work.

He started film editing in 2006. In 2008 his girlfriend, Sriparna, bought a second hand miniDV and in the same year he met poet Arupratan Ghosh. They made their first film with Arkapratim Mukherjee. Roy says that the film was mostly a failure except the fact that this film caused the birth of Little Fish Eat Big Fish, his No Budget film forum. One of the first influential films for him in 2004 was Francois Truffaut’s The Four Hundred Blows (Les Quatre Cents Coups - 1959) which deals with a young boy who ‘survives’ his violent school and brutal childhood. I had the opportunity to ask Roy if he had favourite film makers?

“There are no favourite film makers for me. There are favourite films only. I one I feel most close to is from my country and my language – Ritwik Kumar Ghatak. He is special for me. Except him, I like a lot of filmmakers from all around the world and from all the genres almost. The range is like from Bela Tarr to Emir Kusturica. Or from Andrei Tarkovsky to Mikhail Kalatozov. From Renoir to Godard to Breillat sometimes. Kenji Mizoguchi to Takashi Miike; it’s hard to specify really. Even Jon Jost. I love films.” (Interviewed on 4th March 2012).

Anamitra Roy is highly critical of the traditional and well-established media system of power and influence. He states, for instance, that ‘Television and the industrial products have blinded our youth successfully.’ His critique of Hollywood is concise and devastating; but it also hints at a clarity of rejection of that system: “They understand what business is i.e. how to invest wisely to fool others and make a lot of profit out of that.” (Interviewed on 4th March 2012)

But there is another species of bondage that comes from the critical orthodoxy of the established art community. Accordingly, one of the collective’s films was called “Jean-Luc Godard Had No Script”. 


It was a part of their Five No Budget Films (2010) compilation and was made available on Youtube. It was one of the most popular films produced by their forum. Rather than being just another slavish tribute to Godard, they wanted to critique of Kolkata’s worship and illusion of Godard. The tone was one of mockery. Roy’s face was painted full white like Europeans, but his hands did reveal the colour of his native skin. He distorted his accent but spoke in Bengali. “All I wanted” Roy says “was to break the illusion that has given birth to an all-talk-and-no-work culture as well as to provide a theoretical basis for the ‘Indian No-Budget Filmmaking’ which was started by us.” (Interviewed on 4th March 2012)


Sometimes Roy chooses to work with a script and stick closely to it. At other times he has experimented pragmatically with a more improvisational approach. As he says with regard to Memories… of a Dead Township (2012) “I told my father and sister to improvise on the basic melody (the theme) as I thought the music must resemble the memory in pattern, that is to say, which can not be reconstructed and whatever you play is the perfect and the imperfect at the same time.” (Interviewed on 4th March 2012)

Clearly, Anamitra’s work crosses many boundaries. I wanted to conclude the commentary by offering the perspective on Memories of a Dead Township of another British film-maker, artist, and community development worked:

“I watched the film and it's a subject matter that is close to my heart so... It made me want to grab my camera and make a film of a place of my own in response, it made me want to open up a dialogue about place and memory with someone from this totally different part of the world, I felt this amazing connection with this guy and felt I understood all the things that were actually left unsaid! It made me think very deeply about the role of place and the consequences of change and the politics of change, quite weird really! I loved the concept of searching, capturing a fragment and the more questions than answers style! I loved the play with construction (of the film), destruction (of place and memory), reconstruction (of memory) by deconstruction (of place), the role of place in memory and that great ending the reconstruction of place by drawing it! Then the subplot that was about these glimpses into how someone else lives, this connection with the other who was connected with this place and the way it meandered and the poetic narration and reference to the changing seasons were all great so I liked the storytelling very much...” (Interviewed on 4th March 2012).

But the final word must go to the film-maker and his colleagues. Does Anamitra Roy have a dream project for the future?

“Anything or everything I work on becomes my dream project for that point of time as I know that life can throw me in a gutter just any day and I might not be able to make films anymore. I’m on the edge and I don’t feel that my society has accepted me whole-heartedly. So, now, my dream project is to make this crowd-funded feature. I know I will be able. After completion only, I’ll think about the future and the next dream.”

You can follow the updates of ‘The 0ne Rupee Film Project’ on this blog http://onerupeefilm.blogspot.in/


Further information

Anamitra Roy Interviewed on 4th March 2012 - Ian McCormick

Little Fish Eat Big Fish Blog

Facebook Page for Little Fish Eat Big Fish


Facebook Page for One Rupee Film

Little Fish Eat Big Fish on YouTube

Anamitra’s article on film courage

Little Fish Eat Big Fish DVDs on Zinemaya