By Kinjal Sethia
“No woman is an island” was the idea that engulfed me as I navigated through screenings and interactions at IFFI 2016. Individual films may be made on different continents, about different times, but human emotions are universal. Issues affecting peoples all around the world aren’t the same, but the consequent misery or joy is experienced empathetically.
I liked hearing new voices from India’s north-east. ‘Ima Sabitri’ (2016) by Bobo Khuraijam was about a Manipuri actor who dedicated her life to art. ‘The Golden Wing’ (2016) pitched by Bobby Baruah was about Prateema Pandey, a singer who drew her inspiration from nature and the local tribes. These strong women characters taught me a lot about the resilience in that part of the country.
The young director Karma Takapa from Sikkim underlined this, when he spoke about about sustaining creative energy despite all kinds of.
Sanskrit film ‘Ishti’ (2016) by G. Prabha reminded me that the issue of women empowerment is not a modern concept. Battles against orthodoxy and blind faith – like those embodied in practices like child marriage and polygamy – are as old as humanity. For me, the very idea of a Sanskrit film on a progressive theme symbolised the power of cinema to embrace irony and establish precedent.
Julieta Ledesma, director of ‘Son of War’ (2016) told me that women were finally finding their voices in Argentina, since Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner was elected president. I realized how the persisting macho culture in that country must have made it very difficult for her to make a movie about liberated sexuality. She persisted for ten years, saying “making a film is an act of faith, and I had faith in my idea.”
For Leila Djansi from Ghana, making the film ‘Like Cotton Twines’ (2016) was an act of loyalty to the women of her country. The film is about the brutal practice of trokosi (comparable to devdasis in India) where young girls are dedicated to temples and shrines as sex slaves for the priests, purportedly as an act of atonement. For me, this movie unveils the universality of the demonic potential of man.
While these narratives of discrimination are true, so are stories of hope. That was was the underlying theme in my interaction with the directors of ‘Rauf’ (2016). Soner Caner is a Kurd, while Baris Kaya is a Turk, and they made the film together to show the world that the Kurdish conflict in Turkey could have a peaceful resolution through brotherhood.
The inevitable role of a woman as a mother was illuminated again for me in ‘According to Her’ (2016) by Estelle Artus. A pianist faces the agony of a lost identity when she decides to give up her career to nurture her baby. This compelled me to empathise with my mother, who also had to give up her creative endeavours, and all the other women who face this complex choice. Talking to the director later, I learned she was actually surprised there has been universal acceptance to her film.
Ultimately, there is no uniform model of happiness. It depends on individual choices, and the responsibility taken for that choice. In a country like India, with a huge and burgeoning class of aspirational women, these decisions are major milestones in their lives. The choices they make shape the narratives of not only their lives, but also the nation. The same process extends to all humanity. IFFI 2016 has taught me anew that what happens to some stranger in another land still affects me, because we all are a part of the larger human narrative.
“…I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”