Short films are not hors d’oeuvres to a main course
By: Peerzada Salman
KARACHI: “A lot of people think that short films are a stepping stone to feature films, not me. They are a different art form and should be valued and validated.” This is how Indian screenwriter Shuchi Kothari described her fondness for the shorter format of filmmaking at T2F on Wednesday before the screening of three films penned by her.
Ms Kothari, who lives in New Zealand, made it clear at the beginning of the programme that the short films were closer to her heart. She rejected the notion that they were a stepping stone to feature films and argued that the art form should be valued. She told the audience that since she was a foodie, she would like to say that short films were not hors d’oeuvres to a main course.
She said her films were shot in New Zealand and were a study of the diasporic communities, an attempt to know what it meant to be an immigrant in a country that she made her home.
The first movie that was shown was called Fleeting Beauty, directed by Virginia Pitts. It is about a woman who tries to recount the colonial past of India through the route of the spices on her lover’s back. Noted Indian actress Nandita Das plays the protagonist in the seven-minute project whereas William Wallace does the role of her white lover. She begins from the Greeks, comes to the Dark Ages and then to colonial India by virtue of narrating the role of the spices in history.
Clean Linen directed by Zia Mandviwalla was the second film. It tells the tale of siblings Raj and Renu who during vacations chance upon something startling as their father and mother are busy with their professional lives.
Tasked with doing daily chores, they find their father’s stock of adult videos which sets off a series of events leading to the perplexed state of the children’s minds.The third and last film was Coffee and Allah directed by Sima Urale. It pivots around the character of a young Ethiopian girl, clad in a burqa from head to toe. She is religious, loves coffee and likes to play badminton.
Ostensibly the three things are quite diverse in terms of the practices of the lead character and her inward-looking world, but the film manages to make the viewer see all of them converge at a point.
The three films stirred the audience into hurling questions at Ms Kothari. On Fleeting Beauty she said it was a kind of unofficial history of spices and was about something that people (read: immigrants) did not want to know or listen to.
With reference to Clean Linen she told the questioner that it was complicated to shoot it. She said the subject touched on the issue of the lack of communication that existed in diasporic communities; it was about things that were never spoken such as sexuality, puberty or coming of age. She said the boy in the film did not know the consequences of telling her mother where he found the films that he was seeing.
As to why she picked an Ethiopian character for Coffee and Allah, Ms Kothari mentioned African communities were not very visible in the West and she wanted them to come to the fore. Also, with regard to Muslims, ‘we have to be understood by them’.
She told the audience that she consciously made the character playful instead of overly serious. On the question of making feature films on similar subjects, Ms Kothari replied that among other things the whole process had to do with the ‘sense of economics’, as she was a producer too.