Sunday, 17 February 2013

Capital Celluloid 2013 - Day 55: Sun Feb 24

In the Name of God (Patwardhan, 1992): BFI Southbank, NFT2, 3.40pm
This is screening as part of a short Anand Patwardhan season at the BFI. Full details here.

Here is an introduction to the season by former Daily Telegraph film critic Sukhdev Sandhu:
Anand Patwardhan, born in 1950, is the leading Indian documentary filmmaker of his generation. If Bollywood, ever gaudier and more mechanical in its productions, trades in faux-populism, Patwardhan offers a cinema, at once humanistic and radical, dedicated to chronicling the struggles of real people – fishermen, millworkers, slum dwellers, untouchables – who are marginal, almost ghostly presences across the contemporary Indian mediascape. Fiercely independent, and never afraid to take on the television networks and governmental bodies that have sought to censor him, he has always operated outside the mainstream, not just writing and editing his own films, but finding alternative distribution networks for them.

India is the subject of Patwardhan’s films, but his political formation was international. He was deeply affected by the Civil Rights struggles and anti-Vietnam war protests he witnessed at first hand as a student at Brandeis University, Massachussetts, in the early 1970s. He was also drawn to militant cinema of the period, notably the ‘imperfect cinema’ and ‘Third Cinema’ movements of Latin America which saw the camera as a crucial weapon in the service of revolutionary activism. The turbulent India of the 1970s, placed in lockdown following Indira Gandhi’s declaration of a State of Emergency in 1975, intensified his desire to provide a corrective to the lies of ideologues and their lackeys in the press and on television.

Patwardhan’s films are distinguished by their patience: he does not cut fast, nor does he treat his subjects as mere talking heads or purveyors of vivid soundbites; he allows his interlocutors space and time to express themselves. Discursive rather than agenda-driven, edited in a manner that is patient and inquisitive rather than finger-poking or sloganeering, they can also be viewed as first-rate examples of a genre more typically associated with European or American artists: the cine-essay. They can usefully be viewed alongside the recent burgeoning of India-focussed reportage exemplified by writers such as Aman Sethi, Sudeep Chakravarti and Katharine Boo. This is a rare opportunity to watch a body of work that is passionate and probing, timely and timeless.

Here is the BFI introduction to tonight's screening:
A heartfelt cri de coeur against India’s growing betrayal of first principles and its turn away from secularism, this is a beautifully constructed examination of the events leading up to the demolition by Hindu nationalists of a sixteenth-century mosque in Ayodha. It investigates the role played by upper-class Hindus who appear to have renounced ascetism in favour of materialism, but also pays homage to Hindu liberation theologians who hold more radical visions of their religion. Plus We Are Not Your Monkeys (1996, 5min): a short music video, co-written by Patwardhan with Dalit poets Daya Pawar and Sambhaji Bhagat, that deploys images of Hindu deities with contemporary street-theatre footage to reappraise critically the conservative gender politics of the Ramayana epic.

The film will be introduced by the director.

Here is the trailer.

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