Whenever there is any discussion about the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which is being held in Goa since 2004, there is one topic that always crops up – whether there is film culture in Goa.
This subject arises because there are hardly any Goan films or Goa film industry, as such. There are just a handful movies made in a year, and viewing them is done, either, at some special screening or film festivals.
LOCAL FILM SCENARIO
There’s a debate that Goans aren’t keen to watch Goan films on the big screen by buying a ticket as there is a notion that the film may be available to watch ‘free of cost’ at some local film screening or so. Thus, there is no commercial saleability of Goan films, which has impacted the Goan film industry on a larger scale.
All these issues and more were discussed at the recent second edition of ‘Goa in Film’, a three-day film festival which was held from February 3 to 5 at Sunaparanta Goa Centre for the Arts, Altinho, Panjim. For this edition, six films were screened — both, fiction and documentaries.
“Since inception, Sunaparanta has been a hub for cinema enthusiasts. ‘Goa in Film’ was born out of the idea to offer young filmmakers a wider platform to screen their movies, engage with different audiences and also to cross-pollinate their practices. It is heartening to see our films being strongly represented today by young independent filmmakers from Goa, and these films garnering interest in the international film circuit. One of the filmmakers in the festival, Nalini Elvino De Sousa, has been granted the VM Salgaocar Fellowship Grant in our endeavour to advance scholarship in the region,” says curator of Sunaparanta, Leandre D’Souza.
The films screened at the festival dealt with different subjects and showed a different side of Goa, which we hardly see on big screen.
On the first day, short-film, The First Wedding (2020), directed by Akshay Parvatkar, was screened and dealt with a love story of a hetrosexual couple in a world of otherwise only same sex couples. Parvatkar describes this film as a ‘mocumentary’ and maintained that this genre gave lot of scope as a writer.
It was followed by a documentary, Bread & Belonging (2020), by Sonia Filinto that spoke about the issue of insider-outsider, migration, traditional occupation, all told through the humble Goan bread.
Filinto also looks at the idea that bread, which came to Goa through Jesuit priests, is now becoming an integral part of the Goan identity. It also makes a larger comment on how we don’t value the handmade artisanal bread since there are currently very few traditional bakeries, and they are dying a slow death.
On the second day, two short-fiction movies were screened that dealt with uncomfortable topics.
Ram (2014) directed by Miransha Naik, who has made the well-acclaimed feature film Juje, is a coming-of-age drama of a 14-year-old boy from a small village, desperate to lose his virginity. Naik has dealt with this topic in a very sensitive manner.
Saiesh Poi Panandikar, who has acted in this movie, during an interaction, maintained that even for him to grasp the subject took time, but it is an important topic. He also appreciated the efforts of Naik, who has worked on every minute detail of the movie.
“Sometimes I used to change the dialogue, but Miransha was very particular and wanted to say it the way it is written. It showed that he had studied the subject well and has done tremendous research on it,” says Panandikar.
The next movie, Bare (2020), directed by Ronak Kamat, is the story of a naked man who frequents apartments to watch women sleep, and is only told by one woman who nobody believes.
The movie is a thriller, but it also speaks about the ‘me-too’ issue and how we, as a society, do not believe the victim and indulge in victim shaming.
It is a sensitive topic to deal with, but Kamat has worked hard on its screenplay. Ronak Kamat stated that he is not a big fan of ‘movies with a message’ since, according to him, it doesn’t work. For example, the smoking disclaimer has not stopped people from smoking. “I like to give messages which are subliminal. Probably that’s why my movies are repeat viewing films. However, such films also limit my audience, but I am ok with it.”
Another plus point of this movie is its main actor, Keatan Jadhav, who has portrayed the psychology of the man really well. Kamat added that Jadhav had no issues with his character as he is shown with bare minimum clothes and has no dialogues.
“The rhythm of the character was entirely his and he also improvised. He understood the whole film. Also, you don’t instruct good actors, you just allow them to be,” said Kamat.
The movie, Bare, has been receiving a lot of critical acclaim as it is now making the rounds at various film festivals. However, for Kamat, a film festival is not a parameter for a good film as many times, due to some technical or any other reason, many good movies do not make it to the festival. He only hopes that such film festivals give visibility to the actors and make the film industry aware of the talent that we have in Goa.
On the concluding day, two documentaries were screened – Written in the Corners (2020) directed by Suyash Kamat and The Club (2021) by Nalini Elvino De Sousa. Both these films dealt with memory and nostalgia.
Written in the Corners chronicles the legendary Café Prakash at Panjim, which was the hub of activists, politicians, writers, journalists, right from the 1950s till 2020 when a part of it came crashing down following a heavy downpour. The 11-minute documentary makes a larger comment about how personal cities and histories can be.
Lastly, the documentary The Club brings to life the Goan diaspora in Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar (in Africa) through the club at Dar es Salaam, which was known as Goa Institute and brought all Goans together. This piece of work is a good account of Goans who migrated to Zanzibar, but it also speaks about Goans’ tryst with migration as it is assumed that Goan migration is highest in terms of per capita.
All these sessions were curated by senior journalist, Fredrick Noronha, who concluded that there was scope for more stories to be told about Goa, and it is definitely beyond the populist image of Goa.