Assamese Films Making the North East Proud at SiGNS Festival

Short films in the form of both fiction and non-fiction have been a very useful medium for filmmakers from Northeastern part of India to express their concerns, ideas and creative endeavours to the rest of the world. In the past few years, films from the region has not only been acclaimed but has also won awards at various short film festival held both nationally and internationally. One of the pioneering festival in India for digital videos featuring national level competition for documentaries and short fiction is SiGNS, organised by the Federation of Film Societies of India, Keralam(FFSI keralam). Two major events that higlighted the importance of the festival took place in the following years. In 1999, John Abraham Awards was instituted by the Kerala Region of Federation of Film Societies of India in memory of John Abraham, who was the guiding spirit behind radical initiatives for people’s cinema. Whereas from 2005, the competition was extended to the national level, and the festival renamed as SiGNS, with a focus on documentary and short films in video format.

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This year two filmmakers from Assam have won awards in the Cinema Experimental category of the festival.

Eminent Assamese film critic turned documentary filmmaker, the late Altaf Mazid’s ‘Sabin Alun’ (The Broken Song), which chronicles one of the hundreds of versions of the Ramayana, is a living oral tradition of the animistic tribal society of the Karbis of Assam. The film is an attempt to recreate the tale in a contemporary context where the animistic point of view gets prominence. It brilliantly captures with minimal resources the manner in which the Karbis have merged the themes of the Ramayana with their animistic tenets and agricultural lifestyle. According to the jury members of the festival, the potential of the film lies in its multi-layered deconstruction of an old tribal myth through a uniquely contemporary and irreverent treatment. Known for his experimental films, the deceased filmmaker never let his location come in the way of his singular vision.

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A final year diploma film from the Film & Television Institute of India, ‘Kula’ is directed by Indranil Kashyap. The 27-minute-long short fiction is not only dark, quirky in its cinematic experimentation but also makes a critical comment on contemporary consumerism. The film was shot on a 35mm film stock. According to the 30-year-old Bengali director from Upper Assam, it is the crisscrossing of the discrete quality of darkness of disconnected, hypersensitive urban population that illuminates the passage of the film. Currently the filmmaker is working on his future project while working as a faculty in the Whistling Woods International Institute, Mumbai.

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