A fest in Dharamsala

Written by parul | Parul Chhaparia | Updated: Nov 25 2012, 06:46am hrs
Even as the glamour and glitz of films descends on Goa at the IFFI, we talk of a quieter, but by no means less significant, international film festival hosted by McLeodganj recently, where 30 films were screened in a town that does not even boast of a single movie theatre

A tourist destination, McLeodganj is famous for its snowy peaks, tea gardens, pine forests, and above all, the presence of the Dalai Lama. This year, the town has added a new attractionfilmseven when it does not have a single movie theatre.

As McLeodganj hosted its first film fest, the Dharamshala International Film Festival earlier this month, people of the town got to see an eclectic mix of films. These were not the typical Bollywood masala flicks, but mostly documentaries, fictional features and short movies based on various aspects and people and made by movie makers globally. The festival screened 30 films, including Hansal Mehtas Shahid, Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonams When Hari Got Married, Jennifer Foxs My Reincarnation and Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi-directed Five Broken Cameras, to name just a few.

Most of these movies and their directors are internationally acclaimed. So why did they come to a place that does not even have a movie theatre to showcase their movies That is precisely why we wanted to have a film festival here. We wanted to bring people together and boost independent cinema. Also, a festival like this will inspire the youth in this area, says Ritu Sarin, a Dharamsala-based film maker. The idea of having an international film festival in McLeodganj was the brainchild of Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, also the organisers of the event.

We had been thinking about it for the last few years. We wanted to do something good for this area and the communitiesboth Indian, Tibetanswho live here, adds Sonam.

Even though the event attracted a number of people from all over the country and was a success, it had its own teething troubles, including a few technical glitches. Even to coordinate with the state government departments was something that the organisers learnt on the job. The state government has been very supportive. However, since it was our first time, we had a little problems at various levels. I am sure all this learning would help us have a better festival next year, says Sarin.

There are several film festivals that take place across the country, including Goa, Kerala, Mumbai and Pune, every year. Another international film festival that kicked off this year was the Ladakh International Film Festival, held in Leh in June. And, for the Dharamshala International Film Festival, the beginning has been made well, but it may take a while before it joins the bandwagon of its predecessors.

'Nicest venue for film fest'

It took about seven years for Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi, the directors of Five Broken Cameras, to depict the first-hand account of a Palestinian farmer's non-violent resistance to the Israeli oppression. In an interaction with Parul Chhaparia, Davidi shares his experience about making this movie and what he thinks about the Dharamsala fest. Excerpts:

How difficult was it for you (directors) to get funding for a movie like Five Broken Cameras

For Five Broken Cameras, it was not very difficult to get the economics and budget worked out. The only thing is that because of the political context, everything was very sensitive, like if you take money from Israel, you cant take money from the Arab world; you can take money from there, but not here. All this makes it very complicated. You want everyone to be partners. For instance, if you do not get Israeli money, it is difficult to get the required exposure in Israel, which is very important. You want the Arab world to watch the movie, but they wont. So, we are kind of stuck in the politics of it. For Five Broken Cameras, initially we had some Israeli money, Dutch and there were small funds from UK, Canada and even Korea. The budget was 2,500 euros.

What was the biggest challenge while making the movie

I am an Israeli. The relationship between Israel and Palestine is very delicate. Emad comes from a village where there was no contract, credit cards. And then suddenly, there was a lot of money involved. So, my idea was to make the structure of our relations as simple as possible business wise. So, in that sense, the challenge was to build a bigger structure so as to get funds and also ensure that it did not affect the relations between Emad and I, between Israeli and European investors.

How do you ensure that there is sufficient money for making such a movie, especially when there is no guarantee that the movie would even see the light of the day

The budget is not pre-decided for such a movie. The problem is that the investors often want their revenues. You do not know whether the movie would be able to earn revenues for the investors or not. Some films do good business, while some may not. So for a film maker, every time you have a new project, you have to start from scratch.

How do you ensure that the movie is not seen as a campaign against a certain belief, region or person

There is not much you can do to control how people will watch a particular film. In Israel, the movie was well received. However, some sections of the media, though they liked the film, said it is a great film and it is obligatory for every Israeli to watch this. So, there was a sense of accusation there, which is not what the film is about.

How do you keep your humour intact while making a serious movie like Five Broken Cameras

Sometimes I do not watch the movie with the audience because I see them crying while I am laughing. I have seen the film so many times that I find humour even in a tragic moment. For instance, there is a scene in the film where all the guys are shaking the camera, and I see this guy who is talking on the phone while doing that. I found it funny. You got to have comedy to keep going.

What do you think about the Dharamshala International Film Festival

The response has been very good so far. This is the first time I have come to India and I think this is one of the nicest venues for an international film festival. I look forward to coming here again.