Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Sikkim' to be shown at film fest again

Four days after being withdrawn following a court order, Satyajit Ray's controversial documentary film Sikkim' was cleared for screening on Tuesday.

The film will be shown at Nandan at 6.30pm on Wednesday, the last day of the festival, much to the delight of film buffs who had been waiting to see it but were left disappointed after the Art & Culture Trust of Sikkim moved court to stop the screening last Friday. The trust had claimed that they hold rights to the film and that the festival authorities had not sought their permission for showing it. The film festival committee had initially announced that it was going to contest the order in court but later decided on an out-of-court settlement.

Banned by the Indian government in 1975, the documentary had been lying canned ever since. The ban was revoked in September this year. "We are happy to declare that the Art & Culture Trust of Sikkim has responded positively to our request and given us permission to screen the film once on Wednesday. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee has appreciated their gesture. Even though the trust did not ask for money, the festival committee has paid `20,000 to them for screening permission," said Nilanjan Chattopadhyay, director of the festival committee.

The trust expressed satisfaction at the settlement. "We have given them permission to screen the film keeping the sentiments of Kolkata film-lovers in mind. Also, they have adhered to all our terms and conditions for showing the film," said an official of the trust. The amicable settlement came as a face-saver for the festival committee.

"All's well that ends well. Let's hope the committee will make sure to avoid such embarrassments in future," said a former member of the festival committee.

Meanwhile, the penultimate day of the festival saw a lively discourse by American "independent" film-maker Jon Jost. Known for his short films which mostly have static shots and no definite storyline, Jost has shunned conventional form throughout his chequered career spanning 50 years. He often draws his inspiration from small-town America, he said. "Films need not have a conventional story or format so long as it conveys something. Nothing should necessarily move on the screen. To me it is more important to make things move in the audience's head. I make films for those who want something to challenge them while they are watching it on screen. And I urge my audience not to press hard for a meaning behind every single frame. You will get clued in if you keep watching," Jost explained.

Winner of numerous awards, the 67-year-old director has made 20 short and 14 feature-length films. Since 1996, he has been making films only on digital video. The maverick director works without a script or a storyline. "My films evolve while I am shooting. So, I begin with an open mind and have no idea how it's going to shape up. Technology has made it possible to make films on a shoestring budget. So, there is definitely a bright future for my genre of film-making," said Jost

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