Friday, May 06, 2011

Sikkim's Ritual Journeys to be screened @International Festival of Ethnographic Films 2011 LONDON

GANGTOK, 05 May: “Ritual Journeys”, a documentary film by cinematographer, activist and passionate archivist of Lepcha culture and way of life, Dawa Lepcha, with Anna Balicki Denjongpa as anthropologist consultant, has been selected for the prestigious Royal Anthropological Institute International Festival of Ethnographic Films 2011. Dawa will be travelling to London to present the film at the festival to be held from 23-26 June 2011. Significantly, Dawa has also been selected for a 10-day [12 to 22 June] course on film editing at the University of Manchester. The film has also been selected for the Freiburg Film Festival, Germany.
Before London gets to watch the movie, the opportunity comes to all interested in Sikkim as it premieres this Saturday, 07 May, at the main hall, Namgyal Institute of Tibetology. Entry is free for the premiere screening which will have ‘Nekung’ Keepu T Lepcha as chief guest and begin at 2 p.m.
The film is an intimate portrait of Meyrak, an 80-year-old Bongthing from Dzongu. Dawa followed Meyrak with his camera and recorded his daily life and rituals over seven years from 2003 to the year 2010.
Interviews, conversations and rituals shot over this extensive schedule have been condensed into a 75-minute film by Dawa and Anna and promises to offer an insight into a way of life which is fading away, even as it allows a peek into what defines the Lepcha way of life in general.
Although the finances to facilitate Dawa’s travel to the prestigious film festival are not yet completely in place, both, Dawa and Anna, decided early that they would not charge an entry fee for the premiere show. This was primarily because they wanted as many students as were interested to be able to attend the screening.
“As much as we want the younger generation to learn something about Lepcha culture and traditions through this movie, we also hope that watching this movie will convince some of them to look at their elders with more respect and take their heritage more seriously. Maybe we will also succeed in helping them learn of different kinds of filmmaking like this ethnographic film and maybe some of them will be inspired to document their cultures themselves,” shares Dawa.
The inspiration part, if it succeeds, will be apt because Dawa also discovered the importance and power of ethnographic films from an outside inspiration. As Anna shares by way of background: “Dawa was inspired by documentaries on National Geographic to start shooting in Dzongu and making his first documentary record of a traditional bridge-making exercise”. He has been documenting Lepcha rituals and traditions ever since. Dawa was a trained filmmaker to begin with, having completed a 2-year diploma course on film direction from the National Institute of Film and Fine Arts in Kolkata.
Dawa’s first ethnographic film collaboration with Anna was “Tingvong”, a film of the village in Dzongu made back in 2005. Even that effort had made the cut for screening at the RAI International Festival of Ethnographic Films. “Ritual Journeys” is the second film to come out of this collaboration and has made the grade again.
Getting shortlisted for the RAI festival is a significant achievement since this film festival figures among the top-5 festivals of ethnographic films in Europe and receives more than 300 entries. “Ritual Journeys” has been slotted in the “Intangible Culture Film Prize” category.
As much as he is elated with the selection of the movie for the festival, Dawa is also excited about the film editing course he will be taking at the University of Manchester which will introduce him on how to put together an ethnographic film. Anna puts the significance of this course in perspective when she explains: “Dawa is a very good and sensitive cinematographer, but he has not taken a proper editing course yet. There is no course available in India for ethnographic film editing, so this opportunity to take the course in Manchester is splendid.”
Those who make it to premiere will also receive the opportunity to purchase DVDs of the film priced at Rs. 150.

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