Sometimes a frisson runs down your back as you sit in the dark, watching a film. Because what you see on screen is like a mirror image of real time in a real place. One such moment happens as soon as I walk into my first film at the seventh edition of the International Documentary And Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK), in Thiruvananthapuram, held between July 18-22.
During the last few weeks, the world’s attention has been trained on the ongoing death and destruction in Gaza. And there, unfolding on screen, is a rare window to one facet of the events that have led, inexorably, to the present flare-up. At 17, Mosab, the son of a top Hamas leader, codenamed the Green Prince, was recruited by Israeli intelligence. The film, also called The Green Prince, gets Mosab on camera, to talk about how he was induced to spy on his people, and how he battled constant feelings of treason and guilt.
The film, directed by Nadav Schirman, cuts back and forth between the young Palestinian “spy” and his Israeli handler, who tells us how the prize catch was snared. It shows us how the conflict deepens as time goes on, and pushes the “green prince” to the brink: are the choices he makes as involuntary as he makes them out to be?
The film is important, and yet leaves you conflicted. At times it feels like a pro-Israeli showreel, and you wonder how “real” can any film be, which leaves out so much, and aligns itself with only one point of view. Just the kind of film to get you into a festival which promises a showcase of the best Indian and international documentaries which lead you to the inevitable niggle: even in a documentary, which coasts on the real, how much is real, and how much fiction.
The IDSFFK has been gaining steady visibility since it began, and has become a magnet for film makers and viewers of this genre. In my three-day stay, I manage to catch a handful of good films. I also chance upon some nice short fiction. This is something I try and dip into as much as I can, because often you discover an exciting new voice just gearing up to launch into a full-length feature.
In fact, part of the intense discussion you hear emanating from the clumps which swarm the venue and the simple but satisfying Kerala sadya (thali) place right across the road for when you need a quick bite between films, is that the doc-fest is just a stepping stone for young filmmakers who use it to test the waters.
I ask Pune-based Anupam Barve, who has just finished showing his short Afternoon, an almost dialogue-less film set in an apartment bathed in warm light, if that is the sole reason why continued…