A long list of films rolls down a billboard at India International Centre (IIC), raising the inevitable question, ‘which one to leave out’. For, Open Frame, Public Services Broadcasting Trust’s (PSBT) annual film festival, dazes by sheer numbers. Almost 40 films will be screened till September 2, on themes ranging from ecology and urban crises to celebrations of culture.
Sharada Ramanathan, for instance, undertakes a journey through the history and varieties of Indian classical dance in Natyanubhava, and is matched by Laili Dutta’s Ocean of Melody, an evocation of Indian classical music down the ages.
Unfolding The Pata Story, on the other hand, in less than an hour, runs through the story of patua artists who create scroll paintings, among the earliest forms of audio-visual storytelling in the world.
Rajiv Mehrotra, Managing Trustee of PSBT, says that the organisation funds filmmakers but does not dictate their subjects. “It is interesting when patterns emerge that we can spot but cannot always explain. The recent trending topics have included spirituality and gender, showcased by films such as Akanksha Joshi’s Hindu Nectar: Spiritual Wanderings in India (a daughter’s journey from the Himalayas to peninsular India, through rivers, mountains, forests and caves learning the significance of the rituals she has inherited) and Sulh-e-Kul (a bird’s and worm’s eye view of the history, cultural impact, sights and sounds of Ajmer Sharif Dargah).”
Gender discourse, too, receives a wide treatment through films that not only look at the subjugation of women (Can’t Hide Me and Shame was a Place Inside) but also the tug and pull of life for homosexuals in India. Among these, Through the Looking Glass covers a day in the life of a man who has been experimenting with his sister’s clothes, only to be caught by her.
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Each film is followed with a Q&A with the filmmaker to encourage active participation of the audience. “I have noticed that, in the last 14 years, the audience has become younger and more probing. The Q&A sessions are not only about what the film is about but how it was made,” says Mehrotra.