In 2001, theatre actor and director Mohan Agashe attended a short film festival in Munich. ‘Wie Wir Leben’ (The Way We Live) was dedicated to people with disabilities.
The movies were like nothing he’d ever seen before. “In India, we make films on the disabled too, but we often romanticise their situation. We look at the differently-abled in two ways: we either pity or sympathise with their ‘situation’ while showing the discrimination they face, or we place them in a testing circumstance and show them as heroes. But the films I watched showed people going about their daily business and leading lives that are no different from ours.
The stories were real and authentic, and that was the charm of these films,” he says. Agashe wished to bring this perspective to the attention of filmmakers in India.
In 2006, he hosted the festival in the country for the first time. Now, after a gap of almost eight years, the festival, ‘Life is same for you and me’, returns with a two-day programme on Saturday and Monday, screening close to 30 films at the Max Mueller
Bhavan in Kala Ghoda. After Mumbai, Agashe, along with the German director of the festival, Gregor Kern, will take the festival to Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Trivandrum and Chennai.
Agashe and Kern have been working for the last three years, carefully selecting films that cover diverse subjects. Bipolar: An Interview With Richard (Germany) shows how a man diagnosed with bipolar disorder learns to cope with it; Body & Soul: Diana & Kathy (USA) is a story of two friends: one with Down’s syndrome and the other with cerebral palsy; Crossing My Lips Germany) is about a group of friends who stammer; in Rita (Italy) a 10-year-old girl blind since birth, teaches herself to swim; and Holding Still (Netherlands) shows a young paralysed girl, confined to her bed, who looks at the world through surveillance cameras connected to her laptop.
Agashe wants the festival to become an annual self-sustainable event. “The idea is to make young filmmakers attached to these types of authentic stories that are not too dramatic, and encourage them to touch upon disability within our cultural setup.”