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As the new development head at NFDC,Marten Rabarts will mentor filmmakers to boost India’s alternative cinema

Written by Dipti Nagpaul D'souza | Published: July 3, 2012 2:58:30 am

As the new development head at NFDC,Marten Rabarts will mentor filmmakers to boost India’s alternative cinema

When Marten Rabarts says that he hit the ground running,he means it almost literally. Recently appointed as the head of development division at National Film Development Corporation of India (NFDC),he gave up his role as artistic director at the acclaimed Binger Filmlab in Amsterdam and landed in Mumbai on the afternoon of July 20. However,without waiting to settle into the time zone,Rabarts accepted the invitation for the party in honour of actress Isabelle Adjani,hosted by Preity Zinta. The film professional has since been putting in regular hours at work even as he looks for an apartment to move into. “You cannot take on a project this big and work only nine-to-five,” he laughs.

With a background in dance and theatre,Rabarts—originally from New Zealand—started his career in New York in 1980s as an assistant director on Oscar-winning short film Molly’s Pilgrim. He has since dabbled in all aspects of filmmaking,including production and sales. His most prominent role,however,has been his 12-year stint at Binger where he was instrumental in developing the Filmlab as Europe’s most acclaimed centre for development of independent films.

At NFDC,he has been brought in to take forward their plan to develop alternative cinema in India. Having revived their production division after nearly a decade-long slump,the organisation— with films such as Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali and Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay on their resume — is keen to yet again be part of and further fuel the country’s recent wave of alternative cinema. NFDC’s managing director Nina Lath Gupta believes that the organisation’s development initiatives have to adapt to the changing needs of the film industry. Rabarts was brought in to fill this gap. “Script and human resource development are the critical areas that need attention. NFDC needed an international industry expert and thought leader with extensive experience in these areas,” points out Lath Gupta.

While he views India’s population—“1.2 billion as opposed to 15 million of Holland”—as a challenge,the landscape of Indian cinema is not an unfamiliar ground for Rabarts. As a result of partnership between Binger and NFDC,the film professional has been part of various film bazaars,has worked with Lath Gupta,the organisation’s current head,and a few Indian filmmakers,including Vasan Bala,director of Peddlers.

“It is important to chalk out possibilities of international co-productions,distribution and marketing and liaison at festivals,” he points out. However,on home ground,his department’s key role will be to hold workshops,scriptwriting labs and provide filmmakers exposure to international talent from across the world.

Being a man of mixed ethnicity—Dutch and New Zealand—Rabarts is also sensitive to regional and minority voices. “While working in South Africa,I saw that the natives did not even realise they have the right to artistic expressions. I would like to lend voice to such minorities in India,especially since they can bring a unique vision and capture unexplored subculture.”

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