Lalteen – Short Film Factory

Pawan Tiwari; an ardent communist has lost faith in his surrounding world. A condolence draft about himself enables him to take off in search the other world. While; Suman is in love with her female counterpart Chahana whose recent murder in the shabby streets of Kathmandu is taking time to render. As both desperately seek identity and a space that defines their existence; Lalteen takes shape.

Produced by Harke Films for Short Film Factory, Lalteen is Factories first project and aims a premiere showcase at the Nepal Cine Symposium in November. Lalteen is an amalgam structure feature film that sees two independent film structures directed by Kshitiz Adhiraj and Abinash Shah respectively take on a single form as the two thematically merge. Lalteen, is the first of six films that Short Film Factory has plans to produce between 2010 and 2014, all of which are targeted at promoting discourses on cinema as an art form.

Short Film Factory was initiated as a specific film fund project of Docskool in 2010; facilitated and funded in principal by Harke Films,a production company overseen by filmmaker Kshitiz Adhiraj.The Lalteen project has also been supported by The Goteborg International Film Festival Fund through a seed grant to Docskool. Goteborg Film Festival is considered one of the strongest film funds in the world, while the festival has a very strong Scandinavian presence. Lalteen is expected to make a festival presence at theGoteborg Film Festival later in 2012.

Short Film Factory works as an openly accessibly fund base that supports young filmmakers under the age of 30 who are currently working on their first feature films. Unlike the name, SFF is not involved in funding short films. The fund opens applications once ‘“ twice a year and supports are provided as production grants with up to 5,000 USD in offer as the latest arrangements.

In 2010, SFF started the SFF 5 rupee cine fund; a venture concept that enables common masses to be involved in the co-production of films. Lalteen is the first of films being funded by mass collection of co-production funds.

Lalteen has an actors ensemble including Prawin Khattiwada, Pooja Gurung, Pashupati Rai, Samuna K.C  mong others. Music to the film has being performed by Kutumba and Bibhusan Basnet. Lalteen should be seen in theatres across Nepal in the summer of 2012. Upcoming screening is at the Nepal Cine Symposium, November 2011. (Dates have not been confirmed) To be involved with Short Film Factory please visit Docskool or www.sffn.docskool.org

DIY : Film-making

A camera has become everybody’s everyday commodity.  Today, new DIY is making videos- be it for a song , a parody, an interesting thing caught in motion, a photo compilation, an event, a family video, or a documentary.  We see it overflowing on sites like YouTube. Film-making is all the rage these days. From professionally done films with care given to cinematography to amateur videos with sometimes just the message to hold the film from falling right apart- one should be only too eager to DIY.

This Thing Called Happiness: Khusi Bhaneko is a short film made by Anya Vaverko, a practicing photojournalist, stencil artist and the director of Sattya Media Arts Collective. The approximately 10 minute long video is about what happiness means to different people. The idea for the film started when Anya wanted to escape Kathmandu for a little while. Her original intention was to travel, and to film something, meanwhile. ‘It wasn’t anything serious or anything hardcore journalistic. I was looking for projects to do that would engage people. Anya travelled from Kathmandu to Nuwakot and then to Lamjung, Manang and Mustang. Her aim was to shoot different people about their take on happiness. The subjects of her film range from small children who find happiness in ‘cars, jeeps, swings and balloons’ to working middle-aged and old people who find theirs in ‘Osho meditation’.

One of the first and most difficult tasks about filmmaking is to find a subject matter and to decide on a concept. The concept lies at the heart of the film. There are a lot of ideas out there, or better, in there for those who seek. Anya says,’ I knew I wanted to ask one question to all of them. I would roam around villages wondering what I would ask the villagers, regardless of their age, sex, religion and ethnicity.’ When asked why the question about happiness, Anya replies, ‘There are times when one feels low and wonders what it is really that makes one happy- what makes other people happy.’ The key here seems to be to be curious- towards what the subject matter has to offer and to anticipate surprises. She chose this particular media to portray her idea because she had always been interested in the field. She has done some documentary screening at Sattya and has come across many who share this interest. Her video, though made with no big ambitions has generated a good response.

When Anya came back with the videos, her friends at Sattya were excited about her project. ‘There are some skills that I don’t have. I am not the best editor and I can’t make the background music. But my friends at Sattya were like, ‘Why not make it better?’ They helped me improve the project.’ However Anya wanted to pay her friends for their services. She has therefore prepared a budget of $500 and put  her video up on Kickstarter. A website that allows people interested in helping her project to contribute a certain amount. Since garnering funds is an obstacle in itself, Anya advises people to put up their videos on such websites. The contributors are given credit for the movie itself and are sometimes sent a DVD. Movies give a stimulating touch to any piece of information.

Anya encourages people to film things. She says, ‘Even just a digital camera will do if it has a video mode.’ She believes Sattya would also be of great help, if anyone wants to be involved since it is ‘ a resource network for artists, writers, filmmakers, photographers, and other creative types of people in Nepal and it aspires to be a hub for DIY culture, collaboration, inspiration, and learning for emerging media artists.’

The video is still up on Kickstarter for anyone who wishes to view it or contribute to it.

Website:  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/anyavaverko/this-thing-called-happiness-khusee-bhaneko

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Globally Documentary

Every summer since 1988, the U.S public television series, Point of View, has shown documentary films. Since early in 2006, the documentary channel has been broadcasting documentaries 24/7.Cable television networks such as HBO, The History Channel, Discovery Channel and Bravo have similarly financed and aired many first-class documentaries. Bell Auditorium at the University of Minnesota became the first theatre in the U.S air exclusively documentary films. Film festivals such as the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the Yamagata Documentary Film Festival (Japan), and other film festivals are all devoted exclusively to the art of documentary.

And now shifting focus to the documentaries in Nepal, one cannot help but mention the much admired Tenzin Seshi, a robust 34 year old Tibetan man who speaks English in an eruption of phrases gleaned from quotes and Hollywood movies.

Being less scholarly and instead fascinated by glitz and glamour, Tenzin began a modeling career in 1998.Regrettably it wasn’t successful, but he persevered in the arts and in 2009 he congregated all that he had to solely organise a Tibetan cultural dance, universally known as Lung Ta, in Boudha. The event got him his first taste of triumph and also made Tenzin quite popular amongst the foreign tourists, many of who were also filmmakers. He was soon catapulted to the azure skies of cinema. Primarily he was casted in minor roles of international documentaries in countries like Germany, America and Russia.

Nevertheless Tenzing’s quest for cinema was escalating at rapid speed when in 2000 he seized an opportunity to work under a German director named Thorson Grun who not only included him in two important projects, ‘Baby massage’ and ‘Mahayana audination’, but also taught him one of the most critical component of film making- editing.

And then, in 2002, a contemporary expedition threw him into the centre of the documentary world when he worked under French director, Eric Valli, for National Geography for an assignment called ‘Honey Hunter’. In the same year he also worked with a young American director called Christ making a documentary about Tibetan singers who sang pop, rock, blues and jazz.

But it was in the closing stages of 2002 when, like a volcano about to erupt, Tenzin burst onto the stage, his raw, amateur passion driving to direct his first documentary feature film. In addition to directing, he caste and produced the film, entitled ‘Melong’ (there’s no creator or no creation, our mind is greater), exclusively on his own. **which he first projected in Bodhgaya, a holy assemblage where Tibetans from all around the globe gather. No prizes for guessing the answer, not only did he gross profit but also grossed a lot of appreciation for being the first Tibetan director as a certificate to which he was called in 2003 to Switzerland by Tibetan woman association to telecast his movie in one of the most legendary theater

Now, Like someone rightly said along with some fleeting rays of light also comes a tableau of darkness so Tenzin too was grown by stern authoritative parents who like old school thinking wanted him to do a course in engineering and get a decent job but a rebel he was.  He locked himself in a begrimed space with basic necessities learning all he could about films; from the Internet, exploring his camera, writing scripts etcetera

This he did for four long years until came a day when he apprehended that the acquaintance he acquired some technical polish for which he enrolled himself in AAFT (Asian academy of film and television).

Now coming back to today Tenzin has finished his second documentary again solely produced by him labeled ‘Miliu Rinopoche’(Precious human life) and is now mastering on his third feature film labeled the ‘Great misfortune life’ due to release on the Dec 25th

And finally like one knows when ends a caterpillar comes a butterfly, in the same manner Tensing too while talking of the procrastinated future rightly claims that until now he has only fulfilled his dream by directing three movies that belonged to his native language Tibet but the vision is still left where he hopes to direct movies not only for Nepal where cinema is still to mature leaps and bounds but also for international cinema.

Video Volunteers

Labin Rai from Sikkim faced a harsh childhood. Violence in the community and at home kept his early days in chaos. He dropped out of school early because the teacher physically abused him at times. ‘After that I struggled a lot, sometimes working as a cleaner in trucks, sometimes as a driver, sometimes doing other jobs’, he remembers. Finally, he saved enough money to buy a camera and with this camera, he began taking pictures of both rights and wrongs in his community. When he joined Video Volunteers, Labin knew what stories he wanted to bring out. He knew about the ethnic misunderstanding that happens in small communities. He knew of the deforestation going on in rural parts of North India. And what he captured with his camera are stories far more stunning that many of the stories shown on mainstream Indian news channels.

Labin is one of many unique reporters from Video Volunteers, a non profit organisation that delivers its name: Videos from Volunteers. Founded on the truth that no news agency or TV channel can report all of the issues that happen in our societies, especially not the issues related to the poor and rural population, Video Volunteers strives to bring marginalised voices to the fore. If someone from a similar community can take up the stance to bring out these unheard voices (India Unheard is one of the programs by Video Volunteers), then even such small places will be able to speak up and out to the big world. That is the true essence of Video Volunteers.

Jessica Mayberry founded video Volunteers in 2003 while spending time in India. Jessica is a TED Fellow, it is just one of the many awards she has won and the foundation itself has many awards likewise. Since then it has come to grow as a multi-national non-profit organisation with headquarters in New York and operational offices in Brazil and Goa, India. The volunteers in India are taught by Stalin K, an Indian documentary maker with his own great ideas. Jessica herself spends her time between India and New York. For this edition of Verse, Jessica has been kind enough to answer a few questions for us.

 

What led to the conception of Video Volunteers?

Jessica: There are hundreds of millions of poor people in India who don’t have a voice – meaning, the media doesn’t provide them the information they need, and their knowledge and ideas and stories are absent from the media. I started to see that today, rather than bemoaning the challenges of the mainstream, the poor can ‘make their own media’.

What were the first days like, especially keeping in mind the context of India?

Jessica: In the early days, I was spending most of my time out in the field training people, learning from rural women, being inspired. I still get to do that, but now I have a full organisation to run, so other people get to train the community members in video, so you could say the early days were more fun. It’s always hard to start a social enterprise or an NGO, but it is also very rewarding – and it makes me feel lucky to have been born in this time in history, when it is so easy to create cross-cultural exchanges and to work across time zones.

What has the reaction and support from government authorities been like?

Jessica: We are under their radar. Sometimes community producers run into problems with authorities, but also, there are times where the producers take help from local officials, or publicise programs that they run, and they find that beneficial. We do a lot of work on corruption, and that can of course attract attention. But our community producers also find people locally who are doing good things too.

How welcome are the general public to this idea? Do they open up to talk about their problems easily?

Jessica: People in villages are no different from us. Just as we love to publicise our daily activities on facebook, so they love to share their ideas on camera, in our community films. But it’s not always easy. People like to talk about what other people are doing that’s bad – ie,the government! But to talk about what they are doing, that’s hard – domestic violence, caste-ism – that is harder. But we’ve been lucky about that in many of our areas, we’ve been working for five years now, and we’ve had the staying power to show people that they can now open up about the tough things

What notable challenges have you faced, as a company or as field agents?

Jessica: We’re trying to professionalise our network of community producers so that we can expand more, by partnering with the mainstream media. But so many of our people face challenges that make it very hard to work the way the media will expect – they wake up at 5am to cook and clean; to get an interview, they sit for three hours on a bus, and then the official won’t talk to them. They have to courier their footage to us because there is no internet. These are the realities of working with the poor, and so we have to find partners (media buyers) who also buy into the mission.

Who are the major supporters behind VV? Has the collaboration with other NGOs/INGOs been fruitful?

Jessica: Our biggest supporters have been the Knight Foundation, Echoing Green, UNDP and a few others. And yes, NGOs are so crucial to our work. We got our start through six NGOs giving us the seed money to start our first programs. Only after we could say, ‘look, these local NGOs think media will make, a difference and are willing to pay for it, we must be on to something!’ to encourage funders to come on board.

What are your future plans for expansion, particularly Nepal?

Jessica: We would love to come to Nepal! We have a dear friend Thomas Kelly, www.thomaslkellyphotos.com, and we hope to bring Video Volunteers to more places through him.

What would be the number one thing you’d tell to a ‘video volunteer’ that wants to set afoot capturing the hidden stories in our society?

Jessica:  Think about what you have, that no professional journalist has. Learn to discover the power of your own community connections, and the fact that you are someone who has lived through these hardships, and use this personal connection to become a valued journalist.’

We at Verse would like to thank Jessica for her time. We wish her luck and hope that all her future efforts be successful. Jessica can be found at:

Jessica Mayberry

Founding Director

www.videovolunteers.org

http://apps.facebook.com/causes/48114

Watch our videos: indiaunheard.videovolunteers.org