Wednesday, November 22, 2017

19th Madurai Film Festival : Sameera Jain Retrospective

19th Madurai International Documentary and Short Film Festival 2017
Retrospective 01: Sameera Jain

Sameera Jain is a filmmaker and editor, and has worked for over 30 years in the arena of film and video. Sameera has edited several award winning documentaries and some fiction feature films. Her directorial ventures ‘Portraits of Belonging’, ‘Born at Home’ and ‘Mera Apna Sheher’ (My Own City) have been acknowledged for cinematic excellence at national and international festivals. 

Sameera has been on film juries and participated in curriculum formulation at various institutions. She has been mentoring film students and filmmakers at diverse platforms and has been invited to teach filmmaking at many places, including her alma mater FTII. She has conceptualized, and is Course Director of a unique Creative Documentary program at SACAC (Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication) in New Delhi.

Films to be shown:

Portraits of Belonging: Films on two people in the old city of Delhi : Bhai Mian, a kite maker, and Sagira Begum, an ancestral zari (golden thread) embroiderer. Their life, work, habitat, skill, memories, thoughts and presence.

Bhai Mian
Dir : Sameera Jain ; 30 min; Hindi with Eng subtitles; 1998

Bhai Mian is a kite maker who lives in the last historic Delhi – Shahjahanabad, the city built by Mughal emperor Shahjahan in the 17th century. The film is a portrait of the man in his context, a man whose ordinariness barely conceals his imagination and resilience.
Like many others of the Muslim minority community in India, Bhai Mian’s life is a struggle against all odds. It was in his youth that he first found magic in his hands, while learning to make jewellery under the tutelage of his Ustad. But later, inflation made it impossible to keep up the practice. New courses had to be navigated, creative solutions found. A favourite pastime was turned into a serious profession. Kite making and kite flying took him to several competitions in different parts of the world.

Bhai Mian continuously adapts the craft to new tastes. A portrait of a man who is a survivor – existing with dignity, humour, even grace.

- Awarded certificate of merit At MIFF
 participation in
- The International Competitive section of the Cinema du Reel, Paris, 1999.
- FIFMA 2000, Belgium.
- The Silver Images Film Festival, Chicago, USA.
- Film South Asia '99, Kathmandu, Nepal.
- Sakshi Film Festival, Bangalore, India.
- Prakriti '99, Bhopal, India.

Portraits of Belonging: Sagira Begum
Dir: Sameera Jain; 30 min; Hindi with Eng subtitles; 1998

Sagira Begum is seventy five years old, and does zari (golden thread) embroidery. She practices an ancestral profession, like many others in the last historic city of Delhi - Shahjahanabad. Her memories are of better times – an environment more open and friendly, an easier lifestyle, better wages.

In Sagira’s world, there were friendly ghosts that used to play with children in the lanes and bylanes of the old city. These have been replaced with strange new ones, such as television. Ghosts that take away the power of prayer.

The National Museum set in the manicured greens of New Delhi has ancient zardozi (zari embroidery) on display. Sagira recognises all the old stitches when she sees the collection in the museum. Her own old city chokes with congestion, and craftspeople sell ancestral handiwork for money to live on. Sagira Begum's community will have to take up other work to survive.

For the moment, she continues to embroider, and life in the old city somehow goes on.

Participation in
-          Prakriti 1999, Bhopal, India
-          Mumbai International Short Film Festival (MIFF 2000), India. (International Competition Section)
-          FIFMA 2, Belgium.

Mera Apna Sheher/ My Own City
Dir: Sameera Jain; 56min; 2011

The experience of a gendered urban landscape - where the gaze, the voice and the body are at all times under surveillance. What if the multiple surveillances were to be turned upon themselves to observe what is contained in the everyday. The film explores whether there is a sense of ownership, of belonging to the city. Can a woman in the city, as she continuously negotiates the polarities of anxiety and comfort - be free?
Somewhere just under the surface of the `normal’ and in the lives of women cab drivers lie signs of reclamation of space and the gaze.

Participation in
-          Yamagata International Documentary Festival, Japan
-          PSBT Open Frame film festival, New Delhi
-          SWIFF (Samsung Women’s International Film Festival), Chennai
-          Persistence Resistance Film Festival, New Delhi
-          6th Gorakhpur Film Festival
-          FTII (Film &TV Institute of India), Pune
-          IIHS (Indian Institute for Human Settlements), New Delhi
-          Studio Safdar, New Delhi
 Among several other screenings

A Quiet Little Entry
Dir: Uma Chakravarthi; 44 min; 2010
Edited by Sameera Jain

The film is about an unknown woman, Subbalakshmi who lived between the salt pans and thousands of other places in her mind and left behind a trunk, a diary and scraps of paper. She had participated like many others in the movement for independence in the 1920's and 30's but was forced by circumstances to withdraw from active participation. It is a film about the choices women are denied but who struggle to find other ways of expressing their resistance.

The film was shot on location in south India and uses archival material from both the public and the family archive. It experiments with form by evoking the protagonist through suggestion; it uses photographs, camerawork, music and a voiceover to tell the story of Subbalakshmi.

A Season Outside
Dir: Amar Kanwar; 32 min; 1997
Edited by Sameera Jain

There is perhaps, no border outpost in the world quite like Wagah, where this film begins its exploration. An outpost where every evening people are drawn to a thin white line… and probably anyone in the eye of a conflict could find themselves here. A Season Outside is a personal and philosophical journey through past generations, conflicting positions, borders and time zones.

A Night of Prophecy
Dir: Amar Kanwar; 77 min; multiple Indian languages; 2002
Edited by Sameera Jain

Through poetry emerges the possibility of understanding the past, the severity of conflict and the cycles of change. The film travels in the states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Nagaland and Kashmir. Through poetry you see where all the territories are heading towards, where you belong, and where to intervene, if you want to. The narratives merge, allowing us to see a mere universal language of symbols and meanings. This moment of merger is the simple moment of prophecy.

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