All posts filed under: Documentary

MACHINES (Dir. Rahul Jain, 2016, India/Germany/Finland)

The worker as machine is not a new phenomenon. It goes as far back as the industrial revolution. But I have to admit though. I thought this documentary was going to be about the singularity of the physical, industrial and technological symbolism of machines. It still is in some respects. But Rahul Jain trains his eye on translating the processes of manufacture, waste and labour into a hypnotically poetic synthesis of the toils and uncertain rituals of economic liberalisation. And what rises to the surface through a series of revelatory interviews with the factory workers in particular is a voice that speaks not of Marxist revolution but of the want for better (and safer) working conditions, a reasonable work shift, and acknowledgement from the boss that they exist. The interviews with the workers are interspersed with observational footage in the labyrinthine textile factory, relaying a socio-political discourse aligned to a wider social conscience. But this sort of comes undone towards the end. In an instant, the quizzical workers reduce the filmic apparatus to an obsolete …

AN AMERICAN IN MADRAS Dir. Karan Bali, 2013, India

Karan Bali’s affectionate documentary An American in Madras, broadcast on Channel Four in October as part of a series of films about the Indian film industry, is an eye opener in many respects. It is a history that I had no knowledge of and makes one re-consider what we have been told and what has been historicised about Indian Cinema especially regional cinemas is tentative. This certainly ascertains the history of Indian cinema is still being written and that we need to contest historiographies, revising past historicising that relies on pedantic, monolithic, essentialist accounts. The story of American born Ellis R. Dungan who worked in the Tamil film industry for over fifteen years suggests South Indian Cinema was making substantial technical advances that ran parallel with and influenced the Bombay film industry. Bali’s excavation and recognition of American director Ellis Dungan’s contribution to the technical, thematic and aesthetic development of Tamil Cinema is significant in three respects. Firstly, it points to a cultural exchange between Hollywood and the Indian film industry, a long lasting one, …

JANG AUR AMAN / WAR AND PEACE (Dir. Anand Patwardhan, 2002, India)

In November I will deliver a paper at the University of Salford on the ostracism of Indian cinema in cinephilia. If Indian DVD labels have categorically failed to distribute films adequately to the consumer then filmmakers like Anand Patwardhan who has only the most tenuous of links with the Indian film industry has worked independently to make documentaries and distribute his work through his website. Patwardhan’s work has been available for a while in India and he has always been careful to whom he licenses his work. Patwardhan’s documentaries have been screened in the UK at film festivals and he most recently toured with Jai Bhim Comrade, participating in a masterclass at the Sheffield Doc Fest. Nonetheless, getting to see his work has been problematic in the past. Some of his early work including his shorter documentaries is on YouTube. The UK release of War and Peace, Patwardhan’s critically acclaimed 2002 documentary on the nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan, made available for the first time on home video by Second Run, a specialist UK …

ORIGINAL COPY (Dir. Georg Heinzen & Florian Heinzen-Ziob, 2015, Germany/India)

The art of the film poster is something that has often been lamented about and it is quite true that traditional hand drawn film posters recognisable by a painter’s signature style has all but disappeared. Sheikh Rehman is a relic of a bygone age but what a wondrous vestige he is. Rehman lives in his own secret world, in a makeshift studio behind Alfred Talkies, a single cinema screen in old Mumbai. His life, following in the footsteps of his father who was also a film poster painter and artist, has been defined by the larger than life masala simulacra of Indian cinema. Rehman is not the star of this documentary; films, cinema and movies are. Alfred Talkies, a cinema that exists on good will, screening re-runs of B films is a dream palace populated by the tired, the hungry and the poor. In the cinema auditorium an usher who takes his job very seriously wanders the aisles, clearing the screen with his stick, ensuring a strange discipline is enforced so that the masses can …