Friday, April 21, 2006

More than a question

What unearthed this burried question was an invite for the screening of a documentary film produced by Tiger Watch 2006, 'Curbing the Crisis'.

The point in question: Why dont documentary films have a public screening platform?

This takes me back to the time where I first watched documentary films.
While in college, as part of the media course, we had this two-day documentary film-festival, which was really an eye-opener for us and a foot-fall to rouse mass interest in the genre of documentary films for the makers.

Now the docus screened, spanned diverse issues from manual scavenging still as a practice in northern states (can u believe it?), to communal riots, fanaticism, wildlife poaching, rehabilation of tribals etc.,

But one film, struck a chord with the audience. Called "The Bee, The Bear and The Kuruba", the film is a narration of a story by a Kuruba (tribal) grandfather to his grandchild by the warm flames of an evening bhaitak. He tells the kid of bygone years, where kurubas lived in their homelands in the Western Ghats; wildlife and kurubas lived in peaceful co-existence, the kurubas doing with whatever the generous forest had to emanate (which is why the film is called "The Bee, The Bear and The Kuruba) .

Greed took over, loomed largely by encroaching and poaching. It left the genuine kurubas with little or no hope of living in their homelands as they were coerced to vacate in trajectory of dwindling resources in the forests. The agony of evacuation and a distant memory of the heartland shimmers in the eye of the grandfather as a curious innocence shines in the eye of the little one. The film moves you to a pensive mode and does so with titillation. And it effaces fallacies that documentaries are boring, long-drawn and snivelling.

Google linked me to EKTA indicating that this film was selected amongst the top 15 films for 'Travelling film South Asia' to create awareness of South Asian docus in regional and global level.

Which gets me back to the point in question "Why don't documentary films have a public screening platform?" What about awareness here and now? Possibilities may range from lack of an interested audience to highly opinionated issues (but isnt ours a free-country? or so does the constituition righteously claim) to Censor board's regulation (I feign mighty ignorance here) .

And sadly the film-makers take trouble of reaching out to people who need to be voiced, making the film with cringing resources, and then liaise with people for screening their films to create awareness?? Instead why cant there be a place for such screenings where people get to know about what's lurking round the corner? Is the faction of people who would watch something realistic than imaginative really that negligible? How many of you reading this would go for the screening of a documentary, thereby expressing a willingness to see, hear and know reality?

There is no harm in being well-informed and sensitive to certain issues than conjure boisterous marvel at box office hits! I believe, in the long-run and larger span of life, 'Ignorance is really no bliss'.

Will the 16mm ever have a public viewing platform?


Kaustub said...

they are serious...serious issues...serious and intellecutual crowd wathces them
the distributor can't afford to play it...against a populist film
unless a an incentive i meana havy incentive is given...the distributor wont play it and if he dos...then few people woudl come to watch. He dones not want ot loose buisnes
u agree?
also, the audience is not enough...its far too scattered.
getting them at one place is not economical

DK said...

If you ask me i think they involve commercial logistics issues - the film-makers dont find distributors that buy the reel and sell them to cinema halls, the cinema halls wouldnt buy them because they arent crowd-pullers. As long as their is a profitability angle public screening of documentaries cannot match the parlance of feature film.
But yes i agree that maybe like 'Ranga shankara' there can be a dedicaated place only to faciliate docu makers to show-case their stuff, this not only rids them off having to channelise energy and resources into the right PR to draw the target audience, it also promotes the cause of using 'visual media' for a reason more meaningful than mere entertainment.
Actually the film festivals that happen in the city/country/region does provide ameteur documentary/fil-makers to display their creations, only they dont find as huge a sponsoror or as big a publicity (or TRP ratings) as say a 'lakme fashion week' or a wills fashion week.
Afterall we live in a world thats instantly given to bling and razzmataz, we the poeple like to let yourselves be enamoured by 'fantasy' as long as it eludes us, and elude it does until death do us apart.
Hah, this comment must be longer than your post..err..sorry for using your precious webspace, just that i feel as strongly about issues of the sort and am somewhere glad i trace a thought peer :)

The Argumentative Indian said...

We DO have several public screening platforms for documentaries; Television, DVDs & the Internet. We seem to forget that because of the complexity of the subjects this genre addresses, documentaries tend to appeal to only a certain segment of the population. One can then make an argument that documentaries need to be made more appealing to the aam janata. But can every issue be dumbed down? Wouldn't this dumbed down versions turn off the people who might actually be interested in these subjects & are in a position to do something but aren't so intellectually challenged?

And, it isn't as if it hasn't been tried before to get the aam janata to be interested in a non-fiction feature. I remember when I was growing up in Dharwad all the movie halls would show some mini documentary from the Films Division before the movie began. I remember the groan of the disinterested public when these clips began & the relieved clapping when they ended. (Are they still required to show them these days?) Or, how about those documentaries they used to show in school?

Sometimes well-made documentaries succeed in appealing to the majority of disinterested public; 'Fahrenheit 911' & 'The March of the Penguins' comes to mind. But a large majority of the really well-made & really interesting documentaries hardly get known outside the usual circuit.

I know I sound cynical when I say this. But it is only a small minority of people who tend be interested in subjects beyond the usual humdrum. Majority in our society tends to wander through the life in a comatose state. You can gently prod them towards your direction but you can't wake them up.

unforgiven said...

Let me put what DK said in one sentence.

Because they are too boring.

*shrug* I watch them. Then again, I am not exactly a representative of the population of this planet.

Cruel Intentions said...

Eh, How About Having 50% of the Cinema Time Reserved For Screening Documentaries...

Just a suggestion ;-)

Jay said...

I was excited when I entered the movie hall to watch "Kaal". I was hoping it would be some sensible, film on some aspect of Wildlife.(after hearing a lot about it being filmed in the national park) The movie ended, just like how my excitement had.

Kaal for instance was a perfect platform with the directors, actors and music which could generate a great amount of revenue and bring people to the hall. But more than wildlife the interest was on something else. Though some amount of awareness like "Jungle ka niyam" existed in the movie - am sure people wouldn’t really come out with these things in mind but to tell others that Ajay Devgan is a ghost or some other dramatic thing which happened in the movie.

I don’t see a reason why people wouldn’t watch the same Tiger crisis movie if a Shahrukh Khan or even a black buck killer plays a role, or if it isn’t termed as a documentary movie. It can still be a commercial movie with some content which is relevant and really has some message. If at least 1 person comes out of a hall with some positive thoughts in mind, its probably worth making a movie. Asking people to watch documentaries paying money is something am sure will not work for a long time.
If all film makers made sensible movies present day documentary film subject will automatically become commercial movies.
The film makers should for sometime accommodate lesser profits. They say "you wouldn’t watch it if we made a sensible film without glamour and glitz"

But imagine if most films that are released are sensible, thought provoking stories with a message and some learning - Some day people would start going to watch these movies.
There are many things the government can do:
1. Persuade the film makers to make sensible movies with a social message.
2. Give them some grants, decrease tax and help them make some money with such movies.
3. Introduce sensible movies right in the early ages. For instance: If every week a nice documentary movie was shown at school, I would probably be more interested and accustomed to watch them in future as well.
4. Gradually change the way movies are made. Am sure this can happen if all film makers agree to help mankind and start working towards it. We may achieve this in the next 50 years. There might be film makers who never make money in their entire career while trying to achieve the larger goal. Can we afford this? I think we should at least try. At least we should encourage films like RDB which seems to be some sort of a start to this revolution.

If you give a kid an option of not going to school, the kid would be happy. But we know the kid needs to attend school and am sure the kid too would start realizing the advantages of going to school after some time. So we need to drive our kids to school which is nothing but making sensible movies and forcing people to watch them. Please have an occasional song or a romantic scene just to add some spice. But if 90% of all the movies made is nothing but movies which help in mastering the skills of wooing the opposite sex, or display of martial arts in an efficient way to overpower the opponent; then I think that probably is nothing but shame for every concerned human being.

Thanks for helping some of us set some time aside to think about this issue.

Simi said...

Am saying given da fact tht there is an audience which would like to see such films. Not in theatres for sure. Agree with u that distributors, the money rakers, will definitely not screen documentaries and movie halls should be allowed to remain temples of entertainment and not let 'unholy seriousness' barb its fences (pls note sarcasm ;) ). Am indicating to an alternative platform, much like what DK has specified.

u cant be more right when u suggest a place like Ranga Shankara n in sayin that 'visual media' deserves to be utilised more than just as a medium of/for entertainment. Wonder why our generation clings to sense gratification like a parasite that ultimately eats u up!

the (anonymous) argumentative indian-
nice to know uv been around dwd.
dont u think the fact that they these docus were thrust upon viewers to watch them before the movie they had come to see is kind of disrespecting the film first of all and second of all its manipulating the audience too. and am not really sure about the content of these films and how gud they really are to arouse interest. am talkin of ones like "the bee, the bear and the kuruba".
Its the minority (the BUZZ word ;) ) that deserves a platform for meaningful cinema!

ur 'one sentence' does not do justice to what DK has said. and dat documentaries are boring is rather a collective prejudice! the bee, the bear and the kuruba, was far from boring.

Cruel Intentions-
hey, ur intention here is not cruel at all!! gud pun though ;)

The Argumentative Indian said...


It is the classic taking-the-horse-to-the-pond story; We can't thrust documentaries or any other point of view on an unwilling audience. Nor can you, as some of my friends here have suggested, force movie halls to reserve half of their time to showing docuemtnaries or asking government to give subsidies or grants. (Frankly, isn't it time we Indians got out of this reservation/quota/subsidy/grant immaturity?)

I'm saying again that there are ample platforms these days for people who are interested in off-beat topics to satisfy their cravings for documentaries. Discovery, NatGeo, History channel are all a couple of channels away from the Saas-Bahu channels! Admittedly, not many Indian documentaries are on these channels now, but it is only a matter of time.

A better way would be for one to grab a bunch of like-minded friends & rent the DVDs & watch the documentaries & then have a rousing discussion on the subject of the documentary. Or, if one feels adventurous, how about some social organization doing it on a somewhat bigger scale? How hard would it be to fill a small conference hall with 10-20 interested people & rent a DVD and then have a discussion afterwards? How intellectually stimulating would that be?

Just my 2 paisa ;)

Cruel Intentions said...

@ the (Argumentative) Anon Indian

Remember Ogden Fredrrick Nash??? Robert Frost? Mending Wall, Well There is something called Pun. Learn to Recognize and Appreciate it. ;-)

The Argumentative Indian said...

cruel intentions,

sorry, didn't see the smiley at the end of your comment ;)

(runs & grabs a cup of strong coffee to wake up & turns pun filter to ON)

chill, yo!

Simi said...

Commercial movies with celebs is a good idea (Swades was gr8 i thought, never liked Shahrukh this much before). I also wonder how they would really make meaningful movies, as of now its only a bunch. And even those movies are a huge risk for them.
But the point is still of documentaries as a genre of film-making.

Anonymous (Argumentative) Indian & Cruel Intentions & the rest of the house-
What's life without/ if not a pun!

unforgiven said...

Ahh, I am misunderstood, yet again.
*I* don't find them boring, other people do.

Period. Otherwise they'd sell and instead of seeing Mallika Sherawat doing yet another dumb bimbo scene we'd be seeing a classic documentary.

Simi said...

no ur not misunderstood.
go back and read wat i said.
*i* was not referring to u.

The Argumentative Indian said...

Some movies with socially relevant issues I have enjoyed over the years (these were not documentaries per se, but nevertheless addressed subjects the commercial cinema wouldn't touch with a barge pole)

'Thabarana Kathe', 'Bettada Hoovu', 'Samskara" in Kannda,
'Mammo', 'Arth' in Hindi

Any other to add to the list?

OT: I'm not trying to make a point by posting anonymously here. Just that this website wants my soul before it allows me to register.

...and I have already sold my soul to the devil.


Preethi said...

It will take two giant leaps to reach you goal simi.

Firstly the director should give more credit to his audience and know that they are more intelligent that he believes (I mean the common junta) and make more intelligent commercial movies first. When the crowd becomes a thinking crowd all the documentaries will automatically be accepted and there will be avenues opening right left and centre.

Whenever any director is questioned on this particular aspect of 'message of the movie' the reply is always the same. The audience want this. They like to keep the audience dumb. It makes their life easier you see.

Here i don't see many or any such director in Indian cinema.

unforgiven said...

well then in the opinion of the rest of the Indian public, documentaries are boring. Name any..

Vijay said...

There used to be screening of docus in chennai in the saphire complex which no longer exists. and IMax in Hyderabad do screen wildlife docus in IMax format,but i think they are mostly for the wow factor than educational. having multiplexes have even a small theater for the docus will be a good idea, to start with. And ofcourse a little bit of originality and taste in making the docus will be a plus, watching bland docus the kinds screened before films is really kind of pains.