The creative act is not performed by the artist alone; the spectator brings the work in contact with the external world by deciphering and interpreting its inner qualifications and thus adds his contribution to the creative act. This becomes even more obvious when posterity gives a final verdict and sometimes rehabilitates forgotten artistes.
- Marcel Duchamp, (Session on the Creative Act; Convention of the American Federation of Arts, Houston, Texas, April 1957)
We bring you five days of conversation and discussion with filmmakers and their documentary cinema.
Unlike previous episodes of Persistence Resistance, this year will see greater engagement with documentary makers. Thus, the number of screenings has been kept low to avoid a unidirectional format of information flow which characterizes film festivals. Rather, more time has been allotted to foster interaction between filmmakers and audience. We hope to experience a temporal-spatial entity that will be of cultural consequence as much as the films.
The shift from a screening-based to a conversation-based Persistence Resistance is an experiment. It is in response to technological changes that are radically altering methods of viewing. Distributive networks of technology have made access to films easy. Thus, the objective of Persistence Resistance 2014 is to bring the filmmakers and the viewers together, at a time when films enjoy relatively smooth circulation.
Cinema is about a language of change. Cinema is about choice, narrative, representation and technology. It is about politics and assertion. It is about visuals and voices from the margins. Cinema is about conversations between films, filmmakers and film lovers. Conversations at Persistence Resistance 2014 will focus on interrogating collaborative practices in filmmaking. Collaborations between filmmakers and creative crew, directors and subjects, politics and ideologies, aesthetics and technology will be emphasized.
Collaboration between the director and the subject is not innate. Rather, it is the result of a series of successful negotiations between subjectivities on either side. Any involvement with the marginalized, visual or even textual, necessitates constant observation, comprehension, doubt and clarification to make collaborative efforts fruitful. The issue of collaboration in documentary practice assumes an altogether different dimension when it is at stake between the filmmakers themselves. Particularly when their contributions are unguided by any fixed division of intellectual labour. Conversations with shared practitioners will bring forth the ethical and political intricacies of such filmmaking.
Subjectivity is political. The pursuit of subjectivity is a political act as it is an assertion of interest. Any cultural product is likely to have its antecedents in terms of content and form. Why does a filmmaker choose a certain content and form? How do they advance the political position of the filmmaker? Do political positions of filmmakers and subjects clash? How does the dynamics between a filmmaker and the audience unfold whose cherished beliefs and values her film has just challenged? These too are some questions we hope to address during Persistence Resistance 2014.
Filmmakers talk about their work
Conversation with Deepa Dhanraj and Navroze Contractor
Discussants: Pankaj Butalia, Dr. Madhavi Menon
Strong female filmic subjects are a significant component of Deepa’s practice. The documentary filmmaker and her subjects are positioned in a matrix of power, ethics, desire and trust that is constant yet shifting. How does the filmmaker approach this complex relationship that is at once historical, social, intimate and also demands judgment and negotiation at every turn. How does the filmmaker create a relationship of trust and then determine its parameters, both on and off-camera? Deepa and Navroze conduct a philosophical and filmic dialogue where the historical, afilmic fact mutates into the filmic while containing all the materiality and sensitivity of its initial form. But how does this aesthetic and philosophical negotiation take place? What are its contours and language?
Conversation with Surabhi Sharma
Discussants: Sanjay Kak, Rupleena Bose
Powerful stories of the subaltern are witnessed through fragments of gesture, memory, symbols, objects and sounds. Affect and pleasure create multiple points of entry and subjective readings and desires are activated. How does the filmmaker dance between truth, history and construction? When and how do sound and visual become more than mere recordings of an empirical reality? Space and its shifting contours are an important element of conveying temporality- How does the filmmaker encode this movement and how did this grammar emerge?
Conversation with Anjali Monteiro and K. P. Jayasankar
Discussant: Manak Matiyani
Sharing a deep history of practice Anjali and Jaishankar collaborate at each aspect of the film process. Working closely they have developed the productive space where the self and the other communicate on both, conscious and unconscious registers. Trusting each other's instinct, judgment and perception, both maintain their independent visions but create a synchronous form that embodies their shared politics, aesthetic and desires. How did this shared but personal vision emerge and what personal histories brought them together aesthetically and politically. What terrains must they negotiate to continue this productive collaboration and what negotiation and decison-making processes do they adopt at each stage of their practice.
Conversation with Sanjay Kak
Discussants: Mallika Shakya, Surabhi Sharma
Sanjay Kak creates narratives on an epic canvas such as moments of national crises, civil uprisings, the dissonant space between ‘nation’ and ‘state’. Within this space, history and notions of nation are interrogated as discursive formations, a reflection of power relations and facts as constructions. The only truth is body, memory and its markings of experience and time. Is film not an account of the filmmaker’s subjectivities, history and political faith? If so, how does the filmmaker create a relationship of trust, faith and authenticity when “given” knowledge is being destabilized? How does the filmmaker view the shifts in politics of aesthetics in Indian documentary forms, in light of his own practice?
Conversation with Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam
Discussants: Latika Gupta, Anupama Chandra
What is the relationship between the filmmaker and the character? How does the character define the journey? The focus of conversation this year would be collaborative practices in cinema. With Ritu and Tenzing, the conversation can explore their collaborations in the broadest terms - with their subjects, concerns i.e. which is personal and political? How are the personal and the political balanced, or do they merge?
Conversation with Jabeen Merchant
Discussants: Rahul Roy, Surabhi Sharma
The editor's role contains multiple aspects. But fundamentally it is to collaborate with the director to realise her vision while hearing the rhythm and pace of the material. How does the material speak and what spatiality and temporality does it convey? In terms of documentary form, several questions arise; do editors develop a signature style? If so, how does that affect the collaboration with the director? And probably, a very basic question always lingers: what is the editor's role exactly?
Conversation with R. V. Ramani
Discussants: Surabhi Sharma, Anupama Srinivasan
Though the focus of the conversations is to interrogate collaborative practices in cinema, yet with Ramani, that notion takes on a different hue as he is such an one-man-army. Nevertheless, in his work the collaboration exists. Is it in the realms of language and aesthetics?
Conversation with Anupama Srinivasan, Spandan Banerjee and Subasri Krishnan
Discussant: Samina Misra
The focus of this conversation is on the language of cinema; the historically received and the one being produced experimentally and personally. Against a history of political, propagandistic and experimental forms of documentary cinema, how does each of the new filmmakers, find their own language? How do they negotiate the associations that historical languages and styles bring? What aesthetic and artistic practices inform their aesthetic frameworks? Is there a conversation taking place with other visualities as well?