Tale of The Peacock

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By Vivek Menezes

What happened when the “oldest film festival of India” was inaugurated in 1952? We know all-time-great director Frank Capra attended. What did the creative genius behind ‘It Happened One Night’ (1934) think of India?

We don’t know the answer to those questions. In fact, we are left with only skeletal details, and a meagre archive of press clippings and photographs (plus living memories) to glean what happened at every subsequent edition of the International Film Festival of India, whether IFFI 1962, or IFFI 1982, or even IFFI 2002. We know the movies screened, but what did delegates think about them? What events surrounded the cinema schedule? How did directors present and contextualize their work at the time?

The desire to document, record and archive a broad set of narratives about IFFI 2015 motivated the founding of The Peacock.

Ameya Abhyankar, the CEO of Entertainment Society of Goa, desired to create a trove of rich content which allowed as many voices as possible to be recorded from IFFI 2015. He wanted it to be presented online, and in the form of an attractive periodical that could shape and enhance the delegate experience every day. Team Peacock laboured hard to make his vision come true. You are holding the final result in your hand.

No one would believe us if we revealed the average age (or previous formal media experience) of the team that has made The Peacock’s daily print run possible. Thanks to the unflappable Jose Lourenco, that lack of experience turned into asset – our young reporters broke away from tired journalistic tropes to bring back fresh perspectives, original voices. Alongside him throughout was invaluable Sachin Chatte, whose knowledge and appetite for films is second to none.

In just a few days, Kinjal Sethia and Aditi Desai became meticulous, first-rate feature writers. Jonathan Rodrigues and Aliya Abreu transformed into leaders of our coverage, regularly probing stories more revealingly than any “big name” peer. Suyash Kamat, our “go-to guy” for cinema nous, also provided crucial frame of reference to understand what was at stake for film students at IFFI 2015.

Yoga-cool Chiraag Sukerkar’s talent for relaxed conversation provided Short Takes to enliven our pages. Renaissance man Greig Fernandes demonstrated he could do all of our jobs (and well), plus one more none of us could: iffigoa.org/the-peacock is all his work.

The attractive look and style of The Peacock is entirely down to two talented Goans. Amol Kamat, the layout whiz who works at the speed of thought, delivered unfailingly. We never sweated our front pages because Kedar Dhondu supplied superb exclusive artworks daily. This brilliant young artist is among the foremost of his generation (you just watch out for Kedar!) Our photos came from a pool of students: Akshay Jadhav, Yash Rana, Sushmit Sen, Rebecca D’Costa, Manan Sodhi, Tanvi Nambiar, Soumya Mahajan and Sanket Satam.

All through the banquet of cinema at IFFI 2015, some main themes came back to us again and again: freedom of expression, censorship, exclusion. How can a silenced voice add to dialogue? But even as these questions were raised, meaningful responses came on-screen.

Jafar Panahi’s ‘Taxi’ (2015) is breathtaking testament to resilience and resourcefulness. High art created under nigh-unbelievable strictures. The celebrated Iranian director is under house arrest, banned from making movies, and forbidden to give interviews or leave the country. But ‘This Is Not A Film’ (2011) was smuggled abroad in a flash drive that was baked into a cake, then came ‘Closed Curtain’ (2013). But ‘Taxi’ – winner of the Golden Bear at Berlin – audaciously places the director behind the wheel of a taxi plying through well-to-do Tehran.

One masterstroke by Panahi is to play out tension and politics as shadows quivering in the background of conversations in his cab, most effectively with his cheeky, soulful little niece. They discuss censorship – hottest topic of IFFI 2015 – in the context of instructions she is given to make a school film. Little Hana was told “show what’s real but not real real.” Her uncle counsels, “there are realities they don’t want shown.” The kid reasons, “they don’t want to show it, but they do it themselves.”

Another power-packed scene resonated with the biggest lesson to take away from IFFI 2015’s showcase of irrepressible directors and producers and actors from around India and the rest of the world. Panahi picks up a spirited lady holding a bouquet of red roses, who is revealed as another icon of resistance in contemporary Iran. The human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh also spent years in jail, and on hunger strike. Just before leaving Panahi’s taxi she leaves a rose, telling him she realizes he’s making yet another movie despite the ban on his work, “the people of cinema can always be relied on.”

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