Open Frame Documentary Film Festival 2019: Film Reviews


The film festival showcased many interesting films. This piece contains reviews of some of them.

Sometimes you go to a cinema hall, watch a film and come out a better person than you were just a few hours ago. Such films teach you, disturb you and even inspire you. More than anything else, they turn out to be a wealth of knowledge. Open Frame Documentary Film Festival 2019, which concluded recently, had many such films on offer. Some films touched upon issues that you knew about but never understood the gravity of the matter. Some films spoke about things that you never knew about and changed your whole perspective concerning those things.

Thankfully, I was able to catch some of those beautiful films that were screened in this event. I admired the work of every other filmmaker whose films I could watch and they all were very enlightening. It was a never-seen-before experience.

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Rang Mahal | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Rang Mahal (Palace of Colour) is picturesque and colourful. Here, both ‘beauty’ and ‘change’ are the constant figures. Directed by Prantik Basu, the film narrates the stories on the origins of life. The stories take different shapes much like the changing colours of rocks of nearby hills. While the narration keeps a check on your imagination and fantasies, the multihued houses and hills make for a beautiful sight. The long pauses in the shots, whether the camera is focussing on a tree, a mountain, or a house, act as meditative moments and have a calming effect.

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Door/Home | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Door/Home has disturbing and noisy shots of a housing complex being razed. With it, the film shows that the glorious history of a city now lay in ruins. Director Varun Ram Kurtkoti explores the changing identity of Dharwad. The city once housed great musicians and writers of Karnataka. As the years have gone by, not only have these great artists vanished, but even the entities like the houses, that reminded the city and its people of the forgotten glory, are getting wiped out. The representation of the city’s identity shift, or one can say its ignorance of the great past that it has had, makes you more concerned and distressed. The best shots in the film come when the camera shows the window of a house against the pitch dark surroundings.

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Somewhere Nowhere | Source: PSBT / YouTube

‘New’ and ‘old’ are the elements that come together in Somewhere Nowhere. The duo of Directors Reema Kaur and Shashank Walia not just make you reminisce a city’s forgotten history but also the evolution of the city, the amalgamation of modern-day city with its old self and the significance that its old self has in today’s world. The film sticks to capturing funnier sides. A random guy suddenly shouts inside a historical monument just to feel the echo and for no particular reason. Another guy, with his goggles on, poses for the camera in different ways against a beautiful backdrop that looks immensely weird and humorous. But such instances make you seriously ponder over the relevance of such historical monuments or places the city carries in this day and age (or if it carries any such thing at all). The city has somehow found ways to thrive in a changing world.

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The Outside In | Source: PSBT / YouTube

The Outside In, directed by Hansa Thapliyal, is an impressive take on dolls. The film has this innate quality of bringing the dolls to life. Each of them is created in such a way that they look like being in a real-life scenario. They may be watching TV. They may be harvesting crops. They might just be sitting near a table with a cup of tea. Every doll tells you a story. The faces of the dolls are devoid of eyes, nose or lips. The makers of the dolls hope that different onlookers would identify different personalities. Some would see a jovial face and some would sense the agony inside them. The CGI works make for engrossing visuals in some instances and Hansa makes sure the dolls don’t lose the sheen by being a Toy Story characters.

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Mod Bhaang | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Mod Bhaang (The Ebb Tide) had its Director’s Preview screened. The fishermen community, in this film, reflect upon their aspirations and the activities related to fishing. Director Renu Savant makes you understand the life of fishermen. The film asks you to delve deeper and think if these fishermen are forced into fishing or if they have dreams of pursuing a different career. It also doesn’t dive deeper into the declining population of fish which is happening due to various reasons such as overfishing, climate change, pollution, among others. But it does make its point clear and make us think about it more clearly which we, in our fast-paced city life, might not have ever pondered over.

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Starring Sharmila Tagore | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Starring Sharmila Tagore, directed by Umang Sabarwal, is all about grit and resilience of an actor who made a name for herself against all odds. The film documents the journey of actor Sharmila Tagore in the Indian film industry and uncovers both the stumbling block and the taste of success that she had in her fantastic film career. Through Sharmila’s story, Umang emphasises upon the significance of women empowerment. Sharmila is a testament to the successful life of an ‘independent woman’. If she can do what she wants to do and make herself stand apart from the rest, any woman can think different, dream big and achieve glory. The film is an inspiration to all the women who are still kept under certain boundaries.

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My sacred Glass Bowl | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Priya Thuvassery’s My Sacred Glass Bowl focuses upon the “cultural deception” when it comes to the virginity of women in India. The predefined norms, a lot of women have to adhere to, take centre stage. The significant issues related to myths and restrictions surrounding pre-marital sex vis-à-vis women, delineated in the film, are staggering. Here, while the men are never questioned about their “purity”, women are put on a test to prove their virginity. (People being ignorant about the causes of vaginal bleeding during intercourse is a big concern too). The film also asks you if the habituation to sexual intercourse can be used against a woman in a sexual assault case. It also makes you raise the question of whether or not a woman, who, with her consent, has sexual intercourse regularly, should be deemed as a person of questionable character.

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Person With Desires | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Person With Desires is a beautiful film by Swati Chakroborti that asks you to believe in yourself, be mentally strong, be contented and stay happy. The film is about a differently-abled person who seeks normalcy and merriment when people see him as nothing but a “vegetable with blinking eyes”. There are times when we see a differently-abled guy and think of him as a piteous person. We tend to talk to them with the utmost concern. We tend to believe that differently-abled persons always need sympathy and compassion. Swati, through this film, throws light on such perceptions and makes you realise that he or she is a fellow human being and are not devoid of simple pleasures such as friendly conversations or even the desire for sex.

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In The Mood For Love | Source: PSBT / YouTube

In The Mood For Love sets out to show different couples in the LGBTQ+ community in India and their stories. The duo of Directors Sandeep Kumar Singh and Aakriti Kohli are on a mission to prove that same-sex romance is “ordinarily extraordinary love” and that love is “genderless”. They make you realise what’s it like to be from the LGBTQ+ community and be in a relationship. You can sense the romance between them. You can see how they have adapted themselves in a society where being homosexual is still considered inappropriate by many. Ultimately, the film succeeds in bringing out the fact that how simple and natural it is when same-sex people are in love and are even living under the same roof.

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Desire? | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Desire?, by Garima Kaul, deserves a big round of applause. You can’t stop trumpeting forth the praises of this film as it talks about a subject that is scarcely heard of (or, as a matter of fact, never heard of by many). It uncloaks the experiences of persons who are asexual. (Simply put, someone is said to be asexual who has no desire for sex.) Garima poses several questions through this film. She asks if someone should ever talk about sex with an asexual person or just keep it out of the equation. She further gives a clearer picture of the absurdity that one creates by failing to show an understanding and compassion towards a fellow human being and resorting to mock asexuals or homoromantic couples. The film acts as a proof that delineates that being asexual is not a defect of any kind. To someone, who doesn’t think being asexual is not problematic, the film shows the middle finger wearing a black ring.

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On And Off The Records | Source: PSBT / YouTube

On And Off The Records, directed by Pratik Biswas, takes us through the evolution of Hindustani Classical music in India over a hundred years. We gaze at the transition that takes place not only in the music production and distribution industry but also in the way musicians adapt themselves. The film is a musical treat. It makes you go back in time and relish some of the greatest Hindustani classical songs. (It’s saddening that such captivating music is mostly forgotten.) Music is an art and it should be presented in its truest form. The film makes you wonder if the change, that the music production and dissemination went through, stopped the musicians from expressing themselves freely or if it helped them reach more audience and allowed for more innovation.

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Rehearsals For Tomorrow | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Rehearsals For Tomorrow is Ein Lall’s extraordinary effort in capturing the change which the contemporary dance in India is going through. Here, the choreography has taken an interesting shape. Contemporary dance is taught and performed in a way that the thoughts spill out of one’s body. The synchronisation in the dance is peaceful to watch. The creative methods of expressing melancholy as well as mirthfulness through new ways are spellbinding.

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Coral Woman | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Coral Woman is Priya Thuvassery’s latest film. You need to launch forth high encomiums for this eye-opening film. It is about a woman who, with utmost sprightliness in her countenance and highest gaiety in her manner, goes out in search of beauty and experiences dejection when she finds out that it is not at all how she believed it to be. She sets out in the hope of witnessing the dainty corals and ends up discovering various environmental threats that are also affecting corals. The beautiful underwater creature is now on the decline and is fast getting eliminated from the face of the Earth. The film highlights the significance of corals and its relationship with fish. You keep a grave countenance almost throughout this film as it uncovers the shocking revelations related to environmental degradation. There is a definite urge-to-do-something felt to save corals and our Mother Earth in particular.

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Janani’s Juliet | Source: PSBT / YouTube

Janani’s Juliet, directed by Pankaj Rishi Kumar, is about a theatre group and their efforts in taking inspiration from a real-life couple for their play. While adapting William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for their play, the theatre group not only try to depict the battle between love and hate in their story but also focus upon the caste discrimination and gender equality. While the theatre group conceptualises an Indian version of Romeo and Juliet, the actual story of the real-life couple runs parallely. This intrigues you to know more about that real-life couple and whether or not they are happily living together in spite of threats from family members.