I had the privilege of being invited to this prestigious Film Festival through an upcoming Film maker Ms. Mallika Sothinathan. Mallika was attending the film festival as a participant, rather than an audience member. Her documentary on domestic workers and caregivers in India called “Crossing the River of Life” was screened during the festival on 19th January, 2020.
Crossing the River of Life, is a humble attempt at highlighting the challenges faced by domestic workers who are also often the victims of human trafficking. This documentary raises a lot of uncomfortable questions in the minds of viewers- ranging from the family background of these girls, living conditions once they reach the big cities to make a living, the treatment meted out to them once they are employed as domestic workers by their agent or the owner of the household. This heart touching film concentrates on a domestic worker called Lokhi and her struggles to juggle her home and work on a daily basis.
The audience was a mixed bag, ranging from college students to families to film makers to office goers, basically anybody and everybody with any degree of inclination towards cinema. But the excitement of watching something new was evident in every face. And why not? Each filmmaker did a commendable job on the content, characters involved, music, story, and message. Each film was unique in its own way.
Some of the films screened at this festival in previous years have gone on to be screened at the International Film Festivals in Cannes, Toronto, New York, and Kish. This speaks volumes about film making talent available in India. There are stories waiting to be told by both budding and established film makers across the globe. A platform like this festival gives them an opportunity to showcase their talents to the right audience. Even if they are subjected to immense criticism and harsh judgement by the audiences and critics, a true film maker doesn’t get deterred from presenting their stories to the world.
The film festival came to an end on 21st January, 2020. Film festivals are a vital link in the chain of global film culture. The content presented at festivals like this contribute to an increase of critical thinking among movie goers, which goes beyond the staple dose of song and dance of Bollywood’s mass produced and profit driven films. We, as a democratic society, need cinema that dwells on unconventional subjects, to touch the right cord in people’s hearts and minds.
But more than providing the audience with good content, film festivals have an even more important role in the film industry. Thanks to global digitalization, film festivals provide a platform for films and filmmakers who do not have the support of big film distributors and marketing campaigns behind them. They shine a spotlight on the craftsmanship that goes into creating a film. And especially for women trying to build careers in film making, film festivals give them a chance to showcase their talent and propel their careers towards future success.
Film festivals also help in crossing the barriers of an increasing polarized world. They give you, as an audience member, the ability to hear a rich diversity of stories and voices. The information received is so much more complex than what we get on an online platform and there is also this opportunity to interact with the great minds who made those breath-taking films. If you ever have the chance to attend a film festival, wherever you are in the world, then I highly recommend doing so.
JIFF 2020 has left me wanting more, and I’m eagerly looking forward to JIFF 2021 with even more excitement and anticipation.
With a Post Graduate in Marketing Management, and 14 years of corporate experience in General Insurance domain, Antara is based out of Delhi and shuttles across India for her work commitments. In order to pursue her higher education, she left home at the tender age of 16 and has stayed in different cities of India, allowing her to meet people from different backgrounds. As a voracious reader, traveller, and orator, Antara has always found the art of writing extremely therapeutic as it helps her channel her inner energy about various social issues.