Monitor: New South Asian Short Film & Video

Monitor: New South Asian Short Film & Video
Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 7:30PM
Winnipeg Cinematheque

Introduced by SAVAC Programming Co-ordinator Srimoyee Mitra and followed by a panel discussion with Cameron Bailey, Divya Mehra and Srimoyee Mitra.

The Winnipeg Film Group and SAVAC (the South Asian Visual Arts Centre), together co-present Monitor, an experimental short film and video -screening program that showcases new and innovative works by artists of South Asian origin. Launched in 2004, Monitor attracts a broad range of critically engaged, poetic and political work including documentary, abstract and / or conceptual film and video work, performance documentation and narrative short films.

Monitor’s shorts series is a selection of the program’s compelling and moving experimental works made by Canadian-South Asian artists over the last six years. They reckon with ideas of loss and displacement, fragmented memories and the uncertainties of everyday life from the migrant experience.


Coolie Gyal by Renata Mohamed
U.A.I.L. Go Back by Angad Bhalla
Untitled Displacement Series #2 by Pavitra Wickramasinghe
Fracture by Pamila Matharu
Dead Beat by Smriti Mehra
Fire, Fences and Flight by Ayesha Hameed
Clifton To Saddar by Faisal Anwar
Ishnan by Tejpal S. Ajji
Skin by Debashis Sinha
The Importance Of Being Earnest by Divya Mehra
Tapestry by Sharlene Bamboat
Barber Of Bangalore by Roger Sinha


From Uptown Magazine November 18, 2010

The power of image and sound, the world around
Monitor is an engaging new programme of outstanding shorts that can travel anywhere

Quite simply, the short films in this program are good enough for anywhere.

Launched in 2004, Monitor is an experimental short film and video program exposing new, innovative work by filmmakers of South Asian origin. Many of the films deal explicitly with issues of immediacy and importance to South Asians, both in the sub-continent itself and the related diaspora.

Still, the program never feels exclusive. What’s striking is how consistently the filmmakers — whether it’s using documentary, experimental film, or other — transcend the conceptual framing of the program. This is a highly accessible body of work for anyone who simply enjoys films.

Roger Sinha’s The Barber of Bangalore is not necessarily the most sophisticated filmmaking; indeed, on one level it’s like the kind of thing high school film students (or younger) might make. It’s a series of Hindi women dancers making funny faces to the classic Rossini opera The Barber of Seville. That’s it.

It remains fun, though, reminding us of how funny the human face can be. And the facial not only actually works nicely in harmony with the music, it even evokes a story, however vague. It’s also funny in juxtaposing an iconic piece of Western music with these mischievous Indian women’s faces.

On the experimental side, Pavitra Wickramasinghe’s Untitled Displacement Series #2 and Faisal Anwar’s Clifton to Saddar embody what the best of experimental film often is — a memorable visual concept that’s short enough to get our attention but not wear out our patience. Both convey how the very physics of video have become part of our shared visual language.

Debashis Sinha’s Skin rounds out the experimental component, providing a dreamy, almost ethereal marriage of soundscape and imagery. It’s the kind of film you might dismiss if you knew how it was made beforehand, but whose process becomes fascinating after seeing.

Renata Mohamed’s Coolie Gyal is one of the most affecting pieces, concerning coming out to East Indian parents. The use of Super 8 home movie aesthetics (using real family photos?) underline the sense of painful, intimate family matters. It’s a poignant reminder that all families everywhere are the same in some way.

The home movie-aesthetic is also employed in Sharlene Bamboat’s Tapestry and Pamila Matharu’s Fracture — the latter more closely resembling Mohamed’s film in its haunting music and dreamy images.

What’s striking about all three, however, is how they function as windows into cultures that may seem so mysterious to so many of us. Who are the Parsi? Who are Iranians? Bamboat’s film shows us, in simple and direct terms, a fragment of a larger portrait.

Angad Bhalla’s U.A.I.L. Go Back is the most recognizably “traditional” documentary in the programme. It takes a more journalistic approach to the subject of displaced people in Indian’s Kashipur region, where mining projects connected to Canadian aluminum giant Alcan threaten their historic way of life.

In 22 short minutes, Bhalla quietly outrages us. It’s galling to hear a spokesman for Alcan’s Indian partner deny anyone lives on the land. Meanwhile one NGO estimates 60,000 will be displaced. And the powerful final images make the final connection to our country, homes and lives.

Smriti Mehra’s Dead Beat could also be described as a traditional doc, insofar as it’s content to merely observe its everyday subject: the cutting of meat in what looks to be a sub-continental marketplace. Ayesha Hameed’s Fires, Fences and Flight is the grimmest doc of all, using voiceover to relay stories of injustice against South Asian immigrants, even in some of the world’s most ostensibly “civilized” nations.

And then we come back to the funny: Tejpal S. Ajji’s Ishnan provides absurdly comic imagery of the artist being hosed down in a car wash with soap, brush and high-powered spray. Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be funny, but I couldn’t help but think of silent comedy, possibly featuring Chaplin.

Finally there’s the most straight up comedic entry, Divya Mehra’s The Importance of Being Earnest, which is basically a karaoke version of the song Whole New World. But it’s also perhaps the most cutting — keep an eye on the imagery that unfolds behind the female singer.

Cinematheque has offered so many very fine programmes of that unjustly neglected form that is the short film. Don’t miss this one if you can help it.

Monitor is co-presented by the South Asian Visual Arts Centre in Toronto. The program will be followed by a panel discussion with Toronto International Film Festival co-director Cameron Bailey, filmmaker Divya Mehra and SAVAC programming coordinator Srimoyee Mitra.

– Kenton Smith


~ by cineflyer on November 11, 2010.

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