India: A film festival that’s about celebration, not competition
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India: A film festival that’s about celebration, not competition

Persistence Resistance, a documentary film festival that celebrates cinema, will unveil its fifth edition in New Delhi on Thursday, February 9. The festival is organised by Magic Lantern Foundation (MLF), a not-for-profit trust which works on issues pertaining to culture and human rights. Persistence Resistance challenges and questions the understanding of contemporary political films.


An animated crowd at Persistence Resistance 2011.

The festival has come a long way since it was started. Persistence Resistance 2012 has expanded to new locations across the city and will be held at the British Council, India International Centre, Delhi University North Campus and Max Mueller Bhavan. Persistence Resistance 2012 will present films, images and interactions that will move between spaces, from the inside to the outside, between times and between ideas. The spectator is invited not simply to view but to engage, argue, articulate and to participate. Along with screenings in auditoriums, films will also be shown in simulated video parlors, in a multi-hub video library and as installations, encompassing linear, circulatory, on-demand and transitory ways of screening and viewing.

Persistence Resistance is curated by MLF Director Gargi Sen, and will showcase 46 documentaries from the US, Italy, Germany, the, Netherlands and Estonia, apart from India. In all, there will be 15 premieres.

Sen has always insisted that film festivals are about celebration, and not competition. In other words, there are no such things as awards. There are no themes, so to speak, either. Sen and her team have their own way of celebrating cinema: this year Persistence Resistance pays homage to Lucia Rikaki (filmmaker and Festival Director from Greece), Tareque Masud, (filmmaker from Bangladesh) and Homai Vyarawalla, (the first woman photographer in India).

According to Sen: “The intention to celebrate the changing limits of history, narrative, ideology, culture and aesthetics forms the backbone of Persistence Resistance 2012. Persistence Resistance is premised on the belief that documentary practices in any place actively participate in the shaping of our times. Therefore, debates on healthcare, information policy, freedom of speech and expression, democracy and governance will be some of the themes around which Persistence Resistance 2012 will be located.

“So while Sameera Jain’s film My Own City is the experience of a gendered urban landscape of Delhi, Deepa Bhatia’s film (Nero’s Guest) is a conversation with noted journalist P Sainath on the growing agrarian crisis in India. Interestingly, both these directors test the complexities of the gaze of the camera, the subject and the quest for knowledge leads to ruptures in the visible evidence as well the notional ‘I’ that feminists have been critiqued with.”

The festival will screen a special package of five films from the archives of the Deutsche Film-Aktiengesellschaft (DEFA) and never-seen-before animation films by graphic novelist Sarnath Banerjee. Fried Fish, Chicken Soup and a Premiere Show by Mamta Murthy would be screened as well as the IDPA and Green Screens Winner, Bitter Seeds by Micha Peled.

Six in-depth conversations with filmmakers would be a highlight of the festival; 13 filmmakers will be present for Q&A sessions after the screening of their respective films. Environmentalist Vandana Shiva would lead the discussion after the screening of Bitter Seeds at the British Council Theatre on February 10, and the director, Micha X Peled would join in via Skype from San Fransisco.

The average visitor to the Persistence Resistance film festival over the years has been the college student – the audience is young, very young. This has been one of the main reasons why films would be screened at a number of locations around New Delhi, especially the North Campus of Delhu University.

The schedule of the festival can be found here.

[Disclosure: This writer has been closely associated with Magic Lantern Foundation and Persistence Resistance since 2010]

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