Reality, or telling it as it is, is often the best way to convey a message—and documentary films are probably the art form that most plainly observes life and interprets the world. India has a long history of making such films—the many social, economic and political matters and divisions lending themselves well to narrative storytelling—but there has never been a period like the past year, when three Indian non-fiction films made a mark at some of the world’s best film festivals and award shows. As Writing With Fire counts down the days to the Oscars—it’s the first Indian film to be nominated for Best Documentary Feature—on Monday, we take a look at what goes into the making of a non-fiction film in India.
Over the past decade, young directors have experimented and picked subjects that speak more immediately to the wider world. It’s paying off now, in the form of prizes and critical acclaim. Yet, it’s hard to find these films in India—most streaming platforms and theatres show commercial fiction rather than critically acclaimed non-fiction work. It’s even harder for the makers of independent documentaries to get their work out there—apart from raising funding and finding talented personnel willing to work on a tight budget, there are the many political and social hurdles to cross while telling true stories.
This idea of the real narrative runs through quite a few stories this week, whether it’s art shows or book reviews. Dissident Chinese artist Ai Weiwei talks to Lounge about his new memoir and the idea of art and memory as a form of resistance to authoritarianism and control. In his new book, Karkhana, which we review, artist Waswo X. Waswo talks of his long collaboration with traditional artists in Rajasthan, and issues of identity and membership that lie within art.
And if you are looking for one good film this weekend, it’s got to be Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch: showy, sly, whimsical, ornamental. But if you have already seen it, take a look at the list of films, series and documentaries we have compiled to keep you in the Ennui-sur-Blasé state of mind.
Write to the Lounge editor shalini.umachandran at @htlive.com