So, in continuation to talking about my dilemmas of explaining what we do.. thought it would be a good idea to share more about our workshops. An account of the workshop by Ananya Parikh (Phd Student, School of Arts & Aesthetics, JNU).
The Workshop on Film Curatorial Practice was held from Monday, 22nd August to Friday, 26th August on the premises of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahlaya (formerly The Prince of Wales Museum), Mumbai. The workshop conducted by the Katha Centre for Film Studies and the India Foundation for the Arts, supported by Jamshedji Tata Trust and in association with CSMVS, brought together five eminent film curators, several experts on film and art practices and 20 participants from all over India.
Spread over five days, the workshop introduced and equipped the participants to the newly emerging field of film curation both as concept as well as practice.
On the first day, Madhushree Dutta, director of Majlis Culture and a documentary filmmaker spoke about her curatorial project Cinema/City. The Cinema/City project is essentially an interdisciplinary research project that curates the intertwined lives of the city and cinema in Mumbai. Dutta, drawing on her own project and research interests, laid out the theoretical framework for a discussion of film curation, which she described as essentially interdisciplinary movement. Reflecting on the emergence of art curatorship practices as well as methodologies, she then moved on to speak about her work as a different approach from the traditional curating at film festivals. As a part of her presentation, she also showed a couple of films as well as visual art works which were a part of the larger curatorial project.
The second day, Bina Paul Venugopal, artistic director of the International Film festival of Kerala at Trivandrum elaborated on the experience of putting together one of the most interesting and important festivals in India. Bina Paul, a film editor by profession, got involved with the festival at an early stage and has been a part of it as the main artistic director for the last 11 years. She spoke about the history of film societies and the local context of Kerala and their influence on the makings of the festival, the state involvement and support to the festival as well as the programming, selection and screening process for the festival. From her presentation, it was clear that while she worked within the framework of a traditional film festival, she had used that space to expand and explore into many different directions.
On the third day, Gargi Sen, founder of the Magic Lantern Foundation, a non-profit organization that is involved distributing documentaries in India, shared her experience of running the organization and curating one of the only festivals dedicated purely to documentary cinema, Persistence Resistance in Delhi annually. According to Gargi Sen, the role of the curator is like that of a seer, of predicting the future but with the materiality of the past. Expanding on this, she went on to speak of the distinction and similarities between the archivist and the curator. Her own work as a documentary filmmaker, distributor as well as a curator of documentary films informed her presentation about the documentary film movement in India as well as the notion of film distribution as curating of a certain kind. She spoke at length about the curatorial responsibility and the need to draw the audience in and make interventions within given practices.
Amar Kanwar’s introspective presentation on the fourth day opened up a whole new way of thinking about film curatorial practices. A practicing filmmaker/artist, Kanwar spoke about the whole question of curation by talking about his own experiences as a film maker and the process that his work takes. He spoke about the various dilemmas and traps that an artist/curator experiences, and how these experiences lead to the innovations of new forms and languages to express and present. He then showed some of his own works as a part of the presentation.
On the 5th and the last day, Shai Heredia, a filmmaker and curator of film art, spoke about her own schizophrenic relationship with film as a researcher, archivist, filmmaker, activist, writer and curator. In 2003, she founded and curated Experimenta- the international film festival for Experimental film to explore the various aspects of the film form. She spoke about the various aspects of putting together a curatorial project and presented one of her curatorial packages “Kalpanae Yatra” a package that explored the relationship between space and cinema.
The various curators as well as other experts including Dr. Moinak Biswas from the Film Studies Department, Jadavpur University, Kolkata and Prof Shivji Pannikar, Dean of Humanities, Ambedkar University, Gurgaon interacted and responded with each other and the participants, thus creating a healthy atmosphere for debate and discussion. The experts whether from the field of film studies or art history or otherwise provided a theoretical framework at the end of each session and responded to the day’s session by placing it within a given context of film and art history and theory. All the five sessions were followed by presentations of curatorial projects by the participants and the responses of the resource persons and experts and other participants. This lead to some healthy discussion and debate about not only the projects but also to the rol of a curator, the role of the audience, the need to move out of accepted patterns of presenting films and to make interventions in given formats.