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Manifest International Dance-Film Festival comes to Puducherry

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The three-day festival Manifest International Dance-Film Festival, to be held in Puducherry, explores the bond between the two art forms

In the past two years we realised the potential of dance films more than ever. In the absence of a stage to perform, artistes began to explore this medium to reach out to the audience. In the process, many of them saw the dance-film collaboration as an exciting option to tell a story or share creative ideas. Though as an independent genre it is still niche and new, it is gradually finding an involved audience.

In this context, Manifest, a dedicated dance film festival, holds much significance. To be held from July 29 to 31 in Puducherry, it will indulge in cinematic exploration of movement and choreography. Organised by AuroApaar along with Narthaki (venue partner is Alliance Francaise), it will include documentaries on dance, mainstream musicals, music videos, and fiction or experimental dance films.

From Pilgrimage.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

What it does not include is recordings of dance performances. “There is now a large audience for documentary films while there has always been a huge following for commercial cinema. But there is a third space, which is film as art work, and we felt not much is happening in here and wanted to focus on it,” says dancer Ashavari Majumdar, co-founder of AuroApaar and director of the festival. Talking about how the festival deliberately stays away from the documentary genre, Ashavari says, “we are looking at independent artistes experimenting with dance and film to come up with a new form, and not documentation.”

Collaborative platform

From Gravida.

From Gravida.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Films from more than 20 countries, with a dedicated section on Asian/Indian forms, will be screened. The festival will offer a platform that brings together artistes, academicians and industry professionals. Ashavari and Abhyuday Khaitan, who is the co-founder of AuroApaar and programme head of the festival, saw that it was only during the pandemic that a huge number of dance films were made around the world. “We realised there are lack of platforms to exhibit and view them. That’s when we thought of having such a festival. We also realised that there are no annual international dance film festivals in India. There have been only sporadic events; a few happened during the pandemic, but they were closed events and did not have open calls for submissions,” says Ashavari.

From Out of time.

From Out of time.
| Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Along with the festival, they are also organising an incubator of Indian dance film projects, where faculty like dancer-choreographer and founder of Narthaki, Anita Ratnam, will be mentoring participants in dance filmmaking. “Our idea of the incubator stems from our passion for Indian form. We are going to discuss what is an Indian film or an Indian dance? We are specifically looking at traditional practices and how they are going to be interacting with physical media.”

The three-week ‘Manifest incubator’ will guide participants through the inception/idea stage to the final outcome of a short dance film in five stages. They will be mentored in storyboarding, finalising locations, duration and tech requirements. And they will also be assisted throughout — be it dramaturgical and technical inputs, or logistical help on location and more till the final films are made and screened.

New possibilities

Pandemic has opened up new possibilities, says Anita Ratnam. “It has made us realise interesting short films can be made with a hand-held phone, ipad or any small device. It could be even a 30-second reel. Now, what a dancer cannot do on stage can be captured, you need to only have a continuous movement. The editing has to create a complete end result. It can collapse time and space, and you can go from one location to another in just an edit. Pandemic has really spotlighted these facilities.”

“These films can be potent, quirky and provocative, and can tackle social issues and climate change,” says Anita. She hopes dancers would step out of their cocoons and collaborate with filmmakers. “They can discover their own personalities, the other side of it, and appreciate that this is also an art. In the next three years, I want to see more enthusiastic participation and representation from the Indian sector.”

The writer is a theatre practitioner.



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