Nandita Das: In India, we look down upon international film festivals as a space for arty-farty elite
Filmmaker Nandita Das talks about being a part of the main jury at the Shanghai International Film Festival, and the responsibility that comes with it
Nandita Das is back from Shanghai after serving as a jury member at the recently concluded Shanghai International Film Festival (SIFF). The actor-filmmaker feels such film festivals provide a democratic space to creators, something, which India still lacks. “In our country, we either think of film festivals as the ultimate benchmark for films, or we look down upon them as a space for arty-farty elite. I think these festivals provide a great open space for filmmakers and film lovers,” Nandita tells us.
When it comes to international global film festivals, while Nandita is a veteran with most of her projects securing a place at prestigious festivals including Cannes, Busan Film Festival and Toronto International Film Festival, the 25th edition of SIFF was her first time as a juror in an Asian country.
The 53-year-old, who has always enjoyed showing her films to an audience that’s exposed to diverse world cinema, finds the QnA session post the screening quite insightful and thought-provoking.
“Also, it’s a wonderful place to meet other film professionals and enthusiasts, as it leads to stimulating conversations and, at times, even collaborations. Moreover, attending these festivals is a great way to see so many big and small places that I’d probably not otherwise have been able to go to,” says the director, whose last release, Zwigato, travelled to several film festivals before it got a theatrical release earlier this year.
Sharing about her experience at the festival, the Manto maker says this might have been her first time in Shanghai, but she could understand the excitement of people attached with it, as the festival returned after two years of the pandemic. “These days many festivals are drawing young audiences who are now much more exposed to world cinema, thanks to the OTT platforms. There was a screening of Zwigato, too. A friend who went to see the film said that it was a packed hall with audiences that watched in wrapped attention. I was told, most of the audience stayed back for the entire end credit. This is why, as a filmmaker, the joy of showing one’s film to a discerning audience that gives its undivided attention, is very special. I was so delighted to be there, a city I was curious to visit,” she elaborates.
For Nandita, it was a proud moment to represent India at global scale, however, she asserts that she didn’t let it fog her decision-making ability while being on the jury panel.
“When I’m on a jury, I’m not representing my country. We were seven jurors and we had to judge films from all over the world. So it would have been unfair to bring one’s national identity to that experience that required us to be objective, irrespective of where we came from. What we brought with us was our life experiences, our taste in films, our world views and aesthetics and our way of looking at life and cinema,” concludes Nandita, who admits that whenever she goes to a foreign land, she carries a piece of India with her, and with, “My brown skin, dark hair and Indian clothes, I inevitably represent my country”.