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Thursday 1 January 1970

Check out this 'Mini Woodstock of Films in Puri, India"

BYOFF --- The Free Spirit

This is the 3rd year and I am revisiting BYOFF for the second time, Bring Your Own Film Festival, in Puri, the temple town of Eastern India.

It was end of February and "that time of the year when once again fun, frolic and films come together on the sands at a superbly located beach in Puri, Orissa". It was hot and humid but the sea breeze, the beer, the people around makes you feel relaxed and happy where I lazed around talking, sharing, tripping and watching films.

The only natural thing that could happen, happened in Puri, that is to have a festival away from the oppressive atmosphere of bureaucratic control of big cities and its I-know-it -all intellectuals and where just about anybody could participate. This "Mini Woodstock Of Films" as some have called it is more than just about films, activist theatre personalities like Parnab Mukherjee comes every year to perform.

This year, he was with his play on the atrocities of the Indian military in Manipur. He performed along with live footages.Enakshi, the Bengali folk singer, came all the way from Calcutta to perform and so did the Hobo's rock band, who came after their performance in Bangalore.

This free spirit, the alternative spirit which keeps BYOFF ticking year after year. "No festival in India allows you to get your films at the fest directly and get them screened at the fest without some god forsaken jury to decide what's good and what's bad films etc. BYOFF is the only festival that allows you to be the judge, the jury and the executor."

It all began when a group of filmmakers and cinephiles felt the need for an alternative space for independent film-makers, a non-official affair.The concept caught on and many film-makers who have screened their films in the last two years have now become volunteers.A la Sharmy Pandey, who came with her film "EBANG FALGUNI" last year, and this year she was decorating the venue with colourful paper masks, flags and posters along with the film students of BPFTI.

Like the two previous years, this year too, more than 100 films were screened.Many film-makers, writers, critics, curators from around the globe attended the five day extravaganza.Tuesday (February 21), the film festival was inagurated by Loknath Rao, a 45-year old small time fisher man.This incident itself created history as only VIP'S are known to inagurate a film festival in India.

Last year, the laurel went to the banana lady, a woman who can speak seven languages and sells bananas in the streets of Puri. Screenings were held in a tent from 3pm to 10.30 pm and on a large screen in the open air from 6.30 pm to 2 am.

The Indian Express, an English daily newspaper samples some of the titles of the last two years ----"Nine years old Kabir Aslam's effortless narrative 'WHERE IS MY BROTHER' ; Sharmy Pandey's 'EBANG FALGUNI',a provocative take on the works of poet Falguni Roy; 'BONY KOSAYA', Siddharth Tripathy's sketch of heartland life in Raigarh through the biographies of three musicians; Sammit Das's 'AT THE MIDNIGHT HOUR', documenting the lives of Indians and Pakistanis in New York; and Soumya Mukhopadhya's tribute to Jean Luc Godard with ' DEATH Of JLG :THE CALCUTTA CHAPTER'.

India Today, the news weekly's pick from this years festival were -"ME, MEERA" : A young girl takes the audience through the sights of Hyderabad with simple observations, witty remarks on the joys of walking.Directed by Subhakar.

- "29 MINUTES OF LONELINESS", the film is based on a novel where director Sharmy Pandey speaks about urban loneliness through a protagonist.

-' UD JAYEGA', Kunal Sen uses the metaphor of an Indian train to depict the "transient and cyclical nature of life".

Though BYOFF's open-ended policy allows a lot of poor films to be screened and the slack management allows films to start late, thus, eating each other's time, it is a festival in which anybody can participate and everybody is a organiser. One has to overlook this little oddity and be more adventurous. It does not matter whether Digital Film making is incorporating shit to happen and even Jean Luc 'Cinema' Godard had no answer whether the future of cinema lies with the craft of digital film making (Notre Musique).

My experience was different---- the brilliance, the exuberance of the young artists and the people make the spirit going of the great "Bhaadas Dho" (the mystery slogan of BYOFF) and nobody knew the exact meaning for sure, some say it means a lot of noise and that was all I was looking for -not some super intellectual I-know-it-all dead meat.

Subhankar Das. A poet and editor of a Bengali literary magazine 'Graffiti' and based in Calcutta, India. Pics by Arunabh Bannerjee

From: Subhankar Das , India

Helen Dobrensky,


Manager International Press Relations

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