From films celebrating difference to hard-hitting tales of survival to displays of video art, the third edition of International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala, which begins in Thiruvananthapuram today, seeks to move beyond the confines of the movie hall.

Come June and Thiruvananthapuram finds itself playing host not only to the monsoon but also to hundreds of film lovers from across the country and beyond. Though only in its third edition, the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFK) is already a highlight in the cultural calendar of the film industry. This year the festival, which will be from June 11 to 15, features nearly 200 films under 16 categories.

The festival will be inaugurated by the chief guest, renowned documentary filmmaker Anant Patwardhan. The opening film, ‘Children of the Pyre' is directed by Rajesh S. Jala. This hard-hitting film tells the story of seven children who survive by scavenging off the dead at Manikarnika, one of the largest cremation grounds in India.

‘Black Cube'

This year, the festival is also seeking to move beyond the confines of the movie hall. The ‘Black Cube' is a new segment featuring video art. In the cube, which will be located outside the main venue, art works by both established and emerging artists will be projected in two-hour loops during lunch breaks and in the evenings. The IDSFK is the first major festival to showcase video art in India. The ‘Black Cube' will be inaugurated by artist Bose Krishnamachari.

The ‘Kabir' Series by director Shabnam Virmani is a four-part documentary series on the modern day influence and relevance of the works of mystic saint Kabir. The series came about as part of the ‘Kabir Project,' which has the larger agenda of bringing about creative collaborations among artists and musicians and also scholars of Kabir's works. In keeping with the spirit of the project, the screening of the films will be accompanied by a performance by folk singer Prahlad Tipanya. The performance will be held outside Kairali theatre on June 12 at 8 p.m.

This year the festival features an unprecedented number of films by women directors from Kerala. These include ‘Kelkunnundo?' (Are you listening?) by Geetu Mohandas, ‘Charulatayude Baaki' (A sequel of the life… untold) by Sangeeta Padmanabhan, ‘Panthibhojanam' (The Community Feast) by Sreebala K. Menon and ‘Chaattalmazha' by Ahsam K.R. The screenings will be followed by interactive sessions with the filmmakers.

As the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) celebrates its 50th anniversary, IDSFK pays tribute by screening student films of the alumni. These include films by luminaries such as John Sankaramangalam, Jill Misquitta and Sunny Joseph. There is also a package of films by students of the National Institute of Design.

‘Celebrating Difference' is a set of sensitively portrayed films on and about the differently abled. The package includes films like ‘Bread Makers,' which is about a bakery in Edinburgh employing adults with learning disabilities and ‘Darius Goes West,' which follows Darius Weems, who suffers from Duschene Muscular Dystrophy, as he travels across the country with his friends to get his wheelchair customised on MTV's ‘Pimp My Ride.' The films will be introduced by Jayshree Raveendran, founder and executive director of the Ability foundation.

The country in focus this year is Korea. Documentaries include incisive socio-political commentaries such as ‘Border City 2' by Hong Hyungsook –the tale of a professor of philosophy who returns to Korea from Germany after 37 years only to be arrested on charges of being a communist spy, ‘Earth's Women' by Kwon Woojung – on female farmers, and ‘Taxi Blues' by Choiha Dongha – an examination of life on the streets of Seoul as seen through the eyes of director-cum-cabdriver Dongha.

Ethnographic films

‘The Flying off the Wall' segment features ethnographic films such as ‘Aftershocks - A Rough Guide to Democracy'(Rakesh Sharma), ‘Notes on Man Capture'(Nandini Bedi) and‘Doon School Chronicles'(David C Macdougall).

The categories for awards are long documentary, short documentary, short fiction, animation, music video and campus short fiction. On the jury for awards in the non-fiction category are filmmaker Deepa Dhanraj, cinematographer Alphonse Roy, filmmaker and editor Sameera Jain and filmmaker P. Balan. On the jury for awards for fiction films are filmmaker Kundan Shah, film critic Meenakshi Shedde and animator Prakash Murthy.

The festival will also provide a platform for dialogue and debate among the filmmakers. One of the main topics for discussion this year is the need for a formal organisation for documentary filmmakers and the scope and shape of such an organisation.