This year's Short Film Corner at Cannes has four Malayali directors showcasing their works on an international platform

All eyes look to the French Riviera this time of the year as Festival de Cannes begins, bringing together true lovers of cinema (and yes, glamour too).

This year sees the presence of four Malayali directors in the Short Film Corner. Short films are one of the main draws of the invitation-only festival. With 25 selections in the category from India alone, these reels, though just a few minutes long, certainly have much to say.

Director Rajesh T. Divakaran, whose film Silent Dark Eyes is part of the category, sees the entry as a chance for networking. “Getting the Cannes-stamp at any level is a recognition. But we must also be careful not to go overboard with the hype it might create as it is, after all, for the non-competitive category. It should be seen as a boost to your ability to tell stories.”

His film, an Indo-Anglo-French project, explores the dimensions of a relationship between two strangers when set against the backdrop of uncertainty in Wayanad. The film stars Kani Kusruti, P.G. Surjith and Disney James. The story, written by Frenchman Michael J. Duthin, has no dialogue. Rajesh saw the script on Inktip.com, one of the largest portals for scriptwriters while he was doing his masters in film direction at Westminister Film School, also the producer of the film.

While scripts are aplenty, for most directors the challenge lies in convincing a producer. Vinod Bharathan initially planned to shoot his Cannes-select Karma Code in Chennai. A few films old in Copenhagen where he is based, Vinod thought the trip was the right opportunity to “test the waters of the Indian film scenario”: “But I had a tough time explaining the concept of independent filmmaking to people in Chennai. Disappointed, I came to meet my parents in Kochi and also met up with my friend Suraj Ramakrishnan (associate director of 22 Female Kottayam), who smelt a good project in Karma Code and put it back on track.”

The racy Karma Code, starring Vinay Forrt and Ronedavid Raj, revolves around the mishaps of a young man trying to bury his ugly past and start life afresh.

Funds for his latest film Karma Currency was raised through crowd-funding.

Others, like marine engineer Sibi K. Thomas, hold a regular job to take their ideas from paper to screen.

His film Destination will also be screened at Cannes. Destination highlights the advertisement tactics multi-national food giants resort to without considering the risks to their delivery staff. Riza Bava plays a part in the film.

“The idea occurred after a delivery boy narrowly escaped crashing into my car during rush-hour in Kochi one day. Soon, I began to notice the delivery bikes lined up outside the court, caught in accident cases,” Sibi says. His travels helped him observe that the 30-minute delivery tactic was used everywhere, from Brazil to Nigeria.

Plight of delivery boys

“What do these companies care about a delivery boy in countries like India and the like, riding through chaotic traffic just for a pizza or a bucket of chicken? Do you remember the face of the last delivery boy who rang your doorbell?” he asks.

Sibi's films have always carried a message. His first film, The Blind World, on victims of road accident being neglected by the public for fear of getting entangled with the law, caught the attention of Sunil Jacob, then assistant commissioner of police, who offered to reassure people that playing the Good Samaritan would not get them into trouble. Sibi intends to include the cop's message in the film before uploading it on YouTube again. He says the short film industry in India is still in its infancy: While his “office” was anchored at a port in China, Sibi says in a telephonic interview that he hopes to make it to the fete next year with another film.

Also reacting to the Cannes entry from across the seas was United States (U.S.)-based Ajayan Venugopal, better known for his television series Akkarakazhchakal. Penumbra, he says, came into being after actor-director Vineeth Sreenivasan expressed interest in doing a short film based in the U.S. He loved Penumbra's script but time constraints kept him from committing to the project. “By then, the Occupy Wall St movement was losing steam, so I was compelled to go ahead without him,” he says.

Any filmmaker wanting to join the alliance of commercial filmmaking will definitely try to follow a pattern, agrees Vinod whose Karma Code was a zero-budget project by his production company FookDat.

“My observations of local commercial films are pitiable. You, as the audience, have a choice to get sucked into this trivial tournament or look elsewhere for good content, for, good content is aplenty. Not all of us are keen on the expression “adipoli”,” he remarks. The directors are bent on staying true to their creativity. Fully aware that the opportunity to show one's work at Cannes is no mean feat, the directors, all having their films screened at the fete for the first time, are sure to make their stories count.