Two brothers from Germany are at the festival with their independent films

As much as cinema is about ideas and storytelling, money— or the lack of it — plays a huge role in the way films are made. Those funding a film quite often dictate the direction it takes.

Two brothers from Germany are at the Kochi International Film Festival with independent films they directed, produced, and acted in. Thomas and Jakob Lass shot their films using new, cheaper technology, and hired crew and actors who worked without pay. And the duo have no hope of ever making good their investment.

The brothers’ presence at the open forum of the film festival on Wednesday provided a model to contrast the Indian independent film scene with. The open forum, organised by the Cochin Film Society and Metro Film Society, also threw up the question, “What is independent cinema?”

Director Lenin Rajendran said any truly original film which the director was free to make as per his artistic vision could be called an independent film. But a trend of directors funding their own films at low budgets, as had become a movement in Europe, had not taken off in India, said M.C. Rajanarayanan, writer and film critic. He said Kerala had a true independent filmmaker in John Abraham.

Abraham’s Amma Ariyan was made in 1986 using money collected from the public.

Manoj Kana’s Chayilyam is the only crowd-funded film in the State after Amma Ariyan. The film was screened at the film festival on Tuesday.

Priyesh Kumar, president of the Neru cultural society, which made the film with Kana, was also present at the open forum. Accompanying him was Bhavin Bhadran, joint secretary of the society.

Chayilyam was a true example of people’s cinema, said Kumar. “Lakhs of people are producers of this film. Chayilyam is our protest and demand for more independent cinema. It is an attempt to break the mould set by the industry,” he said.

Manoj Kana went around the State and some foreign countries with his one-man play ‘Dot Com’ to collect money for the film. Shot over 22 days, the film took four to five years to produce. “We would work on the film as and when money came, finishing it in bits and pieces,” said Bhavin. The filmmakers have so far been able to screen the movie only four times – twice at the Thiruvananthapuram film festival, and once each at Chennai and Kochi festivals. Two more festival screenings are lined up for this month.

The problem, Kumar said, is finding a distributor for the film. “The people have funded the film and the people want to see it. But without a willing distributor, we can’t bring the film to the masses,” he said. And they get no returns for their investments, without which making a second independent film could be a near-impossible task.