Cinema SiGNS documentary and short film festival is back, showcasing a wide spectrum of films

T he seventh edition of SiGNS 2013 (February 10 to 15), a documentary and short festival, organised by the Federation of Film Societies (Kerala) will be a confluence of creativity, a stage for the exchange of ideas, and provide the opportunity to watch meaningful films being made in this genre.

The festival is a major draw for filmmakers, both the famous and the newbie. The sections offer ample evidence that the net has been cast wide, bringing in a spectrum of films that embrace practically a whole host of themes and issues. A two-day workshop on Blender (3D animation software) will introduce participants to the fascinating Open Source software. A package of films made on Blender from across the world is also on the anvil. Sessions by curator, film critic and film historian, Amrit Gangar, on his ‘Cinema of Prayoga’ through lectures, video clips, film screenings and discussions present a package on experimental videos. ‘Celebrating 100 years of Indian Cinema’ discussions by writers and film historians Theodore Bhaskaran and Venkatesh Chakrabarty will bring us face to face with the history of cinema, and also familiarise with major trends in the medium.

The jury for the films in competition is headed by Girish Kasaravalli, and includes Amrit Gangar and Baburaj. The John Abraham Memorial Lecture will be delivered by academic and film scholar, V. C. Harris.

C. S. Venkiteswaran, the artistic director of SiGNS 2013, speaks on the major features of this edition .

What are the highlights of the SiGNS 2013 ?

Apart from competition and focus sections for short fiction and documentaries, it has packages like ‘Art Cinema/Cinema Art’ that focusses on various international artists such as Ai Weiwei, Gerhart Richter, Frida Kahlo, and Guerilla girls, experimental art practices and movements; a retrospective of Ashish Avikuntak, an experimental filmmaker from West Bengal; homage to Chris Marker who died a few months ago; ‘Creative Lives’ which showcases documentaries on creative personalities such as B.V. Karanth, P.M. Antony, Saroj Khan, T.K. Padmini, women painters, and so on.

With the huge talent, the coming of technology and ever increasing scope for focussing on themes, how do you see the documentary filmmaking scene shape up at this Festival?

The number and variety of films that were submitted for competition stand testimony to it. There were a lot of works by filmmakers from all walks of life, and their films dealt with a variety of subjects. SiGNS, we hope, will be a vibrant platform for viewing and discussing each others’ works. SiGNS has emerged as one of the most important festivals for documentaries and short films in the country. And most of the major young documentary filmmakers in the country such as Nidhin Thuli, Haobam Paban Kumar, Vipin Vijay, Gaurav Jani, Rajula Shah, Shyamal Karmakar to name some, were first recognised and earned accolades here.

Which films according to you should not be missed?

Films like Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (inaugural film) by Alison Klayman, Gerhard Richter Painting by Corinna Belz, Frida Kahlo: A Ribbon around a Bomb by Ken Mandel, Exit through the Gift Shop by Bansky, Women Art Revolution by Lynn Hershman Leeson, Nostalgia for the Light by Patricio Guzman and Marx Reloaded by Jason Barker.

About the inaugural film

Ai Weiwei is the enfant terrible artist from China, known internationally for his outspoken observations about the country. While the government has not taken kindly to his protests, Ai Weiwei is vocal about the proliferation of a materialistic system and detests the government coming down heavily on any democratic assertion. The film is the story of a ‘cultural revolutionary’ whose work has blurred the contours of art and politics. Allison Klayman, the director, gained access to the artist during her stint as a journalist in China. The documentary throws light on contemporary China and the dissident artist Ai Weiwei.

(The Festival screenings are at Co-bank Towers and Fine Arts College)

Bhawani Cheerath

Success of SiGNS

Says V.K. Joseph, festival coordinator and former vice-president of the Federation: “SiGNS has fulfilled its role in two major ways: by focussing on documentaries and short films as genres it provided the opportunity to filmmakers to meet, discuss and showcase their films in a democratic space sans hierarchy. Further, it is a much valued space which has seen directors of international repute (Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Mani Kaul, Sayeed Mirza) on the jury. Often it is a matter of honour for us that filmmakers prefer to get the screening space for the films here, rather than serve on the jury for the event. In Kerala, Sherry, Sudevan and, most recently, K.R. Manoj have all come to films the SiGNS way. Films from this festival are usually packaged for film society screenings across the state. Over the years a demystifying of cinema as a medium has happened here in Kerala and it is definitely a spin off from SiGNS.”