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‘Fund crisis should not deter independent filmmakers’

Shiv Sahay Singh
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Madhuja Mukherjee (left), Professor of Film Studies Jadavpur University, along with Chen-Hsi Wong (middle) a Singapore-based director and Hassan Muthalib, a Malaysian writer and filmmaker at an interactive session at the 19th Kolkata International Film Festival.— Photo: Sushanta Patronobish
Madhuja Mukherjee (left), Professor of Film Studies Jadavpur University, along with Chen-Hsi Wong (middle) a Singapore-based director and Hassan Muthalib, a Malaysian writer and filmmaker at an interactive session at the 19th Kolkata International Film Festival.— Photo: Sushanta Patronobish

Independent filmmakers should not be afraid of making the films they want because of paucity of funds, as there are ways to tide over the crisis and make the kind of cinema they like, directors from South East Asia said here on Tuesday. 

“Indies [independent filmmakers] should not be afraid. If they can’t find funds, then they should get their friends to act, and get them to participate,” Hassan Muthalib, a Malaysian film writer and director said at an interactive session at the 19th Kolkata International Film Festival. 

South East Asian films are the focus of the festival this year. 

Mr. Muthalib also suggested that budding filmmakers could get mainstream actors who were probably “fed up of the routine films and might be interested in working in independent films.”

Speaking in the same vein, Singaporean filmmaker Chen-Hsi Wong, whose first feature film “Innocents” earned international acclaim, said, “Since the budget is small, we depend on non-actors… and try to raise the issues that are swept under the carpet.” 

“The films that independent filmmakers make must be entertaining, the story must engage the audience and you have to have something to say about your own culture,” Mr. Muthalib advised independent filmmakers, adding that they must look for subjects in “small things” and not get lost in over-the-top concepts.

Ms. Wong raised the issue of how to find viewers for films made by independent filmmakers in their own countries.

Even if an independent filmmaker managed to make a first film with a small budget, it could become difficult to go on with subsequent projects in places like Singapore, she said. 

Asked whether Indian cinema was losing its identity, Mr. Muthalib said the reply was both “yes and no”.

On one hand the country was making the same kind of films and on the other, “films by the independents are very Indian.”

He said that post-World War II, the major studios in Malaysia hired Indian filmmakers to direct films and the practice continued till the early 1960s. 


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