How much can one convey in a film that is hardly five minutes long? Quite a bit, going by what five Indian women filmmakers have managed to through their films under the 'iTales' package, which had its world premiere at the 14th International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFFK). The films were a result of a mentoring programme led by Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf at the Busan International Film Festival, and supported by the A.R. Rahman Foundation.
Out of the 30 filmmakers who participated in the programme, works by five were chosen for the final package, which consists of films shot on iPhone. Although there is no overarching theme that connects the five films, it still remains a showcase of what filmmakers do when they are limited by constraints, especially the one related to time.
In Shahtoot (Mulberry), Savita Singh tells the story of a migrant worker who has to trudge hundreds of miles home, holding his physically challenged son on his shoulders. It is a moving story of a pardonable mistake he commits to carry his son. The man's story becomes representative of the sufferings of millions of workers who had to walk along wide highways to their homes in the villages, following an unannounced lockdown after the COVID-19 outbreak.
Someone given five minutes to do a film will normally not think about a documentary on a subject which has many layers to it, but Rajshri Deshpande does just that in Distorted Mirrors. She focusses on the Lavani dancers of Maharashtra, some of whom are now reduced to performing in private programmes mostly in front of lecherous men.
Pooja Shyam Prabhat's Why Ma and Kutti Revathi's Agamugam have a common thread in that both have writers as their central character, although they are facing different kinds of dilemmas. In Why Ma, a writer facing deadline pressures is also troubled by a past memory, of the death of his mother in a riot and his need to take revenge on her killers, at least through his writings. On the other hand, the writer in Agamugam is troubled by her desires and loneliness inside a huge house.
Madhumitha Venugopal’s Spaces is quite different in tone from the rest of the lot, which are all sombre. At the centre of the story is a woman who is particular about how things should be kept in her home. Her attempts to maintain tidiness inside her house almost borders an obsessive-compulsive disorder. But when her husband decides to help her handle things, it turns her world around. Madhumitha uses humour to tackle a situation, which is quite serious.
The package gives more than a hint of what these filmmakers are capable of, even in a much larger canvas.