For the second year, Puducherry plays host to international dance film festival, Manifest

Movement and rhythm, more than dialogue, propel story-telling in this hybrid genre of dance and films; the festival held from July 28 to 30, 2023, showcased 60 dance films from 22 countries

August 16, 2023 04:45 pm | Updated 04:45 pm IST - PUDUCHERRY

Flamenco dancer Naya Binghi by Matthew Brincat Special arrangement

Flamenco dancer Naya Binghi by Matthew Brincat Special arrangement | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

A class of creators who synthesise the discrete disciplines of dance and film has, in recent years, been building up a parallel world of cinema, that is both lyrical and forceful in its story-telling.

Last week, the second ‘Manifest’ international dance-film festival, hosted by AuroApaar, a city-based dance-film collective, presented a cross-section of some of the finest dance-films of the past year or so at the Alliance Francaise auditorium.

Over three days, from July 28 to 30, Manifest’23 showcased more than 60 dance films from 22 countries which were shortlisted from about 250 submissions from 50 countries. All these works represented an emerging hybrid language that culls the best elements from cinema and dance, to express a range of human emotions or portray the human condition.

The hallmark of this genre is is that movement and rhythm, instead of spoken dialogue, which is sparsely interjected, if at all, propels the story being told.

On the festival’s opening night, Israeli dancer-choreographer Naya Binghi, who engages with flamenco and contemporary forms, imparted the quintessence of the genre to the audience. Taking the stage after the screening of her film Hisin 15 which unfolds through a fusion of flamenco and contemporary movement art, she explained how music, especially the flux of zapateado, is in accordance with the shifting mood of the protagonist.

As Naya underscored this point with some deft footwork on stage, Ashavari Majumdar, AuroApaar co-founder, co-curator of the festival and a Kathak exponent herself, essayed a string of bols, or vocalised rhythm patterns. The artistes in tandem, presented an ad hoc exposition on how rhythm shift can mirror emotional changes.

“We could go on like this all day,” Naya said in jest, before returning to the ‘Un Momento Antes’ (The Moment Before) initiative that zooms in on the moment preceding a significant event. Hisin 15 marks the second episode in the series. She recounted the challenges of capturing a gamut of emotions -- from joy, pain, loss, wavering and resolve -- within the confines of a compact space. The title, in fact, refers to the address she once resided at before moving away and leaving behind a range of memories.

Naya, who last year, won The Outstanding Creator and The Outstanding Performer of The 1 2 3 Program, for emerging choreographers, Suzanne Dellal Center, Tel Aviv, had flown down to participate in the Manifest festival, courtesy of the Israeli diplomatic mission in India and Alliance Francaise’s residency programme for artists.

Another high point of the opening night was the India premiere of Neon Phantom (Brazil), winner of the Golden Leopard at the Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland. Leonardo Martinelli’s dance-film tracks the livelihood struggles and poor working conditions of a delivery man. As his survival depends on the whim of the consumerist-capitalist class, he must return day after day to an exploitative job to escape hunger, and perhaps have a shot at realising his dream of owning a motorcycle.

The festival also had screenings of IO/OI that explores the role-portability between creator and creation (man and robot) and acclaimed productions such as A Way to B (Netherlands) that got its world premiere at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam 2022 and was nominee for the IDFA award for best Dutch film, and Mother Melancholia (Iceland).

In all, around 60 dance films from 22 countries were screened over three days at the festival, which is billed as the only annual international dance film festival in South Asia and only the third in Asia, outside of Japan and South Korea.

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