The Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) is back with its annual film festival and forum, the Open Frame, which endeavors to provide a serious discourse about various issues dealing with the contemporary times by exploring the power of documentary films from India and across the world. PSBT is a not-for-profit trust that works to commission independent documentary films to filmmakers across the country. PSBT has produced over 700 films, representing multiple voices, on various themes such as gender and sexuality, democracy, labour, diversity, livelihood, human rights and conflict, among others.
Open Frame 2019 will feature a film titled ‘Starring Sharmila Tagore’ on the iconic Indian actress by Umang Sabarwal who reveals, “In my film, I have tried to think about the ideas of freedom, assertiveness and the lives of women as a trace the journey of Sharmila Tagore’s film career. It was an honour to have worked with Ms Tagore. I feel very fortunate to have worked PSBT, they are an great support system for documentary filmmakers in India, and to have the film premiere at Open Frame is extremely exciting, I have attended this festival ever since I was in college, and always dreamt that maybe someday I would have a film screened in it, that dream has come true, I couldn’t be happier!”
Over the years the Open Frame has emerged as an important platform for assimilating the various aspects of filmmaking, film appreciation, understanding and exploring the medium and expanding its horizons. Every year it is attended by film enthusiasts, filmmakers as well as film and media students in large numbers. This year, the Open Frame will showcase films exploring a wide array of themes ranging from the love for cinema and storytelling to stories of the earth and water bodies and their people to the stories of survival, migration, separation and loss to forgotten histories and newer relationships with the past to the engagements of artistic practices with social processes to the experiences and aspirations of those living with disability to understanding inequality, disempowerment and violence.
One of the major highlights this year would be a retrospective of the celebrated films from earlier years, including National Award winners. Some of the important films to watch out for this year include ‘Rang Mahal’ by Prantik Basu, the only Indian film at the Berlinale Competition 2019, winners of the Best Long Documentary Award at the International Film Festival of Kerala viz. ‘Moti Bagh’ by Nirmal Chander and ‘Janani’s Juliet’ by Pankaj Rishi Kumar, and ‘Notes on Guler’ by noted Indian filmmaker Amit Dutta, among others.
Another very interesting film to screen this year is ‘Kings of Horror’, directed by Sushmit Ghosh and Rintu Thomas. The film tells the hitherto untold story about the first family of Indian horror that redefined cinema – the Ramsays. In the words of Thomas, “The Ramsays are considered among the first indie filmmakers in the Hindi film industry and while making a film on them, a collaboration with PSBT - themselves supporters of independent documentary filmmaking in the country - felt like the right fit. The film finds great company with some truly unusual stories at Open Frame, a festival that brings together a wide array of voices. We have been both viewers of the festival in the past as well as its participants when we brought our earlier film with PSBT to the festival - and we are excited to bring yet another perspective to storytelling at Open Frame.”
The Open Frame has served as a launch pad for many young filmmakers over the years. Prantik Basu, the director of ‘Rang Mahal’, explains, “PSBT not only provides support to its filmmakers; it is way more than that. Through the wonderful team that PSBT is, they are persistent in creating an environment where the films are made in the best way possible and reach out to an audience. Rang Mahal was first screened at the Open Frame last year before it went on to have its international premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. Super thrilled to know that it will be screened again this year as a part of the festival’s 20 years’ celebration.”
Subasri Krishnan’s ‘Dance of the Butterfly’ is another unique film to be screened at the festival this year. In the words of the director, “What led me to make the film Sikhirni Mwsanai (Dance of the Butterfly) was my continuing work in/on Assam (albeit a different region). There is a way that the discourse on Assam as well as the imagery around it, especially in spaces that have witnessed violence, including BTAD (Bodo Territorial Administrative District), has always been represented. I wanted to explore what imagery and narratives around the place would look and feel like, if one didn't only foreground violence in how we look and experience the place. It is this question that led me to making film.”
The Open Frame Film Festival is in its nineteenth edition. It has been part of the cultural landscape of the city and the documentary world for about two decades now and with each passing year it has only grown stronger. This year’s edition of the PSBT Open Frame will be scheduled from 20-24 September at the India International Centre.