Festival Participation Of Films From The Northeast

Dipankar Sarkar

For quite some time short films made by filmmakers from the Northeastern have been gaining prominence in various film festivals around the world. Recently, two films from the region were selected to be part of some of the two prestigious film festivals. The documentary Highways of Life (2019) has been selected in the competition section at Arkipel – Jakarta International Documentary & Experimental Film Festival and the short film Xogun (Vulture, 2021), has been selected for the International Children’s Rights Film Festival (ICRF), to be held in Izmir city of Turkey.

Highways of Life, directed by Manipuri filmmaker Amar Maibam, narrates the impact of public movements in Manipur and its subsequent effect on the lives of the truckers as they manoeuvre through the perilous highways of the northeast, putting their lives on the frontline, ferrying essential commodities to serve the three million people of the state. Produced by the Films Division of India, the documentary picked up the award for Best Non-Feature Film, Best Direction, Best Cinematography, and Best Editing at the 13th Manipur State Film Awards.

The documentary has previously been selected at international film festivals such as 8th Liberation DocFest, Bangladesh, where it won the Best Film Award.

Xogun, directed by the National Award-winning journalist turned filmmaker Utpal Borpujari, is an adaptation of an acclaimed short story by noted writer-journalist Manoj Kumar Goswami. The 16-minute-long short film calls attention to its censorious depiction of a strong clash between sustaining moral sensibility and the manipulative nature of work ethics. It was previously screened at 21st New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) and the 14th Signs Festival in Kerala Thiruvananthapuram amongst other film festivals.

Both Maibam and Borpujari are self-trained filmmakers and have been pursuing their passion for a long time. Maibam got his inspiration for making the documentary stems from the years he had spent on the highways of Manipur. Whereas Borpujari’s inspiration for making the short film devolved from his interest in the short story written decades ago, which according to him is relevant in the present downward spiral of the image of the media and the proliferation of fake news, paid news, ‘impact features’ that masquerade as news, and whatnot. Borpujari has also made his debut as a feature filmmaker in 2017 with Ishu which won the National Award for the Best Assamese Film. He has also made a couple of other documentaries like Mayong: Myth/Reality (2012), Songs of the Blue Hills (2013), Memories of a Forgotten War (2016).

In recent times, there also have been lots of young talents from the region who have been actively participating in the practice of making short films and documentaries to hone their skills as feature filmmakers. One such example is Deep Chowdhury whose debut film Alifa (2016) won a National Award made short films before venturing into his debut project. We hope that in the distant future more filmmakers from the regions get selected at some of the prestigious films around the world and make the region proud.

A scene from Xogun