The American Center in New Delhi hosted director Asif Kapadia, who shared lessons on the fine art of documentary filmmaking with young filmmakers, students and movie buffs. His award-winning documentary, “Senna,” was screened at Amity University and the American Center in March.
From Bollywood flicks to Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, Nimit Kathuria enjoys all kinds of cinema. On a pleasant March evening, the young social media manager walked to the New Delhi American Center for a slice of the pie he finds totally irresistible.
A workshop on filmmaking? “I wasn’t going to miss it for the world,” says Kathuria.
“In my line of work, we do have requirements for making films as social media is not just restricted to Facebook and Twitter. We have requirements for making videos and putting them on YouTube. It is a professional interest as well but I am…generally passionate about cinema,” he says.
Besides Kathuria, a group of around 100 students, filmmakers and movie buffs were living their dream via the workshop and screening of “Senna,” director Asif Kapadia’s documentary that won the world cinema audience award at the Sundance Film Festival in 2011.
“One of the main bits of advice to filmmakers would be to not get disheartened. It’s not easy getting finance for films, it’s not easy getting films made…. You have to be strong, to believe in yourself and have perseverance. And it doesn’t come on a plate,” Kapadia, 39, told SPAN.
He would also like young filmmakers “to finish what they have started. When you start to make a film, sometimes you may think ‘Oh, it’s not good enough.’ Then they stop, and leave it unfinished and start something else. I think that’s not a good habit.”
Any important lessons that he has learned and would like to share? “The main thing for me as a director is to trust my instinct with what I really want to say,” says Kapadia, who lists Mani Ratnam and Raj Kapoor among his favorite filmmakers.
Kapadia spoke to the audience after the screening, and many admitted having been moved to tears by the genius of the protagonist, Brazilian Formula One driver Ayrton Senna.
The event was part of an effort by Film Forward, an international cultural exchange program of the Sundance Institute and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. The screening of award-winning films like “Senna” and filmmaking workshops was held in collaboration with the New Delhi American Center and other partners. The Sundance Institute is a U.S. nonprofit organization that advances the work of risk-taking storytellers. The program is traveling to five international locations including India.
SPAN asked audience member Surbhi Dewan, a 26-year-old with a master’s degree in film and animation from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, what one question she wanted to ask Kapadia. “I would be curious about the amount of research that went into the film. I’m sure he worked with tons of archives,” said Dewan, associate producer for “Chhoone Do Aasman,” a documentary series on NDTV.
“Oh my God,” she exclaimed minutes later, when she learned that Kapadia had culled a 104-minute documentary from more than 15,000 hours of archival footage to create “Senna.” “That’s what documentary making is about, I guess,” she conceded.
“The most interesting part of the film for me was the absence of talking head interviews. We are all trying to make our films different from the traditional style yet we succumb to the comfort of using talking heads,” said Dewan.
Unlike Dewan, Satish Giri comes from an engineering background and signed up for the workshop because he dreams of becoming a director someday. “A dream is a dream. And life really is about following your dreams,” Giri said.
“Our Sunday was great with the Film Forward-Sundance Documentary films screening. We hope you can check them out at Epicentre in Gurgaon…or Kunzum Café in Hauz Khas Village,” the New Delhi American Center posted about the Sundance Institute’s India trip on its Facebook page.
“Senna is very nice movie & yesterdays event was very fantastic,” Kamlashanker Vishvakarma wrote on Facebook. Another American Center fan, Soumya Prakash, said: “This is for the first time, I got to watch the movie ‘Senna’ (at Kunzum Café in Hauz Khas village of South Delhi). As a filmmaker Asif Kapadia has utilized the medium to the fullest. The narrative, the interplay of silence and music, the music score in itself, the story—packed with emotion & action in equal measure ultimately make the film ‘Senna’ totally engaging for the audience for almost two hours. At one level the humane aspect of this great F 1 driver is fairly inspiring.”
After the screening at the American Center, a young visitor said he wasn’t surprised with the praise the Sundance events were generating. “Indians love their cinema, and that’s no secret.”
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