Rima Das

New Delhi: International film festivals can be effectively used to promote the Northeast to a global audience, indie filmmaker Rima Das has said. Events like these provide a readymade platform for initiatives such as tourism promotion.

“As filmmakers, we represent our culture and people through the sweat and blood that we put into our work. Moreover, film festivals provide a readymade platform for their marketing,” Das told EastMojo on a recent visit to New Delhi.

The filmmaker from Assam is best known for Village Rockstars, which received the National Film Award for the best film in 2018 and was also India’s official entry in the foreign language category for the 91st Academy Awards, more popularly known as Oscars. Shot over a four-year period on a handheld camera and comprising entirely of a cast of rural folks from her own village of Kalardiya in Assam’s Kamrup district, the plot revolves around a ten-year-old girl who dreams to form her own rock band.

Village Rockstars has now travelled to almost 80 film festivals globally. So, that’s a huge audience that we have covered. All that’s required is a little more push to tell them why they must travel to Northeast, and about the available infrastructure and connectivity,” asserted Das who was in New Delhi recently to attend the North East Business Summit organised by the Kolkata-based industry chamber, the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

“International film festivals attract very fine people who are culturally sensitised and have the desire to explore other countries and cultures. Since Northeast is actually paradise unexplored and if tourism helps in the region’s development, we must look at collaborations at least on that level,” she added.

Opposed to Citizenship (Amendment) Bill

The 36-year old filmmaker made headlines recently in her home state of Assam when she expressed her opposition to the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Bill. “I #Lovemyland #Lovemypeople I am against Citizenship Amendment Bill. Prayers,” she wrote on the popular social networking site a day after the Bill was passed in Lok Sabha on January 8.

The Bill that seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955 to entitle non-Muslim minority communities from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan to apply for Indian citizenship if they entered the country before December 31, 2014, is being widely protested in the Northeast. In Assam, several other popular cultural icons like Zubeen Garg, Angaraag Mahanta ‘Papon’, Bipin Chowdang, Neel Akash and Kusum Kailash have expressed their vehement opposition to the bill.

On being probed by her stand on the issue by EastMojo, Das slowly but firmly remarked, “I’ve already made my stand known on the subject and would not like to make any further comment.”

Budding filmmakers must leverage new technologies

Das suggests that young filmmakers from the region must maximise the use of easily available technology platforms like the Internet to both educate themselves on the craft as well as promote their work.

“Rise of the Internet has immensely helped self-trained filmmakers like me to learn anything and everything about movies. We’re so lucky as earlier filmmaking was otherwise once a distant dream for people like me,” she opined.

On being asked about her future plans, she informed that when she isn’t busy promoting her latest film Bulbul Can Sing at international film festivals, she is engaged in working on new scripts and considering proposals for collaborations received from other producers. Then breaking into her trademark broad smile, she refused to divulge any more details at this stage.

A remarkable thing about all three films that Das has completed is that they were all shot in her own village. It is especially local children who help her during the shooting as being a one-woman army she operates without a professional crew. Even the actors are mostly first-timers. The same people then also assist her with post-production. Das felt that the development of this relationship was helping to provide those involved with the necessary confidence to be able to try out different and productive things in their own lives.

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