Canadian filmmaker, Jennifer Baichwal, says India needs to screen independent films

Published: November 3, 2013

Watermark Director Jennifer Baichwal. HANDOUT


Dharamsala —  Independent filmmakers are known worldwide and it’s high time they got the right platform at home to showcase their films, says Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal, who is half-Indian and loves the “spiritual” aspect of her father’s country.

“I think Indian filmmakers are known around the world, there is no question about that,” she said when asked about her take on Indian indie filmmakers.

She feels the real problem is lack of platform for them to showcase their work.

“The problem is finding outlets so that the audience in India can appreciate their films. I don’t think there is a lot of independent theatre chains here. There are theatres where big films are released and in the same way there should be theatres, which could show alternative, art and documentary films,” Baichwal told IANS in an interview.

She was in India for the premiere of her documentary Watermark at the second edition of the Dharamsala International Film Festival (2013).

In her homeland indie filmmakers don’t face such problems, said Baichwal, whose father hailed from India.

“The facility is available in Canada. In Toronto, we have cinemas that only show independent films… People, who like independent cinema, know that there is one place where they can find their favourite independent films,” she said.

“India needs it more to support these filmmakers as there are viewers who want to watch such films. In terms of international recognition, there is a huge tradition of really rich cinema that comes from this country (India),” she added.

Accompanied by her 10-year-old daughter Anna, the filmmaker felt nostalgic in her dad’s homeland.

“My daughter has never been to India before. I always wanted to come here as my father’s origin is in this country.

“In 1997 or 1998, we took his ashes to Badrinath as this was his last wish. I am so overwhelmed and always wanted to come here,” said Baichwal.

Her father was a doctor and he married her mother, a British woman, and migrated to Canada.

After his death, she came to India with her brother and two sisters to fulfill their father’s last wish to immerse his ashes in the Ganga in traditional Indian style.

She is also attracted to the spiritual practices in India something that Canadian people are ashamed to show in public.

“Whenever I come here, I feel deep affinity with India. One of the things that I found powerful is that in the West, especially in Canada, where I live, people are very ashamed of their spiritual life in general. They are very private about it. They don’t talk about it and don’t display it in public,” she said.

“I feel people are embarrassed about it, but what is so liberating about being here (in India) is that there are so many different faiths living harmoniously together. I just find that incredibly liberating and powerful,” she said.

Baichwal was born in Montreal and raised in Victoria, British Columbia. Her previous documentaries include The True Meaning of Pictures: Shelby Lee Adams’ Appalachia, Manufactured Landscapes, Act of God and Payback.

Her latest offering Watermark, a documentary bringing together diverse stories from around the globe about the relationship of humans with water.

The 90-minute film was recorded at various international locations using ultra high definition equipment.

From China’s Fujian coast to the construction site of the biggest arch dam in the world – the Xiluodu – to Colorado River to the water-intensive leather tanneries of Dhaka, the film covered every part of the world.

But what remained in the minds of her husband Nicholas de Pencier, also the cinematographer and producer of Watermark, is his trip to the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh, to shoot part of the film.

“We were in 10 different countries filming and every moment has harmony and understanding. They were meaningful moments, but there were a couple of moments that stood out. For my husband, it was the Kumbh Mela.

“For him, the combination of this ocean of people at one place and at one time was just amazing in terms of density. Also, there was incredible respect amongst the people with a lot of peacefulness. If you see the same amount of people in Canada or anywhere else, I guarantee you there will be a massive conflict,” she said.

She is well versed with the spiritual side of the country, but when asked about the prolific Hindi film industry, she said: “I know them, but I don’t really see them.”

“I am not really a musical person and a lot of those films are very musical, so I don’t follow Bollywood cinema like the way I don’t follow Hollywood.

“I am a very niche person,” said Baichwal who planned trekking in Triund, near Dharamsala.

IANS 2013-11-04 12:14:05


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