Studies in Film: Viewer as Collaborator
Shabnam Sukhdev & Jim Jarmusch
The syllabi for the short intensive courses I design with Cinema, change with the changing set of students/ participants. It is exciting and important to consider the many elements that constitute each class, if one tends to focus more on the interactive aspect of learning, prefers to bring in more new/ unseen films to class and considers it a Lab for thinking aloud and afresh on familiar things. There being students from different backgrounds, across language regions and diverse age groups, makes it a challenging and worth-the-while process. Rather than listening to lectures, giving opinions or stating preferences, it becomes an exercise in bringing attention to the moment as much as developing the capacity to listen to others. It is important to allow ourselves to grow into an open, trust-ful and fear-free state to understand the magic and dangers inherent in the Creative process. It is critical that everyone learns with and from each another.
Two sessions from the recently concluded ALOCANA: a course in Film Criticism, in September, stand out in memory. Between them they cover a lot of ground between fiction, non fiction, experimental et al. that we walked across through the course. The intensive courses make many demands on the participants, often making them sit up till late working on writings/ assignments/ exercises in the after-class hours, which most are neither used to nor expected to engage with. However all feel a strange gratitude for being pushed to work, especially writing, as they look with disbelief at the bulk of writing they have attempted through the 20 days. There are a few discoveries everyone makes for themselves, finding new insights, questions or personal abilities they weren't aware of. I sense it as the essence of what is often mystified or left mysterious in the name of 'creative process'.
The first of two sessions is the critical discussion on Shabnam Sukhdev's important film: LAST ADIEU (you may watch the film here on FD's site https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rtDsx6f_uAo).
It is preceded by a long session focusing on watching and discussing the work of a key Indian filmmaker Sukhdev, his contemporaries and the times of a post-independent Young India trying to find a language to write back home in. It's a significant part of our history as imagemakers in India and a privilege to be able to access some gems thanks to FD's initiative of sharing them in public domain.
Since we work online, everyone is invited to make notes for themselves after watching the film and come next morning with their thoughts/ reflections as also to listen to others and make a few discoveries. As sometimes happens, I miss the Film's Director in the discussion. It is beyond touching how the film takes us by the hand into a world where we can all meet across our likes-dislikes and differences to ponder something essence-tial. It also feels the film speaks to that mysterious yet accessible something in everyone, from where one creates and what one lives by. If a film can help open so many little windows on the walls and lead us past a host of thresholds, ought we not to take Cinema more seriously than we generally do?!
It is in the nature of the non-industrial cinema that the filmmaker must often spend years marinating the film before it is ready to open its doors to its viewers. I can't help reminding the film student to remember that as they begin to take on the film.
Have spent a while editing an excerpt from the session where we discuss the film and all that it brings with it- discoveries. It speaks more eloquently than I possibly can report! A humble gift for Shabnam, the filmmaker.
The second session is the one devoted to Jarmusch. It is preceded by a short introduction to the American Cinema impossible to talk about in the dazzle of Hollywood and missing out on originals like Jim. We do it differently this time. It is a special film! For Paterson, everyone is asked to attempt short poems/ haikus as their response to the film. They don't have to say anything else on the film, by way of notes/ analysis or review, as we have been doing until then. Alternatively, we can draw a film-map or an image that contains the film experience for each. Only two people choose to draw! But we are in for a surprise as we hear the myriad haikus roll down the screen!
Is it true that Everyone's a poet at heart?! What is Poetry? Why-ever does one write? And How? Can one become a poet? How does talking in poetry affect our life? All such questions fall by the side as everyone listens attentively to everyone else. The poet called Paterson in the town of Paterson, Adam the bus Driver, his wife and her black & white house filled with cupcakes, the little poetess in the street talking of hair falling like water, the man in the bar, the blue tipped Ohio matchbox, the stranger from Japan and Jim Jarmusch, all come to stay in the few chosen syllables, inarticulable in words, otherwise. A few examples for you, dear reader:
HAIKU FOR PATERSON
Water falls on our bed
We kiss tenderly, you dream the world
Magic is destined this spring
SOMETHING I TOLD MYSELF AFTER WATCHING THE FILM
You stay calm, kind and have empathy,
Lend your ears to others
Look what everyone forgets to;
Sometimes, Life breaks its promises,
But still, birds do magic for you;
Even the waterfalls shed tears for you.
Dreams are like canaries
Dancing & Singing around your head, Until
You swat at them and they drop dead
The creeper climbed up the tree
Up and Around the tree it went
Until there was no more tree
A silence engulfs
the search has caused a great loss
was it all in vain?
Black and white...
Colours of eternity!
I often forget
An ordinary man!
So, Adam Driver,
drives a bus in Patterson?
No, that’s not just it!
Water falls falling
on a furious shotgun,
I ciggy, you match.
(Gazala Leela Singh)
Art is everywhere
In words, images and sounds
Adding heart to life.
Moment got missing from my schedule!!
Ishan explains his map and says,
"the little figure with camera
in the left corner is you
showing us 'it' all."
Happy for the Nomads to stop by!
For where would we be without it ?!