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South Asian Short Film Festival: SASFF-2020 Festival goes online-Rwita Dutta lists the must watch

Aparna Sen and Bratya Basu at the inauguration of the Third South Asian Film Festival, Kolkatta in September, 2020.

With the pandemic on the rise, every other film festival went online. South Asian Short Film Festival2020, unlike previous years adhered to the norms and regulations of ‘new normal’ and created an online edition for its third edition, this year. The first edition of the festival was inaugurated in 2018 by actor turned politician, Bratya Basu and well-known actor-director Aparna Sen. More than 60 short fiction films participated in the competition section with 52 documentaries. After commencing its journey quite successfully in the first year, in 2019, equally favourable responses from the whole of South Asia poured in. And the same vigour resonated in its virtual edition, this year, as well. As a jury member, I had to watch 59 short fiction films, and 23 documentaries which was a humongous task. Nevertheless, the jury board enjoyed each moment of viewing films coming from every corner of the continent. Why shorts and documentaries are never really considered mainstream in India, unlike the USA and European audiences and to the film fraternity is a perennial question! Federation of Film Societies, Eastern Region is generous enough to meet the challenges as they always did by spreading awareness and promoting shorts/documentaries, without making it a business venture alone. History bears testimony. It is not possible to analyse each and every film that participated in this virtual edition which ran quite successfully online for more than one month. In a limited space, I will try to highlight the award-winning films in both the categories. The special jury mention in short film was Kerala’s Vijendra Syam’s Gulp. It is a silent little gem of nine minutes duration that talks about the ecological imbalance being produced by the onslaught of the developmentalist agenda of modern civilization. Amazing cinematography, beautifully haunting soundtrack that captures unequivocally the pathos of the protagonist, KL Anthony is what makes the film astounding. Kunal Narula received the Ritwik Ghatak Bronze Award for his marvelous short fiction Flying Wagon. It is short and sweet film. The original name, Cheel Gari describes a ten-year old boy who lives besides the airport inside a pipe and works in a road-side tea stall. He saves his hard-earned money to buy a ticket to fly in an airplane. Towards the end he suddenly grows up and becomes an adult. Brilliant use of Rajasthani folk songs highlights the moments in the film further. A marvelous screenplay followed by stupendous acting by the child actor remains with you for a long time to come. The second-best short fiction that received the Ritwik Ghatak Silver award goes to An Irrelevant Dialogue by Moinak Guho, a SRFTI(Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute) alumnus. It is his diploma film. Extraordinary in every aspects of filmmaking, this film leaves a signature mark of pure aesthetics in cinema. This minimalist film is a masterpiece. Ritwik Ghatak Golden Award for the Best Short Fiction goes to The Accordion by Sandip Banerjee. A perfect admixture of classical narrative form with modern touch resulting in a visual thunder!

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