Much like the new age films emerging from Assam, there is a lot of passion in the film-loving youth of the state when it comes to hosting and participating in festivals. The recently concluded Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival witnessed a very young, passionate team pulling off a neatly organized film festival with some very unique choice of selections. From documentary films like ‘Rockumentary’ on the evolution of Rock movement in India to the fictional works like the Bengali film ‘IYE : The Others’, from the surrealist Odia film ‘Khyanikaa – The Lost Idea’ to the comic and enjoyable Assamese film ‘Bornodi Bhotiai’, the festival showcased a wide range of films.

The 6th Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival 2018 got underway at Pragjyoti ITA Centre in Guwahati from 28th November. The four-day festival concluded on December 1. The likes of Boman Irani, Shakun Batra, Shanaab Alam, and Ronnie Lahiri were some of the guests who attended the festival. The ‘Kothanodi’ maker Bhaskar Hazarika was also present, and so were the makers of the films that were screened at the festival. The festival opened with the film‘Spring Thunder’ directed by Sriram Dalton which observed its India Premiere at the festival. The film stands upon the land acquisition politics in the Chotanagpurplateau and builds a dramatic narrative around it. 

The morning sessions were the screenings of the short films or quizzes. Unlike many other festivals these days, BVFF do value short films and they had a competitive section dedicated to short films only. It was also a pleasant sight to see a lot of viewers turning up for short film screenings. The second day of the festival screened acclaimed films like Iram Haq’s ‘What will people say’, Kshitij Sharma’s ‘Devil’ and Karma Takapa’s Nepali film ‘Ralang Road’. ‘What will people say’ deals with the duality of a Norwegian teenager, who gets caught up for being herself and pushed towards a life deprived for freedom. ‘Devil’ is an adaptation of Guy De Maupassant’s famous short story‘Le Diable’.Set in the Himalayan state of Sikkim, ‘Ralang Road’ is a notable attempt to showcase cultural immigration, and lifestyles in a complex social milieu.

Along with film screenings, the festival also drew attention through some very interesting workshops and panel discussions. The acting workshop by Boman Irani drew a lot of young aspiring actors from the state. It was one of the highlights of this year’s festival. And not just actors, but even screenwriters and aspiring directors attended the session to get an idea of what the world of cinema is all about. Boman Irani’s workshop was not just a formal classroom training session, but a very engaging and entertaining session filled with humor and wit. His enactment of random scenarios conceptualized then and there, did motivate youngsters. He explained the art of cueing, graphing and other technical aspects of acting. He also delved a little into the psychological aspect of actors and how an actor must imagine situations to get the best out of him/her. He impressively described an actor’s relationship with the space and how that can really impact the performance, body-language and the relevant attributes of a character. His basic and simple way of delivering helped him communicate easily with the young attendees. The affirmative nods to the need of ‘want’ for an actor indicated that the workshop was much beyond a formality session. When an aspiring filmmaker asked him what he needs to do as a director while directingreputed actors, he simply said – “Don’t do, just be”.

The festival featured some very important films in terms of its content and social relevance. The Nagamese-Hindi film ‘Nani Teri Morni’ by director Akashaditya Lama was a very special one in terms of its content and origin. The film is based on the real-life story of the youngest recipient of the National Bravery Award in 2015, eight-year-old Mhonbeni Ezung from Nagaland. These are stories that the rest of India must know of. Largely unheard, such stories when brought to screen through films, doesn’t only serve its purpose of cinematic excellence but also makes a notable documentation of facts.

‘Rockumentary’, the film that explored the evolution of Rock music stitched the evolution through the perspective of an enthusiast on a road journey trying to explore the roots of Rock music in India. From the introduction of Jazz in Calcutta’s Park Street of the 1930s to the success of Parikrama, from the mesmerizing Mohiner Ghoraguli of Kolkata to the hard-hitting Bangalore-based metal band Millennium, the documentary unveiled a lot of information regarding Rock music. It also unveiled the nearly dead Rock culture of Mumbai, which once upon a time, was at a peak. The documentary, through opinion of few local bands, challenged the popular tagging of Shillong as the Rock capital of India. The film’s director Abhimanyu Kureja was present along with the producers.  The third day of the festival closed with Khajan Kishore Nath’s film ‘The Bicycle’. The film revolves around two friends, one having a bicycle and the other longing for one. The longing for a bicycle makes him ride his friend’s bicycle without permission and he loses it. What follows thereafter, makes a dramatic narrative of the film.

The final day of the festival began with some compelling short films. Arindam Barooah’s Assamese short ‘Breaking the Cocoon’, Rayit Hashmat Qazi’s ‘Do Cup Chai’ and Joor Baruah’s ‘Adi – At the Confluence’ captured the attention of serious film lovers. The short film ‘Breaking the Cocoon’is about the story is about a girl whose grandmother breaks the age-old gender based stereotypes. ‘Do cup chai’ has an interesting plot about a promise of two lovers while dating in college, to meet on a particular day after 7 years. ‘Adi’ deals with a community located near the India-China border, and documents a much unknown and unseen vision of India’s one of the most unique tribes. The film, not only impresses with its content, but also through some very powerful images. Director Joor Baruah, who is based in the US, expressed his desire to come up with a longer version of the documentary, covering the Adi tribes in a more extensive way and on a larger canvas.

The afternoon session of the closing day witnessed two films – ‘Khyanikaa – The Lost Idea’ and ‘IYE: The Others’. Odia film ‘Khyanikaa – The Lost Idea’ touched the viewers through its fantasy oriented surrealism. In a form of a satire, the film dives into some very relevant social issues and obsessions of people regarding the possession of Idea. The other film ‘IYE: The Others’ is a unique film by Debesh Chatterjee which is based on theGerman writer Peter Bichsel’s stories. That you can have a number/count of your own, a language of your own, or a country of your own, is what the film shows in a very beautiful way. The film is also a critique of social conventions and a sellable concept called ‘America’, which in the film, is more of a concept than an identity.

The award ceremony on the closing day awarded the winners of the short film contest. ‘Survivors 3pm’ directed by Sourav Das and Siddhant Ghosh won the award along with the film named ‘The Man Who Speak Nature’ directed by Dhritiman Kakati as the first runner up, and ‘Leikashi’ directed by Irel Luwang as the second runner up. The festival gave away cash awards as a token of encouragement to the young stars who surely showed a lot of promise.

The closing film was the Assamese film ‘Bornodi Bhotiai’ by Anupam Kaushik Borah. The film witnessed thunderous applauds from a full-house auditorium, as the cast and crew seemed overwhelmed by the love and support they received prior to the film’s release early next year. The film is filled with moments of humor, with situations of every-day mundane life which are otherwise seen as normal. The film, though not technically supreme in terms of cinematic aesthetics, churns out humor from within the space of relatable everyday experiences. The film connects well to all ages and geography for its simplicity and humor. 

Much relevant to the present times, Brahmaputra Valley film festival brings some very interesting and acclaimed collection of contemporary Indian films to the city of Guwahati, while simultaneously show-casing some excellent works sprouting up from the North-east. The festival, with perhaps a little more promotion and mouth-publicity, can easily become one of the most happening cultural events of the state and the region.  The festival could also think of competitive section for feature films which will surely draw more attention. The ‘6 years old’ festival, led by the festival director Tanushree Hazarika, with all its grit and passion, shows the promise of growing bigger in the coming years. With an undeniable appetite of Assamese people towards art and cinema, the festival is all set to fly with its wings stretched out. As the majestic Brahmaputra flows through the heart of the beautiful city of Guwahati, cinema glitters with all its luster and glory.