Where It Began
This time last year an unexpected email popped into my Inbox, one that had the potential to change everything I did – dramatically.
The mail said that my documentary film proposal “The Rat Race” was one among 6 other films selected worldwide to compete for the co production challenge at MIPDOC, Cannes. I had submitted the proposal on the very last day and then the customs held up my DVD with film clips…I had lost all hope of making the selection until there it was in my Inbox – an opportunity.
My proposal was about rats and the lives of rat killers in Mumbai. I edited a 90 second trailer and wondered what I could say that would win over an international jury? This was my chance, a platform for the first documentary I was attempting independently…If I won it would SURELY open doors. Five years ago, “Waltz with Bashir“ was a finalist in the co-production challenge at MIPDOC and then went on to win prestigious awards -Golden Globes, BAFTA and several Academy Award nominations.
This was the year that ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ had swept the Academy Awards, ‘Smile Pinki’ a short documentary made in India had also won an Oscar. The flavor of the year seemed to be India but all these films had been backed by international film crews and resources. Could the luck hold out for an Indian making a documentary about India?
At Cannes – The Competition, The Jury
Five other films were in the running – from France, New York, Czech Republic and two films submitted by UK based production houses. As I watched the technical tests of trailers, I felt my heart sink. The films were topical, global issues with slick production values. My trailer seemed darker, grimy and way too local in comparison…
The 5 member international jury was chaired by Nick Fraser series editor of BBC, Storyville. He has a reputation for spotting a good documentary and an equally formidable reputation for being completely outspoken.
The auditorium was packed as each of the contestants made their 5 minute pitch. I was the last to begin my pitch. I grew steadily more confident as I gauged the audience respond to my Pied Piper tale, a Mumbai Municipal Supervisor, who counted the carcasses of dead rats, likening himself to James Bond because he too had a “license to kill”!
The jury was back with a verdict. Fraser lived up to his reputation and was scathing in his summary of each film as he went in order of presentation.
When he reached “The Rat Race”, I knew we had won when he began with
It’s a bloody good film, I love the way the fella dispatches rats. The jury was unanimous.
The bubbly was uncorked, I felt light headed…this was Cannes and I was giving interviews with the international press.
Here is a sobering realization. The dates for MIPDOC 2011 , Cannes have been announced as 2nd and 3rd of April. Less than 3 months to go, I have a free entry to MIPDOC after winning last year, a perfect opportunity to get Television channels and other possible Co Producers on board to fund my film and boost its visibility. This is what MIPDOC is all about identifying promising documentary films and giving it a platform for international co production – funds, collaborations and new markets, I thought they would all pour in.
Instead one year later what I have on hand is a raw, unfinished film scrounged together through my own limited resources. I cannot deny I have a lot of interest from international channels but no commitments.
It could be the downturn in Europe and the US economies that HAS made investment sluggish; it could be the digital media boom that has seen a glut of documentary filmmakers that channels are now spoilt for choice The reality is that channels who have shown interest hope to see a near complete version of the film so they can make a decision and hedge their bets.
The truth for me as a filmmaker is different – film costs money, every aspect involves investment. The fact is, in India we haven’t yet cultivated a healthy documentary culture that supports local filmmakers. The documentary space in India, I believe, is a space we should safeguard, it is an independent and in depth take on contemporary social and political issues. Recent developments including the Radia tapes in the 2 G spectrum scam have shown how mainstream media has been compromised by rampant commercialization of media space. People are realizing the value of good documentaries in generating alternative opinions and there is a slow but steady movement that is yet to gain momentum in India.
I have, until now, been pumping in the interest from a fixed deposit my late father left me, to cover equipment hire and shoot expense. This was the obvious choice as a factual documentary has to be shot around events as they unfold . Over the last year, I have already spent most of my inheritance and am still unable to complete the film.
A film that international broadcasters will take note of, needs to meet technical standards of sound, music and post production that I can no longer afford…
The Last Mile
I intend to stage a comeback at MIPDOC, Cannes, this year and this site is a last ditch to raise the resources to make a world class Indian documentary that holds its own in the international arena.
Read more about the film here. If you like what you see please do support us.
How to help us?
* Donate money
* Offer your equipment, facilities
* Offer your skills
* Spread the word
* Send us material that can go into this documentary – photos, footage, information
The clock is ticking…less than 3 months to Cannes!