Archive for October, 2009

Magic Lantern at the 5th CMS Vatavaran

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment

The Magic Lantern Foundation has put up films on display , under our banner ‘Under Consruction’ at the 5th CMS Vatavaran film festival, the premier Environment and Wildlife Film Festival being held from the 27th to the 31st October 2009, at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi.For those interested in wildlife and environment -based , one can take a look at ‘River Taming Mantras’, ‘ Harvesting Hunger’, ‘Jardhar Diary, ‘Words on Water‘, ‘Erosion’, ‘Following the Rythms’, amongst others.

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An ‘Under Construction’ banner at the CMS festival.


Entrance to the festival


The Magic Lantern stall. Hope to see you there!!!


Our banner alongwith other exhibitors.


The entrance to the film festival ! Theme: Climate Change and Conservation!!


Recent films added to our Under Construction collection

October 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Under Construction, the distribution initiative by Magic Lantern Foundation for dissemination of independent films is happy to announce addition of ten new films to the mixed bag, for motion

Directed by Anirban Datta

This is the filmmaker’s journey through the alleys of development, cutting across multi ethno-cultural routes, tracing the disconnect, what lies behind the information hole.


Directed by Shashi Ghosh Gupta

The journey of an ordinary young woman from Ahmedabad, on the path of self-discovery and reconciliation, post Gujarat communal riots of 2002


Directed by Sourav Sarangi,

The story of a little boy Bilal, growing up with blind parent

ColofNature_tnColours of Nature

Directed by Sanjay Barnela

Certain groups of people who still work with natural dyes and whose livelihoods depend on it.


Following the rythms

Directed by Sanjay Barnela

The debate – between the Forest Department and the Van Gujjars.

HuntingWater_tn Hunting Down water

Directed by Sanjay barnela and Vasant Sabherwal

The conflicting uses of water in our everyday lives – both rural and urban.


ML o5 B 6055

Directed by Ruchika Negi, Amit Mahanti and Subhasim Goswami

A biographical portrait of bus that is the lifeline between villages of East- Khasi hills and the city of Shillong in Meghalaya

OutOfThinAir_tnOut of thin air

Director: Samreen Farooqui & Shabani Hassanwalia

The story of Ladakh, not through the postcards that tourists often see, but through a subterranean, local film movement that has become a voice of the people.


River taming mantras

Directed by Sanjay Barnela and Vasant Saberwal.

The film explores the technological, economic and political rationale that underlies the adoption of flood control measures.


Directed by Abhay Tiwari

An urban couple has a car breakdown on a desolate road. They go looking for some help and, in the middle of the dense jungle, they have an encounter with a village woman.

SilentHues_tn Silent Hues

Directed by R.Rohini

The spoken and unarticulated thoughts and emotions of six child actors who vary from a confident star in the making to an unknowing infant.


Something to chew on

Director: Sanjay Barnela, Madhyama Subramanium & Ananya Roy

The simple pleasure of consuming supari in its various forms!


Turf Wars

Director: Sanjay Barnela & Vasant Saberwal

The film explores contradictions of the government’s policies towards conservation – wherein local livelihoods are expendable in the interests of biodiversity, but biodiversity must make way for national development.


Turf Wars Revisited

Directed by Sanjay Barnela

The film attempts to collate perceptions towards the National Park and the Parvati Project, five years after their establishment in the Kullu Valley.


Water Business is Good Business

Directed by Sanjay Barnela & Vasant Saberwal

This film travels from Delhi to Indore and from Bombay to Chennai, exploring the politics and economics of urban water supplies.

To order films, write to us at :

To know about other films in the Under Construction collection, visit

Docu filmmaking comes of age in India : An article in the Times of India

October 24, 2009 2 comments

Below is an article in The Times Of India,Pune, dated 17 September 2009 wherein Gargi Sen talks about documentary filmmaking in India.

Laxmi Birajdar, 17 September 2009,

PUNE: The western models and formats of documentary filmmaking need not necessarily work in the Indian context, said Gargi Sen, documentary filmmaker and director of Magic Lantern Foundation that has co-organised the documentary film festival Persistence Resistance’ along with the Film and Television Institute of India at the institute.

Sen, who began distributing documentaries and independent films five years ago, talked about the current scenario of documentary filmmaking in India. “Right from the beginning there has been no funding, exhibition space or government support for documentary filmmaking in India. Even though the documentary filmmakers cannot make a living out of their passion, they have survived and sustained on their own by experimenting with different formats, narratives and creative approaches.”

Sen added: “The kind of documentaries made in the US, UK and in Europe require massive funding, and there are avenues for generating such funds, which are absent in India. We don’t even get the support of theatres. They don’t screen documentary films because they think they won’t earn enough revenue from them.”

The documentary filmmaking in India has an interesting history, said Sen. “It started as news reels that were shown by the British in different parts of the country in the early 1920s. After independence, India followed the nationalist model, in which documentaries were to be made with the aim of social, economic and political development. However, this very theory of using documentaries for social, economic and political uplift is flawed because it totally sidelines this kind of filmmaking as an art.”

Documentary filmmaking took a formal shape in the mid-1970s. “By the late 1980s, filmmakers, especially women, began to question themselves and their works. These women took the leap by questioning what they were doing, the very power of this artistic medium,” Sen said.

From the late 1980s to the late 1990s, Magic Lantern, started as a media rights organisation, began showing documentries at the grassroots level in different parts of the country.

“Five years ago we decided to begin distribution of documentary films. My work as a curator of various documentary film festivals helped me source documentaries from different parts of the world,” says Sen.

Over the decades, Sen has seen many changes in the way India makes documentary films. “They are the most complex medium and Indian filmmakers are making documentaries that are multi-layered. It’s heartening to see young and talented filmmakers, especially women, doing documentaries on bold subjects.”

The Persistence Resistance’ is helping Sen reach out to larger masses. “Documentary films have takers in society. That’s why colleges, NGOs and organisations working at the grassroots level are the best sources for us to tap,” Sen said.

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The ballad of Gargi: An article in The Hindu

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Below is an article in The Hindu, dated 3rd July 2009.

The ballad of Gargi

Filmmaker Gargi Sen aims to strike a balance between artistic expression and the socio-political agenda of her films.

Documentary filmmakers are not distributors, they never have been.

Photo: Anu Pushkarna.

Self-critical: Gargi Sen has always been brutally critical of her own films.

“Thank God our time as filmmakers is over!” says Gargi Sen. She has just watched Anirban Datta’s ‘In For Motion’ at the Second International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala (IDSFK) and the distributor in her is thrilled. “Newcomers have so much talent. It is getting to watch films like these that make everything worth it.”

In 1986, after graduating from the National Institute of Design, Gargi knew with the absolute conviction of youth that she would never make a film.

Three years later she made ‘Because of our Rights’ (1989), a film about the rights of forest dwellers in Dehradun. There were no distributors for documentaries then and almost by default the Magic Lantern Foundation (MLF) came into being. Started by a group of friends, MLF has produced and distributed films that deal with human rights issues for the past two decades.

Feminist subtexts

“My films always have strong feminist subtexts,” says Gargi. Her film ‘Ballad of Builders’ (1993) about construction workers dealt with an advocacy bill that the workers tried to negotiate with the union workers. “Though not ostensibly about women, the first question you ask once you have watched the film is what about the women and children?” she says.

Of her latest film ‘Rehana – A quest for Freedom,’ which was screened at the IDSFK, she says, “Sometimes the audience takes a film to a whole new level. The story of the genesis of a female leader is still novel in Kerala. Watching it here, for the first time, I was proud of the film and the reaction it elicited.”

This is a highlight indeed for the filmmaker who has always been brutally critical of her own work. An admirer of the layered narratives of filmmakers like Madhushree Dutta and Paromita Vora, Gargi says she “suffered from artistic angst very late in the day.” In the late 1990s she grew tired of her “formulaic style of filmmaking and complacent politics.”

She was also bored of working with the in-house crew of MLF. “It was getting too incestuous,” she laughs. This led to a brief hiatus during which she completed a course in Mass communication from the Leicester University in United Kingdom.

In her last three films, ‘The Storytellers’ (2003), ‘The (T)error of Pota’ (2005) and ‘Rehana’ (2007), Gargi says she feels like she is getting closer to striking the balance between artistic expression and the socio-political agenda of her films.

With more than 15 successful films, which are still being screened in classrooms and festivals around the country, and more in the pipeline, Gargi’s time as a filmmaker is clearly far from over.

In 2003 MLF saw a major revamp. The team started Under Construction (UC) in order to disseminate independent films across the nation and beyond. “Documentary filmmakers are not distributors, they never have been,” says Gargi.

UC was started to bridge the gap between the filmmaker and his audience. “Once we started, however, I figured that it was not merely a question of logistics. The audience we had assumed existed had to be created,” says Gargi.

Towards this end UC has curated 200 films for distribution. They have also organised festivals like Persistence Resistance, which is in its second edition, where only films distributed by UC are screened. It was conceived as a travelling festival and in 2009 it was held in Delhi and London. “Next year we are hoping to take it to more cities,” says Gargi.

A great fan of the Kerala brand of hospitality, cuisine, IDSFK and Mammootty, Gargi promises to return for the International Film Festival of Kerala in December.

© Copyright 2000 – 2009 The Hindu

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Arghya Basu’s ‘Death Life Etc’ to be screened at Asiatica Filmmediale festival

October 19, 2009 Leave a comment

UC filmmaker Arghya Basu’s film : Death Life etc. has been chosen for a premiere at the 10h edition of the Asiatica Filmmediale festival, to be held from October 29th to November 7th, 2009. Another UC director, Anirban Datta has been invited to attend the same.

A still from the film : ‘Death Life Etc’


Synopsis: Jigme Norbu Lachenpa, a young entrepreneur is keen on promoting tourism in Lachen, his home village, a settlement of semi nomadic tribes trying to strike balance between the Buddha and BRO (Border Roads Organisation). Jigme and his friends want to take us to a corner of the world where telephone and satellite TV have not yet penetrated. Rocks and wind, snow and darkness make perennial war and peace. People come home for the Lossar (New Year) festival, carrying the City in tiny gift-wrapped packages; Dish TV and Handycam. Paradoxes haunt present-day Bhutia societies grappling with shifting memories and traces of ancestral rituals; lives and times lost and found in contemporary fiction. An entire community skirted by oblivion prepares to take on a demonic icy winter. Barren pastures transform into habitable territory; at the heart of epic wilderness one consecrates space as homeland.

About the director:


Born in 1971, Arghya Basu graduated from St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata and completed PG Diploma in Cinema from FTII, Pune, with specialization in editing.

He has taught films in various academic organizations for several years and designed courses for Mass Communication and Film Studies. He has worked as Head of the Department of Mass Communication and Videography at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. He is also a writer and photographer.

Nostalgia: Images from closing night dinner at Persistence Resistance in Delhi

October 19, 2009 3 comments

Presenting a few pictures of an ensemble gathering at the Persistence Resistance festival held from 17th to the 19th April this year(2009), evoking a few nostalgic moments for all.


Kesang Tseten, Nirmal Chander and Rahul Roy


Madhusree Dutta and Vivan Sundaram


View from a distance


Ranjan De and Sonia Jabbar


Amar Kanwar , Shahid Jamal and R.V.Ramani


Kaushik Bhowmik and Somnath Sen


Sherna Dastur , Amudhan R.P. , Nandini Ramnath, Sanjay mohan


Geeta Kapur(back), Pushpmala N., Anuradha Kapur(centre), Neelima Sheikh, Ghulam Mohammed Sheikh


Prasanna Vithanage, Samina Mishra, Sameera Jain, Sanjeev bhargav


Sonia Jabbar , Sonal Jain and members of Khoj


The Magic Lantern team having a blast at dinner


Vijaya Mulay and Gargi Sen


Hansa Thapliyal, R.V.Ramani, Nirmal Chander with Arghya Basu in the background


Sanjay Mohan and Arghya Basu


Aruna Vasudev, Jai Chandiram and Neelima Mathur


Paromita Vohra, Avijit Mukul Kishore, Sameera Jain


Vijaya Mulay, Bina Paul


Ravina Aggarwal , Sonia jabbar, Gargi sen


Vijaya Mulay, Lalsawmliani Tochhawng(Teiteii) and Gargi Sen


MLF team in conversation


Kesang Tseten, Rahul Roy and Shahid Jamal


Jai Chandiram , Rajula Shah , Anupama Srinivasan


Rohan Shivkumar, Nirmal Chander and Paromita Vohra


Rajula Shah(back), Sherna Dastur and Nandini Ramnath

Promila Ghosh_Neelima

Premola Ghose and Neelima Mathur


Uma Devi(back), Anupama Srinivasan, Mahesh


Vijaya Mulla and Sehjo Singh


Pankaj Butalia

Persistence Resistance at Mumbai; an article by Time Out, Mumbai

October 16, 2009 Leave a comment

Below is an article on Persistence Resistance: a festival of contemporary films,held at SCM Dept, Sophia College, Mumbai this year.
Source : Time Out Mumbai ISSUE 3 Friday, October 02, 2009

Echo effect

Documentaries can both follow the news as well as make it.


Documentaries are often inspired by news stories. But sometimes, it is the news that catches up with the documentary. Tales From the Margins, Kavita Joshi’s film about human rights violations by the Indian Army in Manipur, was made in 2004, but it retains its relevance because of renewed demonstrations against staged encounters in the state. It’s one of the many non-fiction films being screened by the Delhi-based Magic Lantern Foundation in Mumbai this fortnight that have a quality of immediacy even though they’re over a decade old.
The films at the event “stand the test of time”, said Gargi Sen, the director of Magic Lantern Foundation. She added: “Our films are not on incidents. They explore human moral dilemmas and resistances. They are closer to books in that they excite you and make you uncomfortable.”
The documentaries are being shown under the title Persistence Resistance, a description of films that explore political topics as well as break stylistic ground in the way they tell their stories. Some of the films were shown in Delhi in April as part of a festival of the same name. The Mumbai selection is an overview of the modern Indian documentary scene, and is meant for students of the Sophia College for Women’s Social Communications Media department. But the films are open to anyone who wants to watch.
The films are divided into five themes: gender, citizenship, camera, editing, and concept and script. Roz Mortimer’s Gender Trouble is about the experiences of four women born with male sex organs. Anirban Datta’s .in for motion mashes together personal memories with interviews in an effort to understand the impact of the information technology boom in India. Yasmine Kabir’s A Certain Liberation follows a woman who lost her mind during the Bangladeshi war of liberation in 1971.

The range of issues and styles that the screenings encompass can be judged from the section titled camera. RV Ramani’s Brahma Vishnu Shiva is a meditation on the meaning of the act of creation as viewed through the efforts of a Japanese sand sculptor. Arghya Basu takes a poetic approach to Buddhism in Sikkim in A Listener’s Tale. Both films defy popular perceptions of documentaries as linear, quote-heavy investigations of wrongdoing. “Since cinema began, there has been a conflict between real and performed and that has continued,” Sen said. “Fiction has gone on to be developed as an art form but documentary has really been burdened with this tag of reality.” Several Indian documentaries are “looking at a different aesthetics and nuanced, complicated, ambiguous stories, with spaces in between which allow different readings”, she pointed out. Nandini Ramnath (with inputs from Ajitha GS)

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