Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Notes on Binisutoy (Without Strings), by Atanu Ghosh, India: 2019


The impression Binisutoy left on me reminds me a bit in the strange dreams I have sometimes. In these dreams everything seems real almost like I lived in another identity. On the other hand, the film has (and not only because of its unorthodox narrative style) an almost dreamlike quality. It is as well one of those films which makes you reflect about the very special perception of a film the interaction between concentrated contemplation and all the moods, memories thoughts and feelings you have during watching a film.

When I wrote about Ghoshs´s previous films Mayuraskshi and Robibaar, I called these film sober “anywhere between Edward Yang and Michelangelo Antonioni”. Binisutoy appears to me during watching very close to the imagination the previous films evoked in me.

Two strangers meet by accident at bright daylight. In the first moment it is hard to make out any fiction. The light is bright and unaffected. They meet at an audition for a reality TV-show. They eventually fail the casting. The woman Shraboni falls and hurt herself slightly. The man Kajal brings her to a medical practice. Their return to their homes is further postponed because of strong rainfall and they have to spend some hours at a guest house. Fiction seems in Atanu Ghosh´s films literally grow on the concrete of the streets or buildings of Indian urban reality. As the two protagonists have to kill time they exchange stories about themselves. A little later we will learn that all these stories are invented. For now all what we learn about the characters is what they pretend to be. And for now the characters do the same like the actors Jaya Ahsan and Ritwick Chakraborty do, they perform. There is as well a Hitchockian quality in this film. Even though Binisutoy is not a thriller Ghosh uses this great art to keep the audience busy and herewith always attentive. In the guest house, Kajal searches secretly Shraboni´s handbag which includes a big amount of money. That is like one of these right and wrong little tracks. Small things and small actions are often important for pure cinematic storytelling.

The second part of the film is like a resetting. The two strangers are now visible in their certain social and professional environment. Shraboni appears as a director of a tea company and lives in a fancy apartment. As she seemed in the first part like an impoverished and careworn middle class woman, she appears now as an eloquent and wealthy lady. Opposite to his stories Kajal appears as a married man with a son. The marriage is not in the best state. He has not enough time for his son who has problems in school with only good marks in Bengali and English. His bad function as a learner is in contrast with his love for storytelling.

They are at home. Warm colours are dominating the interiors of apartments or office buildings. The lightning has a strange, almost painful beauty like in a film by Ozu where the contrast of beauty and the loneliness of the characters is heartbreaking.

Shraboni and Kajal meet once in Shraboni´s office. He found out about her identity at Facebook and visits her unexpected. It is a small but strangely moving scene. They appear like melancholic lost souls tired from the enmeshment of the invented stories they created. It is a strange almost ghostly double presence of the actors and the characters they embody. And it is a fascinating pause in the films narration and it is a bit like the breath of the great Irish singer Van Morrison between the wonderful songs of one of his finest albums Astral Weeks. This kind of scenes which evoke in me the feeling to stand very close to the blast fumace of cinema reminds me among others in the mysterious double presence of actors and the characters they embody in films like Aparna Sen´s Mr. And Mrs. Iyer with Sensharma/Meenakshi and Raja/Bose.

Near the end of the film Shraboni and Kajal will meet again. For now I do not want to give too much away but it is interesting that they will face an event which has a big impact on them. For a moment they seem what they are and not what they pretend to be in their stories. The film seems much more divided like in music pieces in movements than chapters. The sad straying souls and the film itself find themselves again before this fascinating and inspiring film does its last breath.

The first image shows a big tree wee see from the tree trunk to its finest branching. In restrospekt the first image seems to me as well as a good image for the whole film but as well for the art of Atanu Ghosh. His films are like the mighty tree trunk and the first still strong branches. The finer branches we usually do not see but they will appear in our imagination. There is for example the narrative ramification. For example the story of Shraboni´s rebellious cousin who is fired by the tea company by Shraboni´s uncle (the company was once founded by her family). Some of these narrative ramifications we see, others we can only sense.

In a sense the film seems to be something like a multiverse. The true and the invented stories, they all finally sum up as different options and decisions a human life is finally made of. A film like Binisutoy is as well a good occasion to philosophize about cinema. During the Covid crisis, The film faced like a lot of films a delayed and limited release. As I am grateful for the opportunity to be able to watch this film on a streamer, I wish to watch it in a theatre on a big screen in its full Cinemascope-format and if possible in the first row.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Notes on Bir Ömür bin Türkü /A Thousand Songs One Life) by Sezer Aslan, Türkey: 2021

 A Thousand Songs One Life”, this poetic title might be a good hint to the complex relationship between the creative and private life (which was as well formed ny private and historic tragic events) of the Turkish singer and poet Lütfü Gültekin.

The film begins with a car journey through Gültekins former homeland in Anatolia, the birthplace of the artist. Old Photos and the voice over comments are telling about his ancestors who lived in extreme poverty or of the Dersim massacre which uprooted and exiled the family. Sometimes it seems the film tries to capture a human life like a landscape. Some parts of this landscape can be named, others not.

If I am not mistaken, than Gültekin learned the baglama ( stringed instrument) as an autodidact. His development as an artist had as well often to do with the music as a help for surviving. Even though Gültekin is a folk musician born in the Twentieth Century with all its technological devices to record music, it is still perceptible in this film that the beginning of folk music was once a permanent passing over from one generation to the next. The film captures the life and work of Lütfü Gültekin in different ways, Excerpts from songs and concerts, old family photos, a few shots of his home land and interviews with family members, colleagues and friends. Most impressing are for me the interviews with the artist himself. His talking directly in front of the camera reminds me as well in one of the oldest kind of story telling close to the oldest tradition of passing over music to the next generation. He sits in a chair and in the background we see a concert from him on a TV monitor. The contrast between his recorded art and his interview is interesting. In an almost laconic way, Gültekin tells about his struggle, often punctuated by tragic events. For a while – the person Gültekin exposed by all hardships in his life dominates the frame while his art remains for a moment literally in the background as an recorded memory. The film´s dynamic is always to separate these aspect and finally brings it together again. Gültekin tells a lot about his life as an immigrant worker in Belgian coal mines, about his fear during this dangerous and unhealthy work so far under the earth. He witnessed accidents and very soon his health was ruined by the infamous coal dust and he was retired as a coalmine worker. At the beginning of his stay in Belgium, he lost his sister and her whole family during a car accident. Despite his early life was full of tragic losses and struggles to survive as an artist and as a person, his creativity was always very strong. Lütfü Gülktekin did not only play folk songs, he also wrote songs, some of them inspired by Shakespeare or Brecht. He recorded many albums in different formations and gave a lot of concerts with friends, colleagues or family members. Among them there are as well concerts with his daughters.

Love finds its destination” he says once in this film.

There was as well a long period of silence in his career. Frustrated by the music industry and its tendency to make more commercial pressure on the artists but as well his sadness about the fact that some singers covered his songs without even mentioning his name, he retreated for a while.

The film might be as well a kind of elegy about the loss of the thing we call home. Despite his homesickness to the place of his childhood, Gültekin created his own home with his music and the people he loved. There is a moving scene when Gültekin visit the graves of his beloved family members. It is the only moment when he seems alone and vulnerable.

As the film appears often as an artificial memory, his songs appear as well as one, especially when they are sung by friends or members of his family like his son Emre. Sometimes this songs are melting in my memory together with the old photos which made quite an impression on me. Despite all historic or cultural specifics, they often remember me of my own family albums. Once made mostly as snap shots, as a help to remember or to take a special moment out of time – the closer they are to its decay the more they look like pure poetry. Especially these photographs from our family from the time before we were born have a mystic fascination. They seem abstract as the last hints to the memories of our dead ancestors.

Bir Ömür bin Türkü by Sezer Aslan suggests a rare perception of history. On one side the recording devices like camera, record studios and literally moments taken out of time like photos of records. At the same time behind this devices of modern times there is an idea of the tradition of oral conveyed history evident especially in the interviews with Lütfü Gültekin and in the music which will be sung by generations yet to come.

Maybe that is the greatness of film and music. It can appear as strange or exotic at the beginning. But it is sometimes only a glimpse of a sudden idea while listening music or watching a film which can suspend this feeling of strangeness forever. It might be the fleeting moment but of a tremendous perception of a new world. Sezer Aslan´s portrait of Lütfü Gültekin is as well an interesting essay about traditional memory and the memory which is recorded and technological stored with modern recording devices.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Notes on Last Days at Sea, by Venice Atienza, Philippines: 2021-Berlin Filmfestival IV.-Generationkplus

I have seen another world. Sometimes I think it was just my imagination.”

(the young deserter Private Witt in The Thin Red Line by Terrence Malick, 1998)

While watching films it happens from time to time that after just a few minutes, I fall in love with them. It is almost “Love at the first sight”. With Last Days at Sea, it was a bit like last year with Polina Gumiela´s Blue Eyes, my dress is colourful (Generation kplus, 2020). It happened also with Eno naka no boku no mura (Village of Dreams) by Yoichi Higashi 25 years ago at the Berlinale-competition. These films needed just a few shots to transfer me back to the wonders of childhood. Last Days at Sea by Philippine filmmaker Venice Atienza is one of these films and by far more than a documentary.

At the beginning, Attienza´s voice over marks the film already as a memory. Everything we see has already passed by. It is not just about a boy called Reyboy who spends his last days at his native village at the ocean before he has to go to the big city for education. It is as well a film about the friendship between the 12 years old boy and the filmmaker. In the recorded Q&A-conversation between Venice Atienza and Maryanne Redpath, the filmmaker explains how she had to change her attitude from making a film about this boy into making a film with this boy and her bond with him. This seemingly practical decision turned out to be finally the key to the poetry of this film. After Atienzas introduction, the film is not only what we see, it is also a film we literally live with in each shot. Our knowledge that everything has already gone intensifies the film even more. Each moment, even the most ordinary every day action appears as sheer poetry. When Reyboy collect stones or when he cooks, each moment appears as precious. But this childhood idyl is not unbroken. Some fishermen tell about their work. It is difficult, the sea is often overfished and it can be very dangerous. The life of the villagers depends on the sea and what they get from it. When ships are leaving we are afraid that they never return.

There is a small siesta scene which reminds me in the beauty of a likely scene in Renoir´s The River. Everything and everyone reposes for a moment, Reyboy, the other kids, even a dog and a cat. And always like a refrain, there are long shots of the sea and the sky which emphasizes the film frame but at the same time it evokes the eternity beyond the limitation of the frame. These views at the mundane things and sometimes glances to the eternal sky appear to me as a poetic definition of cinema at all. I do not now if I shall call it pure cinema or a dream of cinema.

Once Atienza and the boy lie at night near the ocean for watching the stars. Watching stars is as well looking back to the past but more important it is very close to watching a film on the big screen. It is this strange relationship between scientific curiosity and how we fill images with see with our dreams and our yearning. When we see Reyboy diving in the ocean, mesmerized by the beauty of the world under water, the slight melancholy of the fleetingness is always there.

The necessity of open her up to the boy is as well an invitation for the spectator to follow her example to open ourselves for this miracle of a film. Her very personal commentary (which points out as well the “Caméra Stylo”-character of her film) tells once about a dream she had. Another time she tells about a favorite desert which reminds her in her late grandmother. A sundown with awesome beautiful cloud formations. They fantasize about what they see in these formations but they also talk about their losses, her grandmother or Reyboy´s elder brother who died before he was born. The watching and remembering happens in this film often together. The kind the film opens our eyes and our soul is incredible.

As Reyboy, Atienza and finally we ourselves are always close to the ocean and herewith to the origin of life, the film seems to be very close to the purpose of cinema itself. Last Days at Sea is also a new masterpiece of the sub genre called “Coming of Ages” anywhere between such wonders like Renoir´s The River, Malick´s The Tree of Life, Mulligan´s The Man in the Moon, or the Vietnamese Dang Nhat Minh´s Thuong nho dong que (Nostalgia for the Countryland).

As I have a strange receptivity for the last moments of a film I literally lived in for the time of its length, when the film sings for the last time its refrain, I had quite a hard time to let the film go. as we all know the crisis caused by the pandemic had cinema worldwide in its stranglehold. And Venice Atienza´s work on her film was as well affected. But now, the poets of cinema begin to sing again, and one of their most beautiful new songs is Last Days at Sea by Venice Atienza.

Rüdiger Tomczak


Sat, 19.6. 17.30 Neue Bühne Hasenheide

Friday, June 11, 2021

Notes on Jong Chak Yeok (Short Vacation) by Kwon Min-pyo and Seo Hansol, Korea: 2020-Berlin Filmfestival 2021 III.-Generationkplus

This is a film more from the experimental corner of the Generation-section. The narrative style is rather dealing with the outcomes of situations. But as no film is really completely plotless, the film nevertheless offers options of stories or at least fragments of them. Most of its time, the film celebrates a refreshing playfulness. Even some non events appear almost poetic. The film begins to move from a certain initiation point. A photography club of a middle school invites students to participate in a photo competition, the subject is “the end of the World”.

Before four 14 years old girls begin their journey on the search for images for this rather intangible subject, we see a film screening in this school. They screen John Ford´s Stagecoach, a film which is famous for its reestablishment of the Western-genre but it is probably more important – a model for a certain kind of this hybrid genre we call Road Movie.

As as hard as it is for now to define what Jong Chak Yeok is about, it has certainly Road Movie-elements. As it is hard for the girls to look for images according the the subject “end of the world”. They begin to travel with subways and local train to its final destinations. While they are philosophizing about what to imagine as “the end of the world”, they begin with things they know from their every day life. In the subways or local trains, the girls sit mostly side by side. One of them dozes off and the window shows the landscape passing by. While the girls sitting side by side flattens the image, the view out of the window above them suggests depth. The film has a seldom almost musical rhythm between movement and static between the illusion of depth and the emphasis of the natural flatness of the cinematic image. The film´s flow is often stopped to a still image and sometimes as sudden as an emergency brake. Even though the camera moves very seldom, the images are sometimes full of movement (last but not least by these vivid girls).

Finally the girls arrive a kind of no man´s land. Abandoned buildings and a retirement home where the dwellers are not visible. As we are still asking ourselves where the film is going, we are lost with the girls. The four girls are unable to find the way back or even to the nearest bus, or subway station. They have to spend the night in one of these abandoned buildings. It is dark and now the last battery of their smart phones has died.

The mood, or better the changes of moods in this film depends mostly on pure cinematic elements: light and darkness or it depends on things which happen uninfluenced by people like rain, sunshine day and night. The building where the girls have to spend the night is dark, their and our imagination is activated. It is almost a classical situation from the many films and novels taking place in a post apocalyptic world. The tone of their conversation becomes more serious. The girls still in transition between childhood and growing up talk about their grandmothers and soon their conversation is about aging and finally death.

With this film it is a bit like with particle physics: The seeming lack of stories changes into a strange charging of fragments of stories out of the seemingly emptiness. As the film appears at the beginning as light as a summer breeze it leads to a quite astonishing film experience. In another kind than the exuberant masterpiece of the obvious cinephile Alexandre Rockwell Sweet Thing (Generation 2020) but with the same love for cinema, Jong Chak Yeok is a wonderful introduction to the mysteries of cinema. In all its playfulness, its seemingly lightness, the film is in its formal strategies one of the bravest films I saw this year in this section which jumps often so wonderfully among the different potentials of cinema.

Rüdiger Tomczak


Mon, 14.6, 17.30 Neue Bühne Hasenheide

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Notes on Una Escuela en Cerro Hueso (A School in Cerro Hueso) by Betania Cappato, Argentina: 2021-Berlin Filmfestival II.-Generationkplus


The first thing which came to my mind when I saw this film was a memory in an almost forgotten masterpiece from Japanese cinema Shiinomi gakuen (The Shinomi School, 1955) by Hiroshi Shimizu. It is about parents who are founding a school exclusively for their children suffering under polio. One of the main reasons was to protect their children against discrimination. Betania Cappato´s film Una Escuela en Cerro Hueso is inspired by her own family story, the Autism spectrum disorder of her little brother.

In her film, the couple, Julia and Antonio (both are biologists) tried several times without any success to find a school for their autistic daughter Ema. Finally they find a special school in the countryside where teacher and parents have to work very close together. Around the school, parents, teacher and children form something like a community like in Shimizu´s film. But as the school in Shimizu´s film seems almost a paradise-like refugium for outsiders (Shimizu loved children and filming in open air locations), the school in Cerro Hueso is still affected by the problems of our contemporary world. The natural environment is endangered. The species extinction caused by the global warming and other ecological problems. The community has as well to take care for their economical surviving and if possible economic independence. They need access to fresh water and finally a garden for growing their own vegetable. The radio news tells often about ecological disasters which finally affects the food chain. This paradise is obviously threatened. The film is as well about the hard work which is necessary for preserving this protected zone.

The film has two different currents which complement each other. The first one is a sober, nearly documentary narrated one. We see teachers and parents often at their meetings or the work of Antonio and Julia as biologists often carrying samples into their lab. They discuss why a vegetable garden is necessary or how they install a pipe between the nearby river and their place. A forthcoming music festival must be prepared. The need for solidarity among the community members is for now a very factual thing. The film itself becomes an alternative draft to the world like it is.The second current is an explicit poetic one. Here hope tries to resist the harsh reality. But most striking this other current reveals a lot of tenderness. I can hardly remember much films where so much caresses are exchanged like in this one. Ema is often hugged and kissed by her parents and the parents nonverbal communications with each other is full of tenderness. There is a wonderful moment when Ema and her mother pet a horse. In this moment it seems that love and tenderness is the only answer to a world which goes apart. Even the other children try with tender patience to integrate the silent Ema into their activities. In this counter draft of the world the film seems to turn always towards the right and good things.

The film is sad and blissful at the same time. Traces of happiness are here the results of hard work and solidarity. A horse is recognized pregnant. The world is not yet doomed.

There is nothing more capable for drawing an alternative draft against the world like it is and like it should be than cinema. Like in Shimizu´s masterpiece from 1955, Cappato´s film is in itself something like a protected zone and it is a personal film with a very unique vision of what cinema can be.

At all, Betania Cappato´s Una escuela en Cerro Hueso is one of the right films for the summer screenings of this Berlinale-edition. To see this film in Cinemascope on the big screen is something we can look forward to after the terrible 14 months we went through.

Rüdiger Tomczak


Fri, 11.6, 17.30, Neue Bühne Hasenheide

Sam, 19.6, 21.30, Freiluftkino Rehberge

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Notes on Fighter, by Jéro Yun, Korea: 2020-Berlin Filmfestival 2021-I.-Generation14plus


All around I see gilded lives,

but mine is tarnished.

All around I hear words of Jade,

but mine are luckless.

Why I was born under a bad star?

(song from Haonan, Haonu (Good Men, Good Women by Hou Hsiao Hsien)

The film is mostly about every day events. Scene after scene it seems Jun celebrates an unexcitedly realism which is probably only possible in Eastasian cinema. As the film´s mise en scène seems to have all time in the world, the protagonist, Jina, a young woman who escaped from North Korea, has no time at all. She just arrives in Seoul after some months of social adjustment training. Her father is while escaping from North Korea stuck in China and it needs money to pass him through China. Her mother has abandoned her when she was 12 and lives here in Seoul with a new husband and another daughter. From the beginning, Jina appears as an alien lost soul in this strange new world. The world around her has its own rhythm, she herself is still on the search for her own rhythm of life.

Her alienation, her uprooting from her family and the country she has lived in is present in the first encounter with her mother after many years. She hardly recognizes her daughter. In the face of the young actress Lim Seong-mi, a lot of emotions are palpable. Her complex emotions are never described in words but remain nameless with a silent impact. Once we see sunshine on her beautiful but grim and sad face. One almost wishes to see her smile. In her indescribable intensity of her facial expressions, she almost reminds me in the young girl played by Sidney Flanigan in Eliza Hittman´s masterpiece Never Rarely Sometimes Always.

For a good part of the film, Jina is unable to fit in this new society or in finding new friends. Later when she joins later a box club for earning more money there is a young assistant and an alcohol addicted coach who feel some compassion for her. The coach himself appears like a lost soul himself. Like I mentioned, the film cultivates a sober realism with very few dramatic moments, but these rough nameless emotions perceptible in the face of the actress creates a strange intensity which rises more as the film proceeds its quiet and sober narration. Sometimes, the film retreats itself into basic cinematic moments, observations and the exchange of glances. The film I will remember afterwards, seems to be much more emotional than the one I have seen just now. Things we do not see might lead later in our imagination a life of its own. The film does not produce emotion, it arises them from the relationship between the film´s soberness and its unfortunate protagonist.

There is a moment when Jina cries secretly in the training hall, retreated in a dark corner of this building. While she is half hidden and appears as a weeping shadow, the coach encourages her to cry for feeling better afterwards. The whole weight of “drama” in this seemingly sober film is tricky. It remains often hidden and abstract. But from time to time these often hidden emotions unfold an unexpected fierceness like unforeseen seismic shocks if one just try to recall single moments of this film.

After one boxing match, Jina has some slight injuries in her face despite of her protection suit. They are superficial and probably harmless. But strangely this superficial injury unfolds as an image of a deeply wounded soul. It might be as well the essence of this film which always deals with the surface of the material things and people but for moments it is exactly this patient observation and the lack of imposed emotions which turns out to be the film´s compassion.

The Asian cinema has taught us that simplicity can be be one of the highest and most sophisticated cinematic art. The film Fighter by Jéro Yun might even has a slight tendency to cinematic minimalism. But finally turns out to be a heartbreaking film experience. The echo the film has left in me will stay for quite a while.

Rüdiger Tomczak


10. June, 21.30 Freiluftkino Rehberge

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Notes on Bela, by Prantik Basu, India: 2021

Even though I saw Prantik Basu´s new documentary Bela as a press screener, my first thought was how wonderful this film would look on the big screen.
One reason for this thought was a simple but in retrospect very strong visual impression which enfolds almost cinema in general: The film´s point of view is mostly down to earth but from time to time the film is gazing towards the sky.
The film is about indigenous communities in the east of West Bengal. At first it offers first an insight into a specific rural culture. But this “Down to earth” does not exclude the thing we call poetry. In his wonderful short film Rang Mahal, Basu confronted the materiality of natural and men-made landscapes with a recited indigenous genesis. That reminded me in films like Malick´s Voyage of Time- Life´s Journey but also in Marguerite Duras´ Les Maines Negatives (The negative Hands), because it distinguishes the world like it is and how people interpret it through religion, mythology or poetry.

In Bela, there is no voice over commentary. At first the film looks at the every day work routine of this community: the home work of women, the collecting of fire wood or the grinding of grain. But there is also the preparation for some special events, a Cchau-festival (a tribal folk dance) and the Diwali festival. We see Cchau-dancer at their rehearsals. Even the struggle to preserve an old traditional culture appears as hard work. Later the Cchau dancer will be dressed up and masked like mythic figures or animals for their performance.
Women are grinding grain. Their work is tiring and dusty. The mill is a primitive apparatus entirely powered by muscles. This moment might be only a fragment of this tribal way of life but the rhythm of this monotonous work which is necessary for surviving offers an idea of this life.
Women pick up fire wood in the forest. Big trucks are transporting wood for industrial purposes. The daily work routine revealed in this film has nothing euphemistic. These women are mostly grumpy, stressed and not at all happy with their daily work. They might be absorbed by the world they live in but they are not necessarily satisfied with it.

As I mentioned Prantik Basu´s fine eye in distinguishing natural and cultural landscapes, in Bela he also distinguishes the two elements of cinema, it´s precise image-making apparatus which enables to record images of the world like it is but also the moment when these seemingly sober recorded images become something else - a poetic interpretation of the world. The incorruptible persistent gaze itself becomes the artistic approach.

Basu works mostly with the light sources these indigenous people have at their disposal. Especially in the interiors of these traditional houses, our eyes have to adapt this dim light where some things is visible but others are hidden in the shadow. For the eyes of a city dweller it is first of all challenging, because our eyes are mostly spoiled by the light pollution in the big cities.
When Ford, Kubrick or Malick for example tried to approach a distant epochs with the disclaiming of conventional studio lightning, Basu or in another kind the Taiwanese Hou hsiao Hsien tried to approach an authentic lightning for traditional interiors. Basu approaches here a traditional way of life with an authentic lightning. It is not only another evidence that Bela is not made for a TV channel but also a brave and sophisticated esthetic approach for a documentary.

The complex relationships between nature and culture, a traditional tribal way of life and traces of a rising industry, between the work for surviving and the cultural events as the collective memory of indigenous culture – even the relationships between the genders are revealed entirely through this very persistent cinematic observation. The world unfolds image by image and the use of this image-making apparatus is often decent, sometimes even invisible.
The art of Prantik Basu seems to be rather in resisting to force the images. Paradoxically, Bela looks like great cinematic art just because of his imperturbable confidence in his images. Despite or even because of Basu´s seemingly formal restraint, the whole film seems to abound with fragmented stories, moods, thoughts and feelings.

Near the end there is the Cchau-festival and the Diwali celebration. And the film which I almost would like to call minimalistic with a certain formal strictness - seems now to explode into myriads of lights, colors and movements.
Women paint white ornaments on the ground with colour made from rice flour. We see firework, oil lamps and even electric lights in many colours. The film almost becomes a festival itself and its psychedelic beauty reminds me as well in films like Renoir´s The River. But even here it looks like art originates directly in front of the camera from the world itself. The ornaments might be washed away by the next rain, oil lamps, fireworks and even the electric lights will expire soon but it is like burnt in the artificial memory of this film like it is burnt in my own biological memory.

The film Bela offers a lot of options. One can reflect a lot about what the film reveals, one can reflect a lot about documentary as an art form. Films were often dealing with vanishing worlds and vanishing cultures. It is quite a bitter pill that film itself is endangered like never before in its history of crisis. Not only for that reason, Bela is a kind of gift which gives a glimpse about the richness and diversity of the past of cinema but also hope for cinematic wonders yet to come.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Bela had its world premiere at the Visions du Reel, International Filmfestival in Nyon /Switzerland.