🎥 Filmmaker wins third major international film festival award
🎥 Says he is interested in making fictional work next
🎥 Indian documentaries continue to rise on global stage
🎥 Our London Film Festival (LFF) coverage will end with two videos (UK Asian Film Festival BFI reception) and ‘Creature’ red carpet (Asif Kapadia, Akram Khan & Andy Serkis) to come in final wrap and reviews of South Asian content and notes and comments on other films as we wrap…
HE HAS become one of the most internationally decorated Indian documentary filmmakers of recent times.
Shaunak Sen can now add the Grierson Award – presented to the best documentary at British Film Institute London Film Festival, which ended on Sudnay (October 5-October 16), to his list of accolades.
The film is currently on release in selected cinemas in the UK (since last Friday, October 14).
The award for Sen’s film, ‘All That Breathes’ from BFI LFF, follows on from awards at Sundance Film Festival in the US, where his documentary film about a family in Delhi who devote their spare time to healing injured birds of prey, had its world premiere and then Cannes, where it won the L’Oeil D’or (The Golden Eye) – the top documentary film award at the world’s biggest and most glamorous film festival back in May. We reported on his award on our Instagram on Sunday (October 16).
www.asianculturevulture.com spoke to Sen just after the film screened at Sundance but before it was awarded its Grand Jury Prize there. In his video interview, he talked expansively about the film’s themes.
At the centre of the film are the Saud brothers – Nadeem Shehzad and Mohammed Saud and cousin Salik Rehman – who are amateur bird healers and live in Delhi; but the film goes much deeper and touches a raw nerve about the way environmental degradation is taking place and affecting everyone, man and creature.
It is also shot during the backdrop of covid and the social unrest sparked by the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act in 2019, which excluded South Asian Muslim refugees from seeking sanctuary in India.
At LFF, we caught up with Sen again and talked to him before he knew of his latest award.
Sen admits there is a buzz and excitement around Indian documentaries right now.
He credits ‘Writing with Fire’ which premiered in Sundance in 2021 and went onto being nominated for an Oscar – with opening the doors for Indian documentaries internationally. It is a film about an all women media collective drawn from members of the lowest caste (Dalits). We reviewed and covered its success at Sundance by filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh.
He toldacv in London: “There’s quite a bit of talk about Indian documentaries around now and more curiosity and buzz – there’s more potential with non-fiction now than there is with fiction. HBO hs the rights for All That Breathes.”
There is a lot of international collaboration in his work too and he is also helping to produce the work of others now.
“I am a director at heart,” said eschewing the idea of being more of a producer now. “I want to help close friends, and people have assisted or collaborated with me in the past – like my longtime collaborator Rohan Ranganathan (assistant director).”
Sen was heading to New York International Film Festival, while ‘All the Breathes’ completed all its London screenings by last weekend.
He told acv that he is interested in making a fiction feature but did not elaborate.
“I want to do fiction, I’ve spent 10 years doing documentaries, I want to be adept at both.”
Among the producers are London-based Rise Films. His previous documentary film ‘Cities of Sleep’ about nocturnal activities in urban centres was shown at the 2017 edition of the UK Asian Film Festival.
It’s been a good period for Indian documentaries more generally. At last month’s Toronto International Film Festival (September 8-18), two documentaries set in India won Canada Goose Amplify Awards.
Canadian Nisha Pahuja’s ‘To Kill A Tiger’ about a village family’s fight for justice after their 13-year-old daughter is gang raped; and ‘While We Watched’ about the Indian broadcast news channel, NDTV, and one of its most celebrated journalists, Ravish Kumar, also won an Amplify Voices accolade. This film is made by Vinay Shukla, who incidentally came to LFF in 2016, as a co-director with ‘An Insignificant Man’ about the new Delhi political upstart at the time, Arvind Kerjiwal. You can read about this in our TIFF 2022 round-up here.
Last year, Payal Kapadia’s ‘A Night of Knowing Nothing’ (see our Cannes interview here) – won the same L’Oeil that Sen holds now and there was another environmental documentary, ‘Invisible Demons’ also centred around Delhi by Rahul Jain that screened in the environmental strand that year. (See our Cannes interview with Jain here).
‘All That Breathes’ is in UK selected cinemas now…
We will be wrapping up all our BFI LFF coverage shortly – and will end with the red carpet video for the world premiere of the dance film and collaboration between Oscar winner Asif Kapadia (‘Amy’) and Akram Khan, one of the most decorated British dancer-choreographers of recent times in what is a film and different version of his English National Ballet commissioned work of the same name. We have interviews with Kapadia, Khan, producer Uzma Hasan, dance lead, Jeffrey Cirio, as well as Lord of the Rings star Andy Serkis who voices ‘Creature’ in part – there is no dialogue in the film.
We also have a video of an BFI LFF/UK Asian Film Festival reception for South Asian filmmakers coming – our interview with Mahesh Narayanan ‘Declaration’ (‘Ariyippu’) is already out –
We also have interviews with Rahat Mahajan ‘The Cloud Messenger’ and Ahsen Nadeem’s ‘Crows Are White’ (documentary) and will put out short updates and interviews ahead of releases or significant other news.
Our page with reviews of the main South Asian content will be out next… Our ‘Joyland’ review is here from Cannes, hours after its world premiere.