Sep 21st 2017

Ministry of Light: Experimental State-Sponsored Films from India, 1968-1975

Can cinema make you a good citizen? For a half century, the Indian government hoped so; until 1994, they required commercial cinemas to screen twenty minutes of state-sponsored content before the feature presentation, forcing its movie-mad people to absorb information about the country’s progress and development. In the 1960s, the organization that produced these shorts—Films Division—grew tired of dry documentaries and began to experiment. Its filmmakers played with form and used diverse modes such as animation, mixed-media, and even claymation, to present a more diverse and ambivalent vision of India to its people. The FD also funded films from India’s new wave (sometimes known as Parallel Cinema), which exchanged big Bollywood fantasies for micro-scale neorealism. This series presents a selection of Films Division’s sharpest verité and wildest avant-garde shorts, as well as Shyam Benegal’s state-supported masterpiece of alternative cinema, Nishant.

Films Division Shorts
Thursday, September 21 7pm

This Bit of That India (S.N.S. Sastry, 1975, 20 min.)
I Am 20 (S.N.S. Sastry, 1967, 19 min.)
Thoughts in a Museum (S. Sukhdev, 1968, 19 min.)
And I Make Short Films (S.N.S. Sastry, 1968, 16 min.)
And the Stars Look On (Omprakash Mehra, 1968, 12 min.)
Yet in Him We Trust (S.N.S. Sastry, 1966, 1 min.)
Explorer (Pramod Pati, 1968, 7 min.)
Claxplosion (Pramod Pati, 1968, 2 min.)
TRT: approx. 95 min., digital

Directors at Films Division, the Indian government’s film production unit, were at the forefront of the country’s cinematic avant-garde. Twenty years after Independence, they reflected on India’s progress with dynamic experiments in film form. These rarely screened shorts are on subjects of development such as family planning, science and technology, and poverty reduction. Characterized by an often psychedelic, postmodern cool, the films also manage to construct sly critiques of the state that sponsored them.

Official Website

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