Documentary on Majuli’s mask in France and Chennai film fests

‘Mask Art of Majuli’, a documentary film featuring the Satriya mask-making culture of the famed river island in Assam, has been chosen for competition sections of the 29th Festival International des Cinemas d’Asie (FICA) in France and the 11th Chennai International Documentary and Short Film Festival.

The 55-minute film, directed by Utpal Borpujari and produced by the North East Regional Centre of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), is the only Indian film among the eight selected for the documentary competition and will have its international premiere in FICA, to be held at Vesoul city in France during February 28 to March 7. IGNCA is an autonomous institution of the union ministry of culture.

FICA, also known as the Vesoul International Film Festival of Asian Cinema, is one of the oldest Asian film festivals to be held outside Asia. Meanwhile, the film will also compete in the Chennai festival to be held during February 20-28. It was earlier screened at the 6th Thrissur International Folklore Film Festival in Kerala.

The crew of the film comprised Bhaskar Jyoti Das (associate director), Chida Bora (cinematographer), Diganta Bora (editor), Sourav Mahanta (background music), Debajit Gayan (sound design, editing and mixing) and Manjit Nath (production sound).

The film creatively documents the mask-making culture of Majuli, focusing on the only two families that are keeping the practice alive at the Natun Chamaguri Satra, including that of Sangeet Natak Akademi award winner Dr Hem Chandra Goswami and the late Kosha Kanta Dev Goswami.

The masks, or ‘Mukha’ as they are called in Assamese, were introduced by the 15th-century Vaishnavaite saint, poet, playwright, social reformer and cultural icon Srimanta Sankardev as a critical element in the performance of ‘Bhaona’, a form of dance drama depicting popular stories from Hindu mythology, especially the Ramayan and the Mahabharat. These masks represent an intricate art form, and artisans create them uniquely and totally organic way using biodegradable material.

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