Man-animal relationship to how inter-religious friendship during these fractious times, and stories of people living along borders to those fighting traditional opium cultivation – four Indian projects with varying themes have been selected for the 18th edition of Hong Kong-Asia Film Financing Forum (HAF) and Work in Progress (WIP).
The four projects, among those chosen from across the world in the highly-competitive HAF, will look for co-producers, finishing funds and pre-sales in the world market to be held during August 27-29.
HAF was originally scheduled to be held in March, but had to be postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now will have only an online version.
Out of the four Indian projects, “In the Belly of a Tiger” is the only one in HAF, while the WIP Lab, which is for films which have been filmed and are looking for post-production help, has the other three – feature “Dostojee (Two Friends)” and documentaries “The Borderlands” and “I, Poppy”.
According to an announcement by HAF, “In the Belly of a Tiger” (Hindi), to be directed by Siddhartha Jatla and produced by Vivek Kajaria and Amanda Mooney, is about an elderly couple in a remote village in northern India who has to decide who between the two of them will be killed by a tiger to get government compensation to ensure their family’s survival.
The story of the film is said to be have been inspired by true incidents.
In his director’s statement, Jatla says, “In July 2017, the half-eaten body of a 55-year-old woman was found near a forest in Bankati village, one of the impoverished villages around the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve. While examining her body, village officials noticed signs of a disturbing new farmer suicide trend. They suspected that villagers had begun sending elderly family members into the tiger reserve as prey and were then relocating their bodies to surrounding fields to get compensation from the government.”
On the other hand, the Indian fiction project in WIP Lab, “Dostojee”, will be the debut feature by Prasun Chatterjee and look into how the innocent friendship between two boys in rural Bengal, crosses the barriers built by religion and society with the immediate backdrop of the Babri Masjid demolition in 1992-93.
“I have genuinely felt that the fine threads of our social fabric are being destroyed bit by bit every day by discriminatory politics. Not just in our country, but this is also the reality that happened everywhere. Looking around us, we can see the entire world plagued by the menace of religious polarisation. Our story tries to capture this very narrative through the innocent eyes of two little boys,” says Chatterjee in his director’s statement.
Among the two Indian documentaries in WIP Lab, one is “The Borderlands”, directed by National Award-winning filmmaker Samarth Mahajan and produced by Sunil Doshi and Ashay Gangwar. The 90-minute film, in Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Manipuri, Nepali, and Punjabi languages, is described as an intimate exploration of how everyday lives intertwines with borders in the Indian subcontinent.
Mahajan says in his statement, “The film captures everyday life stories in India’s border areas, rethinking borders through stories of longing, triumph and tragedy. (It) explores borders through refugee movement, cross-border kinship, livelihoods, faith and fluid identities,” he says.