Film southasia

"Festival of southasian documentries"
Winner of 2017
Film Selection Type Awards
Directed by: JUDE RATNAM, 94' Sri Lanka 

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Ram Bahadur Trophy For Best Film

Directed by: SARVNIK KAUR, TUSHAR MADHAV, 85' India 

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Ram Bahadur Trophy For Best Film

Directed by: NIHARIKA POPLI, 80' India 

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Tareque Masud Award For Debut Film

Directed by: CHRISTIANE MORDELET, STANZIN DORJAI GYA, 74' India 

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The Jury Award for Runnerup

Directed by: SAI NAW KHAM, 25' 33" Myanmar 

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The Nabil Bank Award for Best Student Film

Directed by: LEENA MANIMEKALAI, 30' India 

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Special Mention

Directed by: KESANG TSETEN, 82' Nepal 

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Special Mention

Directed by: SHILPI GULATI, 83' India 

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Special Mention

Directed by: NIMA SARVESANI, 90' Afghanistan 

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Special Mention

Directed by: VAISHALI SINHA, 81' India 

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Special Mention

Jury Statement

Kunda Dixit (Chief of Jury)

Thank you very much.

On behalf of the other two members of the Jury, Rajashri Dasgupta and Farjad Nabi , let me say what an honour it has been to serve on this panel. Having never been in a film jury before, I personally had no idea it was going to be such hard work. If I had, I might have never agreed to do it.

You know, selecting the best film is probably more difficult than making a film – especially when all 63 films screened here this week were of such exceptionally high standard, without exception. To do justice to them we three had to watch many of the films multiple times to draw up a short list, and we agonised over them over the last few days – looking at how well the point of view was conveyed, the messaging, the technical aspects of each documentary. We wish there were prizes for all of them.

But it is a cruel world, and there is a selection process. We have been asked to choose the best films in several categories: Best Student Film, Best Debut Film, Best Film on Children’s issues, and the Runner-up and Best Overall Films. In addition, we have also chosen five documentaries for special mention and I will be citing them as we go up the categories.

FIRST SPECIAL MENTION is a film on two transgender individuals looking for a room to rent. It is a delicate documentary that treats a sensitive subject with lightness while exposing society’s prejudices. The Jury’s Selection for the first Special Mention is to IS IT TOO MUCH TO ASK by LEENA MANIMEKKALAI from INDIA.

THE BEST FILM IN THE STUDENT CATEGORY for $500 goes to a documentary that is an intimate glimpse at the forgotten history of a forgotten corner of South Asia. It portrays the daily rhythms of the life of a single woman as she bridges the old and new worlds. The Film South Asia 2017 Best Student Film award goes to: 32 SOULS by SAI NAW KHAM from Burma.

The SECOND SPECIAL MENTION is the story of destruction and loss, slowly replaced by rebuilding and hope after a natural disaster. A devastated community grapples with its increasing dependence on the outside world with grace and dignity. The Jury’s Selection for Special Mention is for TREMBLING MOUNTAIN by KESANG TSETEN from Kathmandu for his film about survivors of the avalanche that buried the village of Langtang in Nepal after the 2015 earthquake.

Now we come to a film that takes a claustrophobic journey into a child miner who is trapped underground in a foreign land. But despite the hardships and pain of separation, we see pride, generosity and sacrifice. We are also forced to think about the governance failure in their native land that drives them out by not providing them a secure future. Ladies and Gentlemen, the UNICEF NEPAL AWARD for BEST DOCUMENTARY ON CHILDREN’s ISSUES with a $1,000 prize goes to FIREFLIES IN THE ABYSS by CHANDRASHEKHAR REDDY of Bangalore.

The next SPECIAL MENTION is a soft treatment of the hardcore problem of drug addiction, a story told with compassion and kindness of the families of five men in Punjab. Ladies and gentlemen, the Jury recognizes LOCK AND KEY by SHILPI GULATI from India.

The Tareque Masud Best Debut Film Award 2017 with a cash prize of $1,000 goes to a film that documents the life of a 100 year-old classical singer who brings out the best of South Asia’s syncretic culture in which ordinary folks lead extraordinary lives. This film was made by an engineer who was so moved by a concert she went to that she decided to make profile of him in a documentary. The Best Debut Film is RASAN PIYA by NIHARIKA POPLI and her moving portrait of vocalist Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan.

The next SPECIAL MENTION goes to a story that doesn’t just cut across boundaries, but across continents. We follow women prisoners who challenge patriarchy, break with family and country, but are forced back into tradition because of the need for security and acceptance. The Jury members are proud to give special mention to PRISON SISTERS by NIMA SARVESANI from Afghanistan.

I see the anticipation building up, and it is now time to announce the winner of the second best film which is a story that is familiar theme right across the subcontinent: that of a threatened way of life, of tradition and heritage being trampled by modern mores. Stunning cinematography accompanies this documentary about a self-sufficient woman who has spent her whole life in the most difficult job imaginable, but there is no one to take over after her. The RUNNERUP AWARD in Film Southasia 2017 with a cash prize of $1,000 goes to THE SHEPERDESS of the GLACIERS by STANZIN DORJAI GYA and CHRISTIANE MORDELET from Ladakh.

The final Special Mention tonight is for a film that could have easily degenerated into a giggle fest, but tackles head-on the biggest elephant in the room in South Asia: SEX. You all know the film I am talking about: ASK THE SEXPERT by VISHALI SINHA of Mumbai.

Finally, the moment you have all been waiting for so patiently The Ram Bahadur Award for BEST DOCOUMENTARY in Film Southasia 2017. The subcontinent is rife with conflict. There are wars that raged fiercely before burning themselves out. There are conflicts that continue to smoulder, and there are others in which homes are still set on fire driving hundreds of thousands of refugees across borders. In all of these conflicts, it is the civilians who are caught in the middle, they are ones who have to struggle to live and try not to die.

The Jury faced an impossible task to choose between two films about war: one in the northern edge of South Asia and one on its southern tip. One film is about a war that has spent itself and provided a need to come to terms with the brutality, to find closure and keep the memory alive. The other film is about an ongoing conflict that has trapped a people for decades, and how artists find an outlet in the arts and music.

The Jury Panel has decided to split the Best Documentary Award between DEMONS IN PARADISE by JUDE RATNAM from Sri Lanka and SOZ – A BALLAD OF MALADIES BY TUSHAR MADHAV AND SARVNIK KAUR . They will also be sharing the $2,000 cash prize for the Ram Bahadur Award.

Congratulations to all of you.

On behalf of Rajarshi and Farjad, thank you once again for your appreciating the great work of all the film makers.