FOCUS: An Indian Indie

From dodging debt to clearing censorship, SOUL OF SAND director, Sidharth Srinivasan, discusses the genesis of a film fueled by “passion, persistence, patience–and pig headedness!”

(Image courtesy of Sidharth Srinivasan)

It’s been three achingly long years from script to screen. We shot PAIRON TALLE (SOUL OF SAND) as an utter indie, sans any form of corporate funding let alone guarantee of completion, on love, not-so-fresh air and foolhardiness, in the fall of 2008. To embark on such a venture one has to contend with a veritable host of naysayers—aghast outsiders, concerned family members and frowning well-wishers, and during pre-production I could almost smell the cast and crew clandestinely questioning the folly of my endeavors behind my back, but supporting me nonetheless for my very personal Waterloo (bless their souls). I say stick to your guns if the project has stuck with you for as long as it has—independent filmmaking is the exclusive domain of masochists who revel in the pleasure/pain principle…

Once principal photography began in earnest everyone was disbelievingly stunned into action, as it were, and spirits ran alarmingly high – the joy of a successful shoot is akin to chasing that ubiquitous dragon. But the low that came post-shooting hit like a ton of bricks – case in point, our film was in the proverbial can but we were over-budget (despite having completed

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OPEN MIC: Carnival Barking, or the Art of Reviewing Films

Will Stephenson—film student, columnist, curator, radio host and friend of GFI—looks at SOUL OF SAND and his own process for critiquing films

As an amateur critic and programmer based in Athens, Georgia, I spend a lot of time arguing the merits of films that many readers and viewers are otherwise just as happy ignoring, like stop-motion animation from the Czech Republic or 1940s zombie movies based on Jane Eyre. This is almost always rewarding and sometimes shockingly easy, as the greatness and/or strangeness of the objects can often speak for themselves, in which cases my job (which I feel lucky to have, even at an unprofessional level) consists of something like carnival barking.

But in writing about new art-house releases or curating a series with no readymade theme, the challenge (and appeal) generally involves attempting to dispel certain preconceptions about genres, national cinemas, and canons—all of which begin as useful classifications or critical tools, but can very easily lead to a disheartening reduction in the types of films people see and the ways they relate to them. The best critics work to collapse tired categories and oversimplifications, contesting and expanding our received notions about the medium. They surprise us, basically. And not to lapse into boosterism, but this is also a way of describing the Global Film Initiative’s objective, and it’s why I’ve enjoyed interning here. The films we distribute are difficult in that

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Indian New Wave?

SOUL OF SAND’s Sidharth Srinivasan speaks with Rob Avila about modernity, caste and breathing new life into the Indian independent scene

A scene from SOUL OF SAND

I had an opportunity to sit down with the film’s affable and thoughtful director, Sidharth Srinivasan, just after he introduced the film to a sold-out house on January 15th at the Museum of Modern Art. At the end of our conversation, he returned to the screening room for what proved a long and spirited Q&A with his clearly moved, cosmopolitan audience. Below are a few highlights from our discussion.

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