The ON THE EDGE OF THE FOLD season is curated by Viknesh Kobinathan, a student at the National Film & Television School, & screens at Rich Mix & Birkbeck Cinema (19 to 28 SEP 2019). We caught up with Viknesh to find out more.
By RADIANT CIRCUS
Hi Viknesh! RADIANT CIRCUS exists to help people find their way to more adventurous moving pictures. What has your personal film journey been like?
My journey with film really began with VHS tapes. As a kid, my brother and I used to record films that were shown on TV. Because there were only a limited number of tapes that could be kept in the cabinet, we used to just watch the same films over and over and memorise all the lines. Then I started to go to the cinema when I became a teenager and I could finally choose the things I wanted to see which was really liberating. But things really changed for me when I went to film school to do my undergrad, and I was introduced to films from around the world and across time. I was experiencing whole new ways of seeing and analysing films. Ever since then, I’ve been constantly trying to expand my understanding of cinema.
You’re now studying film curation at the National Film & Television School. What new film directions has that opened up for you?
I had been working as a film curator for about 4 years for various institutions back in Singapore, where I’m from. But I felt like I really needed to take some time out of work to deepen my knowledge of not just film itself, but also the practice of curation. So that’s what guided my decision to do my postgrad degree in film curation at NFTS, and its been an amazing journey. I’ve had opportunities to interact with many different curators and film professionals from the UK and beyond and gained a lot of perspective. I even had the chance to do a placement at the BFI archives and had a rare insight into archival work. So in many ways my knowledge has not only deepened, but also widened and I feel like I have a firmer understanding of who I am as a curator and where I want to take my career.
Your programme ON THE EDGE OF THE FOLD at Rich Mix and Birkbeck Cinema focuses on India’s Dalit Communities. Could you explain something about those communities for people who don’t yet know?
It all begins with the Hindu caste system which can be traced back more than two millennia ago in India, which dictates a hierarchical framework, as well as rules and regulations for how different people should conduct themselves. The Dalits (pejoratively, known as ‘untouchables’) fall under the lowest rung of this structure and hence have been historically prejudiced against and still face abuse and discrimination today. Its estimated that there are more than 200 million Dalits in India at the moment.
How did you decide to programme these particular films?
Representations of Dalits and their narratives in cinema can be seen as early as the 1930s, but I wanted to focus on films made within the past two decades so that it can be seen in context with the current socio-political situation in India right now where extreme right-wing sentiments are on the rise and at the same time, we are also seeing an increased resistance from Dalit communities, through activism, writing and art.
It’s a small programme, so I can’t attempt to give a comprehensive picture of the very complex issues at play, but I’ve tried to ensure that each film stands on its own and has an aesthetic approach or topic that is unique to it thereby allowing audiences insights into different aspects.
What are the challenges in bringing work like this to the screen?
As someone who is not a Dalit himself and did not grow up in India, I have to negotiate a programme like this from the perspective of an outsider and so my challenge is make sure that I am respectful of the communities that the programme addresses. It’s a constant learning process.
What would you say to people who might not know these films or the filmmakers? How can we get more people to give these films a try?
My advice would be to go in with an open mind and see what aspects of the films themselves appeal to them and then take it from there. Almost all the films are relatively unknown or have gone under-the-radar, so any film people pick will be an exciting new discovery. Out of the four films, two are documentaries and two are fiction films and out of each pair, one of the films is more challenging than the other, so there is a nice balance there and people can make their choices based on that. And if anyone wants to get in touch with me personally for recommendations or thoughts, I’d be more than happy to chat with them!
What does your future film journey look like? Where will the course take you next?
I’m applying to some full-time positions in Singapore at the moment. But at the same time, I also hope start my own independent curatorial platform where I can showcase new and exciting international work on a regular basis, like a film club of sorts.
And that’s the meat of it…
ON THE EDGE OF THE FOLD curated by Viknesh Kobinathan screens at Rich Mix & Birkbeck Cinema (19 to 28 SEP 2019).
COURT d. Chaitanya Tamhane, 2014 at Rich Mix (19 SEP 20:30).
ANHEY GHORHEY DA DAAN aka Alms For A Blind Horse d. Gurvinder Singh, 2011 at Birkbeck Cinema (27 SEP 18:30 – FREE!).
AMAZONS IN SARIS d. Rani Khanna, 2001 + Q&A with the filmmaker at Birkebck Cinema (28 SEP 11:30 – FREE!).
JAI BHIM COMRADE d. Anand Patwardhan, 2012 at Birkbeck Cinema (28 SEP 14:00 – FREE!).
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