YIDFF 2013 International Competition
Char . . . The No-man’s Island
An Interview with Sourav Sarangi (Director)

Reality is Hope

Q: The border, like the border between countries in this film, seems to be an important theme in your films.

SS: Indeed, the border is an important topic for me. In my previous film Bilal you could find for example a line between religions, or between the sighted and blind. The border is where you can negotiate with others, so it is in fact a place of possibility. But in truth it is more often considered a place of conflict. I think my preoccupation with borders comes from the 1947 separation of India and Pakistan. The breakup on Hindu and Muslim divides provoked unrest, as it gave birth to religious minorities living on each side. Neighboring nations that carry religious conflict within their borders are fighting each other because of religion. It is a foolish idea to establish national borders according to religion.

Q: The aesthetics of your film’s sound and image make us feel like we are watching fiction instead of documentary—another “border.” Tell us what is important for you in your filmmaking.

SS: I consider myself a storyteller. And I believe that fiction lies at the core spirit of cinema, as I write a script, establish characters, and reconstruct a world of my own through my cinema. In contrast to fiction, where a screenplay exists at the start of production, documentary takes the opposite route. It is a “reversed scriptwriting” when we film first and then create a story. The border between documentary and fiction can be drawn differently by each filmmaker. In my opinion, it’s important to draw out emotion from the audience in whatever genre film. In Char, I wanted the audience to react emotionally to the protagonist Rubel. Further, I love films that allow us to experience danger. I am talking about uncertainty, impossibility. When we face the impossible, we discover the act of living, the act of filmmaking. In this film, too, there was an impossible number of elements (like erosion, the landscape, the characters, the dam) in my footage that my advisor told me “It’s impossible to compile everything in one film.” But his words propelled the storyteller in me to action. When you set foot inside a dangerous place, more perilous than you could imagine, it touches on an unknown source of power inside yourself and you are able to create something. This applies also to the characters in the film. Under extreme conditions, an untapped energy is discovered and allows you to overcome the difficulties.

Q: Amidst difficulty, Rubel manages to say “Hopes will come true.” Where do you think his strength comes from? And what do you think about his future?

SS: Rubel now works in a hotel in Kerala, southern India, and is able to send money home. I am not worried about his future. His strength comes from a strong conviction in hope. The family had many material possessions on the char, like bicycles, mobile phones, and television sets. But they are not real in the sense they will disappear one day, together with the sinking island. On the char, reality is hope, immaterial may it be. This island was built on hope. It is a lump of hope. And this is not just about this island, but all lands and peoples. Hope is its building material. I vow for hope, instead of borders. This is what I wished to convey in my documentary.

(Compiled by Nozaki Atsuko)

Interviewers: Nozaki Atsuko, Suzuki Noriko / Interpreter: Catherine Cadou / Translator: Fujioka Asako
Photography: Iwata Kohei / Video: Nomura Yukihiro / 2013-10-15