An Interview with Sourav Sarangi (Director)
Film Is a Journey, Process of Learning
Q: I felt that this was a film about family ties. What did you concentrate on when you were filming?
SS: Originally in India, in fact in Asia as well, the bonds between the local community and between families were very strong. However, as modernization has advanced these bonds have weakened. I’m speaking from personal experience here. I was brought up in the suburbs and lived together with my relations. After that, as I went to boarding school, I was unable to see my family everyday. In comparison to those living in high-rise buildings, people living closer to the ground interact with each other like grass. When I shoot a film, I always focus on unknown and uncertain subjects. Film is a journey, a process of learning new things. In spite of the environment in which Bilal lived, he smiled a lot and wanted to believe that he could he happy—that made me want to understand him further. I take the audience along with me on that journey.
Q: Tell us about the relationship between yourself and the people you filmed.
SS: A special bond was built ever since that magical moment Bilal and I smiled at each other while he was in hospital. That’s how this film came about. I communicated with him throughout the shooting of film with eye-to-eye contact. For example, Bilal and I got up to mischief when his parents weren’t watching. Bilal showed me a world that his parents didn’t know about. He showed me the everyday world through his eyes. I was able to forge a good personal relationship with his parents as well. I think it is important to make emotional bonds with my subjects when I shoot a documentary.
Q: Did you notice any changes in yourself before and after the shooting?
SS: After the film was premiered in Amsterdam, I came to know of the IDFA Fund. This fund is created to support the characters who need support, not the director or the producer of the film. I asked myself several times, “Should I apply?” but decided to apply for this funding in order to secure a future for Bilal. I don’t think winning the fund changed my attitude towards the family. At the time I was hesitant about how to communicate with blind people, but as time went by I was able to reach them through touch. After shooting the film, I recognized that in order to truly overcome poverty, affluent people need to somehow experience poverty. I achieved this through the camera, but everyone has their own way of going about it. It is important for people to see things through the eyes of poor people and treat poor people with great respect. Poverty is a treasure trove of creativity and I felt that total cooperation carries great power.
Q: Becoming aware of these things, did you want to relate that to the audience?
SS: When I was shooting the film I honestly shot all that I experienced and recorded. Through my film I am not trying to express any philosophical concepts or strong messages. And if the audience picks up such messages, that’s their own personal impression. On the other hand, I gained a new style of shooting. I want to reintroduce cinema verite into documentary films. I filmed without a script or a concept, and just followed my heart. I combined sound and lighting, time and space and in the end was able to express the truth that I had experienced based on my instincts. The jump cuts here and there create a single sequence. The production was experimental but I still feel that I have much to learn.
(Compiled by Hayashi Shoko)
Interviewers: Hayashi Shoko, Hozumi Maki / Interpreter: Arai Yuka / Translator: Lynne Hobday
Photography: Ichiyanagi Sayuri / Video: Ichiyanagi Sayuri / 2009-10-10