IFFI 2023: Clash of the cultures

The attraction of IFFI, of course, isn’t just about the films being screened. It’s about all the healthy cinema dialogue that takes place too
IFFI 2023: Clash of the cultures

Even as early as on the second day of IFFI, Goa, the chief utility of being exposed to films from across the world is becoming apparent. This introduction to new countries, new people, and new cultures, enables exposure, and through acknowledgement of the beauty of differences, empathy grows. And if that’s not the point of artistic expression…

The opening film of the 54th IFFI, director Stuart Gatt’s Catching Dust, is fittingly about a clash of cultures. It’s about a man—and his wife—who have learned to live in the wilderness of Texas, and how their world gets thrown off when an urban couple becomes their only neighbours in the lonely desert. It’s about gender roles and purpose; it’s about passion and the notion of home. While one woman feels restricted for being born... a woman, another feels restricted by her past. There are two stifling marriages hurtling into each other, two different classes facing off. 

It’s a film that even questions biases concerning who’s good and bad. Is it the alpha male who seems to be holding his wife captive—or is it the sophisticated artist who holds dark secrets? It’s a film that speaks of the many colours that define a relationship and its many frustrations, and at the end, that wide shot of abstract artistic expression splattered on a trailer tells its own story. Long after the opening film, Catching Dust, was over, I was left reflecting on the complex relationship between nature and nurture, and how the cultures we are raised in often determine our personalities and desires.

The attraction of IFFI, of course, isn’t just about the films being screened. It’s about all the healthy cinema dialogue that takes place too. On day 2 of IFFI, for instance, Zoya Akhtar and the team spoke about the nuances of making their Netflix film, The Archies—which, fascinatingly enough, is also about the intermingling of two cultures. It’s about the ambitious reimagination of The Archies comics in the Indian setting—and adding to the pressure of it all is the expectation that comes with making the world’s first-ever feature film on a beloved comic series. As Ruchika Kapoor, Director of Netflix Hindi Originals, put it, “It’s not just a big moment for Netflix-India, but for India as a whole.” 

Zoya knew her work was cut out from the beginning. “We had to keep so many objectives in mind when making this. We were representing India with this film that Netflix is taking to 190 countries. We needed to make an older world relevant to Gen-Z. We needed to cater to the fans of Archies and those who didn’t even know it,” she said. Zoya, who has interpreted this adaptation as a musical, was never in doubt about this choice. “The idea of the musical is our syntax, our grammar. When presenting our cinema to the world through this film, there was no doubt that we should do it in a style, a tradition that we so dearly believe in. And I love shooting song and dance.”

The young cast of the film apparently was quite unfamiliar with the ways of an older world. As Zoya put it, “One didn’t know how to dial a landline phone; another didn’t know how to play a vinyl record. This made me realise how the world had changed—and how I’m from a different time.” Sometimes, a difference in culture needn’t be as grand and obvious as an American story being set in India. It can exist within our own homes, as adults grapple to adapt to a changing world, as children resist the joys of a world that existed before them. We often process culture as this broad-encompassing label beyond our families; sometimes, as The Archies and Catching Dust show us, it’s a tender facet that comes alive within the intimacy of a family too

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