Parvez Imam Part 3 Doctor and Film Maker from India
A Health Professional Film-maker Good filmmakers (& storytellers of any other style) must have a good understanding of the psyche of their audience. I think my understanding/experience of psychiatry helps me to understand 'what to say and how to say it' through my film so that the audience can see exactly what I see and feel.
This literally means how I plan the film and how many things I try to convey through one film in the given duration and budget; and what style I choose, depends on my understanding of the target audience. If the audience likes it, then I guess my psychiatry experience is helping me.
Choosing subjects for the films I have never bound myself with subjects. Anything that reflects humanity or has a human angle in any way has the potential of stimulating me. In other words I look at most issues from a human/humane perspective. That is my approach to all the things around me. Perhaps that comes from my experience in medicine & psychiatry. People and their perspectives / issues / thoughts are what I search for even in the topics that may appear to be totally disconnected with these. For, I believe that everything that exists on earth has a connect with life. And I look for that organicity even in the most non-organic things. (On left a still from "Mind Games")
The kind of topics I have covered so far Forestry in India, The power (electricity) reforms, Issues of the Bangaldeshi immigrants (human rights perspective), Water privatization / commodification, People with disabilities (for their abilities), Mental illnesses in India (people's perspective - NOT CLINICAL), Experimental film about life in general, Voices of people from Kashmir, Voices of the illiterate community health workers from remote areas of India - It could be any other issue or topic & I will still try to explore its connect with the people if it gets me interested.
Film-making Process Choosing a subject happens in two ways. If the project is primarily a film by an organization / funding agency who want me to do it for them, then the subject is theirs. I try to portray it the way I best can and throw in my idea in terms of executing it for them. However when it is my own film, then it can be whatever I choose or think. Obviously it is always something which has been brewing within me for quite sometime... usually years. And then I just decide to do it on my own. The film about Bangladeshi immigrants (Between the Lines) came about like that. So did the film about people of Kashmir (Random Voices from Kashmir) and even my latest experimental film (Flight 208).(Right, a still from "Grassroot Realities").
In fact the last one was a very tedious, painstaking and time consuming exercise. It took me about 23 days to shoot it and then about 9 months to edit it. And it is just about 5 minutes long. But I am very happy with the way it has turned out. Since we released it in January this year, it has already been screened at a number of film festivals. It has also been selected for the international short film festival in Tokyo to be held in June 2007.
Needless to say, it is usually my own films that have given me the most satisfaction. The reason is simple: they are exactly what I want to express. And when I manage that... it is like a load off my mind and I can move on to the next thought. Film-making, to me, is articulating my thoughts. And it is always a nice feeling when I have said what I wanted to, the way I want to.
Physical & mental preparation for making a film: The most important things about a film (I can surely say that about mine) is the pre-production stage...the planning stage. I spend a lot of time on that. This is the time when I mull over the story again and again. Thinking about the best possible way of saying it, planning the sequences, changing them, questioning them etc. At this stage I am actually living, sleeping and eating the film 24*7. This is mentally very sapping as well as stimulating. In my case I feel the adrenaline high all the time... even when I am off to sleep. Sometimes I keep seeing the film in my mind. (Left, a still from "Sentenced for a Lifetime")
The physical part during the pre-production phase is going to the shoot locations and spending time there. I do this quite a lot as part of my research...sometime spending days on location and meeting the people who I am likely to be shooting for the film (if its a documentary) or else spending time with the actors to get them the feel (if its fiction).
The shoot itself, in contrast, is barely a few days long (depends on the film). However a shoot may mean a really long day. Getting up around 5 or 6 am and then off to the location to set things up so that we can get rolling by 7 or so. This is again a time when I am running on my adrenaline... the whole day, directing the cameraman, the actors, the art director (in case of a fiction) or connecting with the people whom I may be shooting, running around to grab shots which suddenly catch your eye and constantly on a look out for what more can be done, especially in the case of a documentary. Thus the shoot days are always pretty long and exhausting for me. The whole shoot may last anywhere between 2-10 days in most cases. At the end of it… I am really exhausted, sapped and then need a few days off before we can sit down for the edit.
Challenge of Making Flight 208 All films are challenging in their own way. But I guess my recent film FLIGHT 208 is one of the most tedious, challenging and tiring films I have made till date. Even when I conceptualized it (while traveling in South America), I was overwhelmed by the logistics of the idea. I realized I had to shoot at least 200 people on the streets, all alone (as I had no one to assist me there and I was essentially on a holiday. This was after the PHA2 (People's Health Assembly held in Cuenca/Ecuador in July 2005) was over and I was traveling in Ecuador for the next month and a half on my own(below, a still from Flight 208)
It took me a few days to take the decision and finally I started the shoot. My holiday went for a six as I was working every day from morning 8 am until 6 or 7 pm, walking the streets, accosting random people on the roads and requesting them to participate in the project. Many of them would run away from me thinking I was either selling something or needed some money. Many others tried to shoo me away or ignore me. But I carried on day after day, slowly and painstakingly... and I am glad I did. This was a completely experimental approach even in cinematic language & style and I am really satisfied with the outcome and reactions of the people who have seen the film. Also I think this film was much needed for me to clean up my mind... which I guess was filled with a lot of anger against things that are beyond my control, against things that surround us everyday and we can't do anything about. This film brings out all my anger, frustration and opinion about the system we are forced to live in, in just about 5 minutes. It is complex and yet one of the most satisfying films that I have made of late.
Future & New Technologies The new technologies over the last few years have definitely made things somewhat easier. Hiring a camera has become cheap. Some smaller yet professional cameras have come into the market and they are easier to carry around even as a one man crew, and that has led to a new approach to executing ideas on video. All this has definitely had an impact.
But I always maintain that there are no short-cuts to good filmmaking. One must have one’s own original thoughts & ideas. I need to know what I want to say, why and to whom and then work on the film accordingly. It is this part that remains as time consuming as it ever was. One has to invest this bit to get a good film going once the technology is in place.
My work is influenced by the new, (relatively) cheaper & easier technologies in the sense that I can experiment a little more. It also allows me to get 'closer' (in terms of rapport) to my subjects/characters when I am working on a documentary, because these cameras are not 'as threatening' as the big black cameras we used earlier with their thick legged, heavy tripods.
I have been always experimenting with style, form and narrative structures. Since I had no formal training in film making, I was always experimenting and figuring out how to communicate it differently each time. I haven't yet experimented with different media in my films, but I am open to the idea. However I don't want to force myself to do an experiment merely because of the novelty of experimenting. I would rather wait and let a film/story dictate the need for using multiple media. That, I feel, gives the experiment a more practical sense.
Film-making for me There are so many areas where more work is needed in film-making. We are living in a warped & convoluted society that has been arm twisted for thousands of years to suit the whims and fancies of a few. Racial supremacy and slavery still exist across the world, albeit in different names. The system continues to be corrupt all over, the only difference being in the sauveness with which the corrupt conduct their business. The war games being played across the world, so that some can live a better life, appalls me. For, these are people who are already living a life way above the standards of most others. All this and more needs to be questioned again and again and again.
I strongly feel we need another renaissance. The questions have to start from the most basic things around us. They are the effect of the bigger games that are being played at a global level. As a film maker, I feel the need to constantly look at the global picture (of inequality, politics of discrimination and of those who are able to stand up against it) and paint it through my films for many more to see. That's what I can do best. And I will continue to do that. For that 'satisfies my soul'.
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