Australian initiative, Indian perspective

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Indian University students were given a glimpse of Australian cinema through a touring film festival

My trip to India from November 2014 to January 2015 has been a special one, as I got an opportunity to showcase Australian cinema to the Indian audience. The Australian Film Festival of India (AFFI), a project under “An Australian Film Initiative”, is co-directed by renowned Australian Indian filmmaker Anupam Sharma and veteran festival programmer Peter Castaldi and supported by Destination NSW.

The event saw the launch of the 10th edition India’s only guide to Australian film services, this time supported by the University of Newcastle. As the producer/consultant for AAFI I really enjoyed travelling to different cities and introducing Australian cinema to the university students at the International Polytechnic, Indraprastha College, Delhi University, Jagan Institute of Management and the Vivekanand Institute of Professional Studies in New Delhi, and the University of Ranchi, Jharkhand.

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I found the project timely, as the University of Newcastle has been working to forge new relations with various Indian Universities and Institutes. I was a part of a University delegation that visited India in 2013, and we decided that we should start collaborative projects with the mass communication and journalism departments of the various Indian Institutes. When this opportunity to bring the Australian film festival under the aegis of An Australian Film Initiative came across, we thought it would be a great creative way to advance the ties with various partner institutes.

With Hugh Jackman supporting the inaugural festival and after the success of Bill Bennett and BazLuhrmann films as Retrospective Directors, this year Phillip Noyce graciously accepted to be the retrospective Director. Noyce’s titles include Rabbit Proof Fence (2002), Dead Calm (1989), Newsfront (1978) and Backroads (1977). Speaking from Los Angeles, Noyce said, “I am delighted to see this extensive collection of my film and television works screening at the retrospective program for AFFI. To be a part of such an extensive tour through one of the world’s greatest and most diverse filmmaking cultures is all the more exciting for me.”

Given my background as an academic and a filmmaker, I thought that it was important that Indian students know and understand what Australian films are and what it offers, and how they provide a different approach and view from Hollywood films. Since many of the students now aspire to undertake higher education in Australia, films can provide a good opportunity to students to know a bit more about Australia and Australian culture. Also, the film screening in the Universities were designed as a combination of a symposia and a film festival, thus making the event more lively and interactive with energetic student and staff participation. The discussion ranged from Australian cinema to the issues impacting Indians in Australia and further studies option for students in Australia, as well as, contemplation on the ways India and Australia can collaborate in the field of media.

Destination New South Wales’ Chief Executive Officer Sandra Chipchase is of the view, “India is a key market for us, so the more we can do to showcase all the wonderful things to see and do in Sydney and NSW, the better. From April 2013 to March 2014, we welcomed 82,000 Indians to Sydney and NSW who contributed $197 million into the NSW economy, so it’s a market we want to continue to support. In addition to supporting the Film Festival, Destination NSW recently launched Jhappi Time, a campaign to encourage friends and relatives to visit their loved ones who live in our spectacular Harbour City or throughout beautiful Regional NSW.”

Festival Director Anupam Sharma states, “The dream of creating India’s only annual Australia Film Festival could not have become a reality with the support of our partners, sponsors and individuals alike. We at An Australia Film Initiative are astounded by the sheer growth of the festival in just three years.”

The AAFI’s Indian University screenings were inaugurated with screenings at the International Polytechnic in New Delhi on 7 January. Around 150 Media & Journalism students from the three different branches of the Polytechnic participated in the festival. SanjanaKalra, the executive director of the Polytechnic, was quite appreciative of the film festival. In a personal communication, she mentioned that this was the first time that the Polytechnic had a chance to organise an international film festival, and that the students were overjoyed with the opportunity to watch Australian films and my documentary on Bollywood titled Dancing to the Tunes of Bollywood. The combination of Australian and Indian touch to the festival made the students analyse and appreciate Australian cinema and kick-started a discussion on the similarities and differences between Indian and Australian cinema cultures.

Alongside the AFFI, Ranchi University also hosted the launch of my new book “From Real to Reel: Folk Dances of India in Bollywood Cinema,” published by UNESCO-APNIEVE under the aegis of International Dance Council, UNESCO. I was really happy that the Vice Chancellor Prof LN Bhagat had especially organised the launch of the book and was appreciative of how the book brings various issues related to the impact of Bollywood on the folk dance forms of India to the fore.

The writer is a filmmaker, academician and a photographer. He is a lecturer and researcher in the School of Design, Communication & IT at the University of Newcastle. Dr Kishore has 25 documentaries and corporate films to his credit; he has worked in more than 10 documentaries as a ‘one man crew’ and loves directing, editing and camerawork. He has been actively working for the safeguard and preservation of the intangible cultural heritage of east India. His areas of research are Bollywood films, Indian folk and popular culture, reality television programmes and the issues of caste politics in India

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