| French director Rachid Bouchareb (right) with actor Jamel Debbouze during a photocall for their film Indigenes in Cannes on Thursday. (Reuters)
Cannes, May 25: Independent Indian filmmakers who cannot get distributors in the West are to be given a helping hand by DDA, a well-known British PR company which says that though Hindi cinema is wonderful, “there is life beyond Bollywood”.
DDA executives have had a meeting in Cannes with a group of Indian filmmakers and invited them to London Indian Film Week, an August 7-11 event currently being organised.
The DDA says it would send talent scouts to India, identify talented filmmakers and help them market their wares in the West.
One independent director, Aditya Bhattacharya, who said he lived “between Rome and Bombay”, said the growth of multiplexes in India had reduced opportunities even further for those who wanted to make films that were slightly different from the Bollywood song-and-dance norm.
“If you have a dissenting voice, forget it ' it’s unlikely you will get anyone to show your film,” he said, angrily.
He probably had in mind films like the one shown in competition today, Indigenes (Days of Glory), a French-Moroccan collaboration, which tells of how Algerian soldiers fought alongside their white French compatriots for the “motherland” ' that is, France ' during the World War II.
The French high command are depicted in a poor light, treating “Muslim” soldiers as inferior and not allowing them to have tomatoes, for example, on board transport ships ' tomatoes are reserved for white French soldiers. This film provides some understanding of why France has such a difficult relationship with its Algerian-origin population.
Another equally powerful film in competition, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, made by British director Ken Loach, depicts the British military’s brutal treatment of Irish civilians in 1920. This helps to explain the popularity of the nationalist Irish Republic Army.
Would Indian filmmakers be able to show Indian soldiers brutalising, say, Muslim women in Kashmir as they fight the war against terror' Could they take on the political and military establishment' Indeed, is there a future for a non-Bollywood film industry'
“Forget it,” is the view of the independent directors in Cannes.
It seems the problem for the Indians is not lack of money but finding the distribution network, either in India or the West. “We can do that for them,” said Ian Thomson, managing director of DDA Consulting, who got to know the Indian film scene when he worked for the UK Film Council.
He said London Indian Film Week has “been borne out of rapidly growing interest in the diversity of new Indian cinema that breaks the perceived image of Asian filmmaking being specialised fare primarily for the international Asian community”.
Thomson said: “Over the last few years, Indian films have become increasingly popular with non-Asian audiences but they have, until now, been typified by the traditional Bollywood image. This unique showcase will for the first time demonstrate the high quality and wide variety of films increasingly being produced in India that encompasses both traditional and new innovative filmmaking styles.”
He went on: “London Indian Film Week will demonstrate the Indian film industry’s ability to bring its skill, artistry and growing international appeal to create fresh business opportunities and develop new audiences.”
The event will be organised by DDA Consulting, part of DDA Public Relations. Founded 35 years ago in London by Dennis Davidson, the firm is the consultancy of choice for many US film studios (including Miramax, Universal, Focus, New Line, HBO, and Walden) as well as for many other filmmakers, distributors and sales agents around the world.
DDA manages the promotion of several key film festivals around the world, including Dinard, Dubai and Bangkok, Thomson added.
The kind of film that Thomson has in mind is Iqbal, the story of a village boy who dreams of cricket glory. “Although it comes out of Subhash Ghai’s company, Mukta Arts, it is not a typical Bollywood film,” he argued.
He was frank on one point: the stereotypical Bollywood movie would never achieve “crossover” status, but many others independently films might, if they were promoted and distributed so that western audiences could see them.
Most mainstream distributors did not have time to seek out talented Indian filmmakers and their films. But DDA would go to India, find them, raise finance for them, if necessary, and then help them to sell their movies to as wide an audience as possible in the West.
“We believe this is a market that will grow,” Thomson told The Telegraph. “We will take the initiative in helping it to grow.”