These film societies are giving documentary watching a unique new flair

Some of the movies screened by the ALF. Courtesy- Alternative Law Forum

Responsible citizens have begun to devote more time to social causes that can be bettered through conversation, debate and discourse. The use of cinema in highlighting such issues is being supported by many film societies across the city.

Bengaluru, since the late 1970s, has always had a dedicated audience for films that defy the mainstream. Alternative film clubs and movie societies have always been a part of the culture of Bengaluru, trying to bridge the gap between filmmakers who lack the resources to spread their stories, and audiences who no longer believe in commercial media to deliver them their tastes and interests.

A sharp increase can be seen in the transition of storytelling from fantasy, adventure and love, to a more realistic depiction of what is seen in society. More filmmakers are using the medium of cinema to educate audiences about subjects and topics that mainstream media fails to provide perspective on.

Films and documentaries that have been well researched and are made with a view of spreading awareness of a particular sort, are now finding more audiences in the city. Some of the oldest film societies in Bengaluru include Suchitra Film Society, the Bangalore Film Society and Vikalp. Vikalp is a society that focuses mostly on progressive politics in India, and related topics in the sphere of cinema.

Lekha, who works at the Alternative Law Forum, a group of people who work towards spreading awareness on many socially stigmatic topics, says, “my colleague Deeptha and I at ALF, along with Pedestrian Pictures, organise the film screenings. We contact people who are interested in screening their films.” The audience for their movies has been steadily growing, with interested Bengalureans showing concern towards many of the topics that have been documented.

Lekha adds, “we have begun a new initiative called Nyaayada Kanasu. Every month, a set of four films are screened on a specific theme. Each theme focuses on different aspects of insecurities of the State – discrimination, censorship, dissent and nationalism, among others.”

Film clubs such as Khula Manch, have created a platform to share and collaborate with other filmmakers and film clubs around the city. Shruti, an intern at Maraa, a media and arts collective, says, “at Maraa we have a beautiful array of movies that we used to screen regularly, and we are currently trying to bring back these screenings.”

An increase in number of audience who are interested in a variety of topics that challenge the creativity of these filmmakers is also encouraging them. Recently, the city witnessed a special screening for the documentary on the life of renowned artist and painter, Raja Ravi Verma, which generated great interest among people.

Some film clubs also screen large-scale productions if they fit into their topics for discussions and debate. Marathi films such as Fandry and Court, which have received national awards in the past, were recently screened by the Alternative Law Forum.

Unlike mainstream cinema that is screened only in particular regions, according to the lingual barriers of each state, many film clubs take pride in their screenings which encourage movies from all languages and states. Many of the films that are screened in Bengaluru have no language bar. Kannada, Tamil, Marathi and Malayalam movies are often screened. Subtitles for all of the movies are generally provided in English and Kannada, which provides for a wider audience.