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Titles2 film festival to celebrate cinema from India

By Kaylen Strench     4/4/13 7:00pm

This weekend and next, the Chao Center for Asian Studies will be hosting the long-anticipated TITLES2, a film festival celebrating some of the best efforts of experimental Indian filmmaking. The event will include five contemporary feature-length films, a package of short films curated by the Bangalore Queer Film Festival and a retrospective consisting of four films by the late prominent filmmaker Ritwik Ghatak.

The festival, curated by former Rice University postdoctoral fellow and visiting scholar Ratheesh Radhakrishnan, is intended to push the boundaries of cinema by showcasing aesthetically oriented, experimental films. Many of the films are rarities screened only a few times in the United States and India, primarily garnering acclaim through circulation in small circles of cinema enthusiasts. 

"These are not regular mainstream films. This is not Bollywood; these are not films that are familiar across the world," said Radhakrishnan. "They don't really allow you to get sucked into the film, but that doesn't mean they're not enjoyable. They give you enough distance for thinking and contemplating."  

Samhita Sunya, a doctoral candidate in the Department of English who works with Radhakrishnan, stressed that the unique nature of the films offers viewers the opportunity to approach cinema in an entirely new way.

"I would say in thinking about experimental cinema, it's important to focus on not what is being told, that is, what we're used to; the storyline - what's happening - and rather how it's being told," Sunya said. "I think that people can get really frustrated when they go into an experimental movie expecting to be entertained, but I think that these films will challenge you to think differently about how people can use images and sounds to tell stories."

Sunya explained that each film will be introduced by an individual with expertise in a particular aspect of the film, such as a professor or an art curator. These presenters will explain to viewers which styles and forms the filmmakers were attempting to interact with, framing each film in a particular context.  

Radhakrishnan and Sunya also stressed that despite the fact that all of the films are of exclusively Indian origin, TITLES2 is not intended to glorify India. Rather, it is an attempt to transcend these cultural boundaries, presenting cinema as an art form whose aesthetics cannot be lumped together categorically, solely on the basis of place or national context.  

"What I want to [emphasize] is that this is not a celebration of India," Radhakrishnan said. "Rather, this is an attempt to break open the idea of India and show that it's much more complicated than we imagined ... I wouldn't want to classify the films as culturally distinct. Every art form is from a particular place and carries with it a certain history - it has to encounter the specificity of the history and politics of a particular culture. So that's what makes it distinct, not the culture itself."

Two directors will also be in attendance at the festival: Ashim Ahluwalia, director of Miss Lovely, playing Saturday, April 6, at 7 p.m. and Gurvinder Singh, director of Alms for a Blind Horse, playing Friday, April 5, at 7 p.m. These directors will be offering question-and-answer sessions after their respective films' screenings. There will also be a reception where students can talk to the directors after the last film of the first weekend at 9 p.m.

The festival is sponsored by the Chao Center for Asian Studies, endowed by the  T. T. and W. F. Chao Family Foundation. The festival will take place 5-9 p.m. April 5-7 and April 12-15.  For a full schedule and more information, visit www.chaocenter.rice.edu.  

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