Checkout an all-nighter film festival in Borivli

Updated: Apr 21, 2019, 08:22 IST | Ekta Mohta

For 24 hours, immerse yourself in the works of Agnes Varda, Mohammad Rasoulof, Andrei Tarkovsky, and other unpronounceable filmmakers

Participants in the first classroom of Kino Cona
Participants in the first classroom of Kino Cona

In a corner of Borivli East, where trees thicken and low-rises thin out, artists Hemali Bhuta and Shreyas Karle run a space where anyone can space out. A rented bungalow, Cona is home to a cramped library, 600 vinyls, a record player, an analogue printmaking studio, six rooms, four cats, two dogs and thrift-store curios.

It's an adda where anyone can walk in, think, listen, read and debate. "Mumbai has been paralysed when it comes to institutions and free spaces, not only within art but everywhere," says Karle. "When we talk about theatre, we haven't created another Prithvi in all these years." So, the duo started Cona in 2012, only for it to become a hub for artists. "We slowly realised that we cannot just indulge in conversations with artists. In fact, artists are very bad at conversations. Our work practices are more versatile in their approach, which actually demands for interactions with people from different professions. And, Cona has always been an extension of our own practices."

Curator Akshay Panse. Pic/Sneha Kharabe
Curator Akshay Panse. Pic/Sneha Kharabe

Cona hovers on the fringe, geographically and ideologically, as is evident in its programming. A week-long film workshop held in December last year, curated by artist Vijai Patchineelam, was appropriately titled Difficult to See. It showed films such as Sem Essa, Aranha by Rogerio Sganzerla and Early Works by Zelimir Zilnik. "On an average, we watched three movies a day," says Karle. "It slowed down time. We were all left a bit high and dry in terms of what we got from it. It's not just about watching films or directors that are not easily traceable, it's also about the different disciplines that can be brought in. Through the language of films, can we talk about poetry or music?" One of the participants, Akshay Panse, was so moved that he posited, "Why don't we continue with this?"

Panse, a fresh-faced 25-year-old film professor, got smitten with serious films at the screenings of FTII and NFAI in Pune, before studying documentary filmmaking at TISS. He teaches a course on understanding cinema to BMM students at Chetana College in Bandra East, while working as a digital executive at Shutterstock. He watches about 100 films a year, a reduced number, because, "I have kept certain filmmakers for later in life when I have a more informed understanding." He initiated Kino Cona, named after a 1920s Russian film movement called Kino-Pravda (cinema-truth), as a year-long mentorship programme. "We come together once a month, and we don't just watch films passively or react to them and go home, but spend a good amount of time to use and explore Cona. Space is unique in many ways."

Shreyas Karle, artist
Shreyas Karle, artist

Panse and Karle stress it isn't a film appreciation course. "It's kind-of a classroom session, which will run for 24 hours a month, 12 months a year," says Karle. Held on the last Saturday of every month, the first classroom took place on March 30 and included Mohammad Rasoulof's The White Meadows, and Agnès Varda's La Pointe Courte and The Gleaners and I. It was attended by visual artists, filmmakers, photographers, journalists, writers and students. One of them, Anant Jani, 20, who has been homeschooled for the last seven years, says, "There are a lot of parallels between the informality of Cona and the way I have been homeschooled: to be surrounded by pets and books and unexpected conversations. I joined Kino Cona because I wanted to engage with a kind of film I have rarely engaged with, to educate myself in certain cinematic traditions, and to participate in the conversations that inevitably occur after a communal watching of films."

Over the year, Panse will include films by Leos Carax, Ilya Khrzhanovsky, Frederick Wiseman, Shyam Benegal, Vera Chytilova and Bela Tarr. "The films are not by mainstream directors or even easily accessible," admits Panse. "The classroom nature is in the seriousness [with which we approach the works], but people are in their pyjamas for 24 hours." Karle adds, "The moment we call it a classroom, it takes on a pedagogical structure. Is it possible to implement this structure in mainstream teaching? This is an experiment [in that sense]." For 24 hours, people are quarantined in a space, living and breathing cinema. Panse says, "The act of watching films itself [becomes] the practice."

WHERE: 26B, Om Siddharaj Society, Rishivan, Borivli East
WHEN: Last Saturday of every month; 4 PM to 4 PM
ENTRY: Rs 1,500 for three classrooms

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