Rima Das to join as jury at Berlin International Film festival

Alaka Sahani
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Filmmaker Rima Das

A YEAR after the film Bulbul Can Sing (2018) won Special Mention in the Generation 14plus section at the Berlin International Film Festival, its writer-director Rima Das will return to the festival this month as a member of the jury. “Last year, it was a dream come true that my film was shown at the festival. Being part of the jury a year later is something I had never even imagined. I was surprised when I received the festival mail inviting me to join the Generation 14plus jury. It was like magic. I couldn’t help crying,” says Das.

One of the recent success stories of Indian cinema, Das has been enjoying a lot of international appreciation for her work. “Earlier, actors were mainly recognised. Now, those working behind the scene are also playing a bigger role at film festivals. It’s a more exciting time. This is even more special since the Generation section showcases films for children and the youth, which are very close to my heart,” says the self-taught filmmaker, who considers the job of a jury to be a hectic one. She is looking forward to watching some great movies when the festival opens on February 20. Joining her on the jury for the 14plus category are Iran’s Abbas Amini and South Africa’s Jenna Bass.

Last month, Netflix started streaming two of Das’s most popular movies — Village Rockstars (2017) and Bulbul Can Sing. Both the movies have marked her progress as a storyteller. Interestingly, from having children as protagonists in Village Rockstars, she moved to focus on the issues that teenagers grapple with in the latter. “While making Village Rockstars was a very ‘organic’ process, I was more aware while developing Bulbul Can Sing.

Village Rockstars was much simpler in terms of storytelling as it focussed on a mother-daughter relationship. However, the story of Bulbul... was more complex since its characters were teenagers. They also underwent physical changes and explored their sexual identity while living in a patriarchal society,” says Das, who manages Mumbai-based production house Flying River Films that supports local and independent filmmakers. This year, she won the National Award for Best Feature Film in Assamese for Bulbul Can Sing. “The experience of having made films makes me more confident, though I still have my own fears. Each movie is a new baby. From 2013, I have been making movies almost in a flow. While I was doing the post-production of Man with the Binoculars (2016), I started working on Village Rockstars. Similarly, when I was shooting the last bits of Village Rockstars, I was already thinking of Bulbul Can Sing. I was following my instincts,” says she.

For over a year now, she has not shot anything under her production house, even though she has made a documentary fiction in collaboration with BRICS. Das admits to being restless and wants to start shooting a feature film soon. She has been working on an ambitious idea of directing her next, which will be shot in Mumbai and Assam. This project needs a producer and a proper crew as Das would be expanding the canvas. She is also planning a sequel to Village Rockstars. It will feature some of the characters that the audience is already familiar with. But this time round, the bunch of aspiring musicians in the movie will have real instruments. “My Village Rockstar actors are my soldiers and they are keen to make another movie,” says Das.