Nehemich: FTII Pune student production competes for Cannes prize

Thursday, 25 May 2023 (11:50 IST)
Cannes: Two years after winning the Cannes film festival's top award for film school productions from around the world, India is once again in the reckoning in the same section with a heart-rending tale of rural women becoming victims of superstitions.
'Nehemich', a 23-minute film in Marathi directed by Yudhajit Basu, an alumnus of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, is among 16 entries in La Cinef programme for film schools at the festival this year. The film was screened yesterday in the presence of Basu and its co-writer Prithvijoy Ganguly at the festival's Buñuel theatre.
'CatDog' by Ashmita Guha Neogi, also an alumna of FTII, Pune, had won the La Cinef's top prize in 2021. In 2017, Payal Kapadia, another FTII, Pune, student had premiered her diploma film, 'Afternoon Clouds' in La Cinef section, previously known as Cinefondation. Kapadia went on to premiere her debut feature film, 'A Night of Knowing Nothing', in the Directors' Fortnight parallel selection in Cannes last year, winning the Golden Eye Award for the Best Documentary Film at the festival.
'Nehemich', which was completed in February this year, tells the story of superstitions surrounding menstruating women in several parts of rural India. "A woman is always isolated, except for food, in dingy, inhumane conditions during her period in our rural areas. I wanted to find out what happened to these women during the lockdown," says the Kolkata-born Basu.
Selected from over 2,000 entries from film schools across the world, 'Nehemich' is competing with productions from some of the world's finest film schools for La Cinef's top prize. Oscar-nominated Hungarian director-screenwriter Ildikó Enyedi heads the La Cinef jury, which will also decide the winners of the short film competition at the festival.
Basu, who completed his directing course at FTII, Pune this year, shot 'Nehemich', a Marathi word meaning 'always', in Pune and Satara districts of Maharashtra last year. The film revolves around the story of a teenage girl isolated in her period during lockdown trying to elope with a worker in a nearby windmill.
The word 'period' is a taboo expression in many villages across the country. In rural Maharashtra, the villagers instead use the Marathi phrase, mala kavlyani shivlay, which means 'touched by a crow'. "It was like a code word," says Basu, who has previously co-directed two short films, 'Khoji' (The Search) and 'Quiro' (The Mist), both in Nepali, before. The film shows the dimly-lit gaokar or 'period house' outside a village where menstruating women are isolated.
La Cinef this year has two animated short films among the 16 films in the selection. Ten films are directed by women while 13 countries from four continents are represented including Morocco, for the first time in La Cinef this year. The awards for La Cinef programme will be announced on Thursday. (UNI)

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