Posted by barkha on May 13, 2012 | No Comments

True independent cinema from India is her passion, but what really differentiates Uma Da Cunha, is the zeal and fire with which she has taken her knowledge and love for Indian cinema, and boldly gone to all the corners of the globe with it. If 2012 is the year Indian cinema is making a big comeback globally and in Cannes,  it is largely due to the untiring efforts of Uma, who has spent a lifetime disseminating the knowledge and information across nations and festivals. Here we get to know more about the person behind the passion:

What is Film India Worldwide all about? How often is it published?
In my frequent travel to film festivals over decades, I have always been told how difficult it is to get information on new films, trends and happenings in the world of cinema in India.  In addition, what is interesting here and even more difficult to access is India’s inroads into international film making.  It is to fill the lacunae in getting the latest information about new Indian cinema and its ramifications on the international film scene that I started “Film India Worldwide” around ten years ago, as a quarterly journal. First as a very modest offering. Now it has developed into a comprehensive and detailed source of information on new Indian cinema divided into key sections. In particular, it researches how India connects with the international film scene, in terms of films, talent, skills and technology.

The magazine lists new films in different categories – the latest in line in debut films, films in regional languages, films that would appeal to festivals, films made by Indians living outside of India, Indian films made in English, and of course, the blockbuster film.

The magazine also features films from India or films connected with India that have been selected in leading international festivals of the past quarter. This gives an idea of the scale of international selection when it comes to films from India.  There is also a brief listing of recent honours won by filmmakers and their films.

The magazine is timed to be brought out  during a major festival, highlighting Indian participation in that festival:  Berlin (February), Cannes (May), Toronto (September) and Kerala (December).

On the re emerging Independent Indian Film Industry and how is Film India Worldwide playing a part in it?
I think that Film India Worldwide by covering the very latest that is emerging or happening in Indian cinema does convey the changing trends in Indian cinema and how it is making inroads on the world scene.  Take the latest Cannes Special issue that is just out. This edition tells you how Indian film professionals are making a huge impact in the Cannes Market. They get invited to participate in the Producers Market and Workshops and there are many others who pay their way to get there. The India Pavilion is a hub of activity with producers, buyers and sellers thronging to it.

This year, Cannes has selected three Indian films by independent filmmakers that will       each feature in a different prestigious section. Two are debut works. Two are produced by Anurag Kashyap. Ashim Ahluwalia’s Miss Lovely has already been bought by the leading distribution company Fortissimo.

Just stating facts such as these  indicate the way a new-wave Indian cinema is leaving its formula-driven domestic  imprint and is incorporating international nuances in its creativity and technical inputs.  The west and east is coming to India now to make films.  All this is evident as you leaf through the magazine’s pages.

As an adjunct and arm of the magazine,  I also programme a section related to the concept of Film India Worldwide at Mumbai’s MAMI film festival. I select around half a dozen new films that have an important and viable international connection or base.

A little about your journey to becoming one of the most respected festival programmers, globally, for Indian films?
I think it comes from that word passion – having an obsessive leaning towards film and the film society movement.   It has been a preemptive force from my college days,  through my years as an advertising copywriter, my brief spell with the Directorate of Film Festivals, and all consumingly when I made it my one single work area.  Learning at firsthand about film, gaining knowledge on the medium, getting to know filmmakers well over the years, has led to my storing data and knowledge on film. The privilege of travelling to film festivals in many countries has been another major asset. Getting an international angle to one’s perceptions is not easy. These are the prerequisites for a programmer. Let’s say that I had a head start

The list of global festivals, that you program for currently and also those where you are associated with, on an advisory capacity?
I have worked officially as the India programming representative for the Toronto Film Festival (since 1994) and now with many Indian film festivals that are mushrooming in many countries. I am the Founder-Advisor to the following festivals: Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), Bollywood and Beyond Stuttgart Indian Film Festival; River to River, Florence Indian Film. Festival; London Indian Film Festival;  the Houston Indian Film Festival and most recently the Hague Indian Film festival.  I have had the privilege of working officially with the Locarno, Dubai, Abu Dhabi festivals and with the New York Indian Film Festival. In an informal capacity, I help Cannes, Pusan. London and Locarno. In India I work officially with Kerala and Mumbai (MAMI) film festivals and recently have been associated with the Chennai film festival.  One of the film events I feel, most important to participate in is the Film Bazaar in Goa managed by NFDC.
Everyone looks back, we ask for you, to look forward, and give your perspective on where Indian cinema is heading, as far as global outreach and of course within India too?
Indian cinema in recent years has been going through a disappointing spell – lacking direction and inspiration and a clear identity.  This is why until very recently Indian films did not feature in leading festivals abroad. Nor has there been one film that has clearly gripped world attention. A towering figure such as Satyajit Ray has been irreplaceable.

But with 2012, the jinx seems to have been broken. There is an emerging number of young filmmakers who are well versed in international filmmaking and who have a strong story-telling acumen and mind set.  Anurag Kashyap is the front leader of this movement but it has been simmering with Marathi filmmakers and with outbursts from Kolkata, Kerala and Chennai. So, a new-age Indian identity in cinema appears to finding itself and presenting its concerns with confidence and originality. This year’s Cannes  heralds India’s new voice in world cinema.

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