Documentary - Production 2015

After “Chinese Viewfinders”, the series is the second instalment in a collection about countries that are changing rapidly: India, Iran, Brazil, Indonesia… where native photographers focus a sensitive gaze on their own society – immersing us in their countries’ here and now.

    • Year of production
    • 2015
    • Genres
    • Documentary
    • Countries
    • FRANCE
    • Languages
    • Budget
    • 0.3 - 0.6 M$
    • Duration
    • 104 mn
    • Director(s)
    • Emma TASSY
    • Writer(s)
    • Emma TASSY
    • Producer(s)
    • Olivier MILLE (Artline Films)
    • Synopsis
    • Diabolically photogenic, India has long appeared to the Western eye draped in the somewhat fetishized aura of a mystical, colorful country of highly contrasted extremes. The epitome of exoticism, post-colonialism and romanticism, its economic development could only be dazzling; its poverty, picturesque and its landscapes, eternal.
      Over the past few decades, development and evolution have been gaining ground everywhere you look in this vast country – a democracy since 1950. India is bursting at the seams. It has a population of over a billion inhabitants, half of whom are under 35. It innovates, exports its engineers, and now has more billionaires than China. And with all those consumers and potential consumers, it has been investing in real estate and leisure activities, and is starting to lift some of the social restrictions it inherited from a still very conservative society.
      Indian photographers are the obvious choice as eyewitnesses to these myriad economic, social and cultural transformations. India and Indians are starting to look at themselves in a different light, through the work of several groups of contemporary photographers.
      These films open windows onto pioneering photographic work being done in today’s India. Which means that this time, we aren’t going in search of a fascinating, distant and spiritual world; instead, it is coming, endowed with new representations of itself.
      1. Activist Photography: Social and Political
      Photojournalism, a dominant tradition since Independence, continues to explore the fringes of society. From the Bhopal disaster to the scourge of extreme poverty, there is no shortage of subjects for activist photographers in India. Nevertheless, they are becoming less and less likely to take a sentimental post-colonial stance and are instead developing more critical representations.
      Nowadays, both older and younger generations of activist photojournalists and photographers are entering into dialogues, and moving into new forms that are been free of exotica, clichés and a prurient interest in the sordid.
      For them, the goal now is to portray everything: the Untouchables, water pollution, the lack of water in desert regions, farmers suicide, rape, the environmental effects of agri-business’s “green revolution”, female infanticide, access to education and of course, poverty, the root of so many ills, among many other subjects.
      2. Modern Life, Consumer Society, Individualism
      Between the mushrooming middle class and one of the fastest growing populations in the world, entire sub-continents of ways of seeing are emerging. Their photographers explore major new phenomena in today’s India: individualism, consumerism and prosperity.
      Sprawling shopping malls, rampant real-estate promotion, old-fashioned movie theatres transformed into multiplexes, new temples devoted to pleasure, Bangalore and its nightclubs where the city’s many young engineers go to enjoy themselves, huge American-style amusement parks and more.
      This is a Westernizing India, one that is pushing back the representations of a tradition-bound country and is moving into the spotlight. This mushrooming middle class, which has emerged from the new neo-liberal economic order, needs to be seen close up: that is who is shaping the future of India. Photographers are at the forefront of a vast investigation into the evolution of Indian society.
      3. Clan, Family, Privacy
      Photographers no longer have any qualms about lifting veils: they address sexuality; the evolution from extended families to nuclear ones; the caste system’s loss of influence; the role of women, who are subjected to sexual harassment as well as suffering under the Puritanism that up-and-coming generations are rejecting ever more firmly. These are touchy subjects, because India is fiercely puritanical.
      But Bollywood now shows couples kissing on screen – practically a revolution in and of itself. And the gilded youth in the big cities is paving the way for a revolution in real-life social mores. Digging even deeper into this intimate exploration of society, some photographers are investigating that fundamental bastion of India’s social organization – the family clan. It is fertile ground for exploring the question of love in a society that is still dominated by the tradition of castes.
      One of the clearest trends in contemporary photography worldwide is for intimate, autobiographical work… which places these Indian photographers’ work squarely at the heart of this international trend.
      4. Urban India, Rural India…
      Finally, in a vein that has now gone international, urban-landscape photography has been progressing in India at about the same rhythm as the population has grown and urban areas have expanded and grown denser. From the tribes of Nagaland (a tiny state in the north-east, bordering Burma) to budding cyber-cities, the urbanization of the landscape and the advent of a new social model generated in big cities have become endless sources of inspiration for photographic studies.
      Mumbai stands as the metaphor for the nation’s transformation, while rural areas, small towns and the outskirts of large cities offer a different perspective. The megacities, the villages that ring them, the small towns on the cusp between rural and urban lifestyles, slums, poverty, violence, public transportation, protecting the cultural heritage of historic city centers: the issues at stakes in India’s city planning are all the more important in that they may well have a decisive influence on the development of cities throughout Asia, which are coming under closer and closer scrutiny.
      All of this is being dealt with head-on by citizen-photographers who are becoming increasingly worried about the way their environment is evolving.
      Like Chinese Viewfinders, this new series about India will bring a new gaze to bear on a region undergoing massive transformation. The dramatic economic development of recent decades has brought many changes to India, which means that our prisms for deciphering this faraway land are no longer adapted.
      The question is, can we still look at this immense country’s watershed moment through a simple schema of opposing pairs: traditional vs. modern, the Taj Mahal vs. Bangalore’s Silicon Valley, urban elites vs. rural masses, East vs. West, “our” romanticized post-colonial notions vs. “their” dreams of a European way of life? Perhaps not…
      It seems to us that, above and beyond simplistic visions of a nation at odds with itself, Indians have found other ways of looking at India. These films aim to understand the changes that are rocking India through a range of Indian point of views.
      So Indian Viewfinders will reiterate the movement that consists of going towards the Other and being guided by the images, representations and words of local photographers. In a nutshell, to offer new ways of seeing, like so many windows onto a region that is rarely shown from the inside.
      These films will be those windows.
    • Partners & financing
    • Arte (attached)
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