Persistence Resistance Festival Special

Under Construction – a distribution company with a difference

Still from Cosmopolis

The Under Construction journey had begun with a simple desire to disseminate independent films i.e. to create a clearing-house that would be able to, on the one hand, provide filmmakers with specific services and take away from them the nitty gritties relating to sales, and on the other provide civil society with a range of voices and discourses that would enable a re-look at the terrain of knowledge and culture – their relevance and potential both as a site and practice in society.

The distribution company began three years ago and from their second year they moved into domains and terrains that were hitherto not open to them earlier. UC has carefully curated a truly eclectic range of films that demonstrate diverse issues and form. This work of curation is an integral part of the distribution activity and is crucial to present a collective picture in terms of form, craft and politics. Moreover, it is this body of work that creates a mechanism and tool for them to work with the politics of visibility as well as move independent filmmaking from victimhood to one of agency.

The collective of body of films that UC distributes offer new ways to think through the notions of both site and practice, in the domain of public cultures in India and the world. As a site it opens up the concepts of an archive and thus truncates the false umbilical cord – often enforced by commercial cinema and its ‘run’ - between cinema and temporality. It makes works of art alive and offers an opportunity to bring them as well as keep them alive beyond the dictates of temporal logic. Simultaneously, it allows for a different reading in terms of form, story telling, narratives and thematics simply because of the infinite opportunities to link individual films under different topics illustrate diverse themes. Moreover, this practice of curating different kinds of thematics helps UC to articulate varied concerns in different times, spaces and cultures.

Lastly, in the realm of sites and practices, having a body of collective work helps in the work of dissemination immensely by providing and opportunity to think about different kinds of viewing practices, some that use traditional methods while some that are completely new. For instance, in April 2008 UC created it’s first independent film festival in New Delhi and used four different kinds of screening/ viewing methods: auditorium, as different sized installations outdoors, in circular screenings in intimate spaces (3-4 hours of material were thematically curated and played continuously in a loop to small spaces that would seat 12-15 persons offering an opportunity to step into a film at different times) and as a video lending library where individuals could loan films of their choice and view them in individual booths.

 

While UC as a pioneer has taken the very first steps into an unchartered terrain and there is still a long way to go. Nevertheless, this is an important step, not only to circulate films in the public domain but also to simultaneously create an archive of films that will help the non-fiction to move out of a space of the victim – that of being treated as a step-child in comparison to fiction – and into an independent domain of cinema that is clearly demarcated and distanced from television, and its logic, as also from commercial cinema labouring under the dictates of the star system, the three-act narrative structure and the mythical box office. There is a possibility today of creating our classics, our cults films, our experimental films and other genres. Today, through distribution, the possibilities of a new cinema seem possible.

 

Editor: Manohar Khushalani

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