BY URVASI BAHUGUNA
Andrei Konchalovsky’s The Postman’s White Nights (2014) takes the audience to the remote Archangelsk region of Northern Russia along the shore of the enormous Lake Kenozero. Most of us will never stand on that land looking out at that water that laps over 70 islands. Nor can I imagine making the 700 kilometre trek from Guwahati to the Assamese village of Ketetong where Manju Baruah’s Joymoti (2006) was shot.
I have never been to the tiny island in the Gulf of Finland where Tove Jansson spent her summers growing up. But I feel like I have because I have read The Summer Book (1972). I haven’t been to Karachi, Pakistan either, but the novels of Kamila Shamsie have taken me there. Living between Goa and New Delhi, a lot of my time was spent in this sort of travel by imagination.
I got to my destinations on the backs of artists who knew those places intimately, the specific visuals cobbled together in my mind through the lens and limitations of my own experiences and prejudices. I kept reading because I craved the feeling of transportation, the reprieve of change.
When a national lockdown was announced in India in March 2020, I was in Delhi. I started watching a show called The Expanse (2015-the present), based on a book series by James S. A. Corey. The sci-fi show was set in a far-off future where Earth had successfully colonised the solar system, setting up human colonies on Mars, along the asteroid belt and on the moons of Saturn and Jupiter.
I was not prepared for the stillness, patience and faith that lockdown demanded of us as stakeholders who now had to depend on the caution of one another. I was not well-equipped to stay put indoors, trying to comprehend border closures, restricted movement and limited rations for the first time in my life.
Responsible for other people and worried for my family and friends, like many people, I struggled to come to terms with a global pandemic no one understood. The fear was all-consuming. So, I watched The Expanse in lieu of thinking and feeling.
What I enjoy about movies and television set in space is how honest they are. No one is pretending to not be awed. No one is pretending that it is not a miracle they’re there and able to see what they’re seeing.
We breach outer space in fiction and suddenly, life is a spiritual mystery that will humble the worst of us. In that genre, The Expanse is a bit of a gritty outlier because the world has shrunk and we have remade remote corners of it in our image.
It was exactly right for that terrifying summer. I escaped, but it wasn’t to idyllic shores. I left, but I carried my essential nature with me. I can still conjure the exact feeling of clicking on “Play Next Episode.” I wasn’t going anywhere, but the show allowed me to come along for its ride.
At this year’s festival, there are films from a whopping 73 countries being shown. Georgia. Malta. Tunisia. Kyrgyzstan. The Dominican Republic. We’ve lost something of ourselves in these last two years – hope, fortitude, certainty. There have been moments of such profound insularity that the stakes of the world have shrunk down to the people we love the best or are most bound to.
Because of the pandemic, we have fewer international and out-of-state guests than we normally do. Even The Peacock team is primarily made up of locals this time. It can be disconcerting working at a film festival in a pandemic when one can recall what it was like in non-pandemic times. But for a few days, the world’s stories have come to Goa. And as long as we have storytellers, the world will never stop feeling redeemable and limitless.
Poem of the Day by Urvashi Bahuguna
We go to the movies. We’re good at silence and asides,
hand brushes in the dark. And we always walk afterwards,
going to movies that wind up at night. The city’s less grimy
by streetlight. So, you forget your allergies and we speak to fill
the time. And I remember to show you a remarkably good
photograph of us and say, a little afraid, here’s looking at you, kid.
You don’t get the reference. Suddenly, we’re up. Moment’s ours.
Publisher: Dr Tariq Thomas for the Entertainment Society of Goa
Editors: José Lourenço, Sachin Chatte, Impana Kulkarni, Vivek Menezes
Cover Art: Bhisaji Gadekar
Columnists: Damodar Mauzo, Lina Vincent, Fernando Velho, Nadia De Souza
Editorial: Patricia Ann Alvares, Urvashi Bahuguna, Karishma D’Mello, Nomita Saldanha, Riza Noronha, Keziah Pereira Illustration: Govit Morajkar, Chloe Cordeiro
Lead Photographer: Assavri Kulkarni
Photo team: Siddhartha Lall, Michael Praveen
Distribution: Nachiket Shetty