Urban Lens 2014

Entry for the Film Festival is free. All are welcome!

In the second edition of Urban Lens film festival, the Indian Institute for Human Settlements (IIHS) brings you over 35 non-fiction films from India, South Africa, Peru, Chile, Colombia and Canada. The festival which will run from 26th to 28thSeptember 2014, is an attempt to engage with how the ‘city’ has found a cinematic expression in non-fiction films over a period of time.


Each film that is part of this festival will explore different facets of what the city produces – whether political, social, economic or cultural. Deepa Dhanraj’s classic documentary film Kya Hua Is Shehar Ko looks at the communal riots of Hyderabad while Saba Dewan’s The Other Song chronicles the life of the singer Rasoolan Bai from Varanasi and women and work in the early 20th century. Anriban Dutta’s Wasted takes a philosophical look at the idea of waste in our cities, Priya Sen’s Noon Day Dispensary, a video series from the Savda-Ghevra Resettlement disrupts easy narratives around eviction, resettlement and city planning and Gitanjali Rao’s animation film Printed Rainbow explores the loneliness of an old woman and her cat, and their fantastical journey. We hope that questions around non-fiction films’ form and its relation to the urban will emerge through the screenings and conversations that take place at the festival.


This year’s festival will also feature international films, such as Guy Maddin’s My Winnipeg, a docu-fantasia about his home-town Winnipeg in Canada, Heddy Honigmann’s El Olvido, a movie about a forgotten city and its people and Dear Mandela by Dara Kell and Chistopher Nizza which documents the remarkable story of Abahlali baseMjondolo, the largest movement of the poor to emerge in post-apartheid South Africa.


This Urban Lens film festival will also have specially curated package of films from the Films Division archive, special screenings and a public talk, in this year’s edition. The selection from the Films Division archive called ‘The Visual Grammar of Nation Building’ is a representative package of films made in the first three decades after independence, reflecting the preoccupations and aspirations of the young nation. It is also a study of the language, diversity and power of the documentary form.  As part of special screenings, we will be showing Patricio Guzman’s Nostalgia for the Light and Rajula Shah’s Sabad Nirantar. The public talk will be given by Rohan Shivkumar who will speak about the nature of spaces within the city of Mumbai, which enable and facilitate the film industry there in his talk titled Producing Images, Consuming Images – The spaces of the film industry in Mumbai.


We hope that through the screenings and conversations that take place during the Urban Lens film festival 2014, a different imagination of the urban and cinema can emerge.

Certified Universal
Dir: Avijit Mukul Kishore
Synopsis | Trailer
Cities on Speed: Bogota Change
Dir: Andreas Dalsgaard
City of Photos
Dir: Nishtha Jain
Dear Mandela
Dir: Dara Kell & Christopher Nizza
Synopsis | Trailer
El Olvido
Dir: Heddy Honigmann
Synopsis | Trailer
Kya Hua Is Shahar Ko?
Dir: Deepa Dhanraj
Memory of a Light
Dir: Sandhya Kumar
Synopsis | Trailer
Miyar House
Dir: Ramachandra PN
Synopsis | Trailer
Morality TV and Loving Jehad
Dir: Paromita Vohra
Synopsis | Trailer
My Winnipeg
Dir: Guy Maddin
Synopsis | Trailer
Noon Day Dispensary
Dir: Priya Sen
Dir: Ekta Mittal & Yashaswini Raghunandan
Synopsis | Trailer
Printed Rainbow
Dir: Gitanjali Rao
Synopsis | Trailer
The Other Song
Dir: Saba Dewan
Dir: Spandan Banerjee
Synopsis | Trailer
Tracing Bylanes
Dir: Surabhi Sharma
Synopsis | Trailer
Dir: Anirban Datta
Synopsis | Trailer
Where the Clouds End
Dir: Wanphrang K Diengdoh
Synopsis | Trailer1Trailer2  |

The Visual Grammar of Nation Building

Films Division, Government of India, is the second largest state-run documentary-producing organisation in the world, the largest ones being its equivalents in the former Soviet Union. It was formed in 1948, with the mandate of recording the visual history of the newly formed nation, using the medium of documentary film. This was seen as a suitable medium for informing and instructing the people of the country with the zeal of creating an ideal nation with ideal citizens. The Films Division archive is a rich repository of the state’s rendition of visual history, with over 8000 films made in 14 languages.


The Visual Grammar of Nation Building is a representative package of films that reflect the state’s record of the first three decades of Indian history and therefore a history of the documentary film itself. The films examine the preoccupations of the young nation, with an emphasis on national integration, infrastructure creation and the state’s counsel to put the nation before the self in the context of two wars – with China in 1962 and Pakistan in 1971. The films look at two major turns in India’s history and politics with the demise of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru in 1965 and the imposition of national emergency in 1975 and the subjects of social unrest, population growth and migration in this context.


The language and form of these films makes an interesting study, as do the distinct departures within them with voices that radically interrogate and subvert the agenda of state propaganda. These departures are almost always expressed through formal innovation, irony and humour, creating films that are disturbing and delightful at the same time. These films give us a framework for viewing national propaganda in the present day oversaturated scheme of 24-hour news.

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Click here to access the Urban Lens Film Festival event schedule


Nostalgia for the Light
Dir: Patricio Guzman
Synopsis | Trailer
Sabad Nirantar
Dir: Rajula Shah
Synopsis | Trailer

Rohan Shivkumar

Producing Images, Consuming Images – The spaces of the film industry in Mumbai

Cinema, that most suspect of all cultural production, with it’s aura of crudeness, vulgarity and popular entertainment, has always been subject to the policing tendencies of city planners. The ‘city’ that is imagined by them- neatly ordered, legible and cleansed, cannot accept the anarchy of the production and consumption of images that spill over the neatly drawn lines of the formal city.


This is true of the city of Mumbai – the city that continues to be the centre for the production of cinema in the country and attracts many migrants who flock to it in search of stardom and fame. This, in spite of the fact that real estate pressures make finding a home incredibly difficult; increasing xenophobic tendencies that emerge from ‘sons of the soil’ movements; and the rise of a middle class morality within the public realm that is suspicious of the migrant as a deviant.


But, the film industry does not merely survive, it thrives. The city morphs to facilitate the assembly line of production for cinema industry- slum pockets and low income areas absorb these forces as new neighbourhoods emerge with their own institutions, public spaces and ways of living that lie in between the cracks of the formal city.


In the presentation we will investigate the nature of the spaces within the city, that enable and facilitate the film industry in Mumbai. It is part of the research carried out during the interdisciplinary research art project Project Cinema City.


About Rohan Shivkumar
Rohan Shivkumar is an architect and urban designer from Mumbai and is the Deputy Director of the Kamla Raheja Vidyanidhi Institute for Architecture and Environmental Studies. He is interested in exploring cross-disciplinary ways of reading and representation of cities and has been involved in projects that attempt to broaden the ways in which we look at architecture and the city. He has been part of many conferences and events and has published essays on architecture and urbanism in international and national journals. He is also the co-editor of ‘Project Cinema City’ – a book that documents the multi-disciplinary research and art project exploring the relationship between cinema and the city of Mumbai.

General Programming
Subasri Krishnan


Programming (FD Films)
Avijit Mukul Kishore


Assistance with Programming and Publicity
Yashodara Udupa


Zohrab Reys Gamat and Kalidasan M


Website and collaterals
Vikrant MS and Nawaz Khan


Social Media
Sarat Chandra Gnanamgari


Gaurav Krishna


The team would like to thank everyone at IIHS for their support.