Urban Lens 2020

Online Film Festival

1 – 6 December 2020

The Urban Lens Film Festival is a one-of-a-kind international film festival that brings together filmmakers, academics and urban practitioners to dialogue with each other on cinema and the urban experience. Curated by the IIHS Media Lab, the festival has presented 174 films from various genres from 35 countries in 30 languages.

The seventh edition of the festival will be hosted online from 1 – 6 December 2020, in association with the Goethe-Institut / Max Mueller Bhavan and the Danish Cultural Institute. Going online has expanded the possibilities of what the festival can offer and has created the opportunity for conversation and exchange of ideas across cities and countries bringing a richer discourse to the audience.

The festival will feature a special package of films called ‘Works of Art are Landscapes of the Mind‘ curated by eminent filmmaker, editor and curator Bina Paul and will screen films from across the globe spanning India, Brazil, Cambodia, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, Lebanon, Poland, Portugal, Senegal and the United Kingdom.

The festival will host two Masterclasses. One, with Anjali Menon, is on her practice as a director in and from south India and the role of collectives in creating equal spaces for women in the industry. The one with Dibakar Banerjee is about what his work has meant for the cinematic landscape in India, and how it has played a pivotal role in recreating a form of cinematic urbanism. 

Since 2016, the Urban Lens Film festival has presented a series titled ‘On Practice‘ with film practitioners whose contribution comes together in the many layers that shape films. This year, the festival will host two panel discussions – one on reflections by cinematographers, of being women who work in a largely male-dominated field and one on the many cinemas of the north-east of India.

As always, the festival remains free.

Special Package

Works of Art are Landscapes of the Mind

This set of films together in their art and expression not only reveal the landscape of the minds of the artist but also of the characters. The films move through ideas of memory and its erasure, secrets, discovery of each other and contemplations of death.

Hector Babenco, an important filmmaker, filmed as he moved towards death (Babenco, tell me when I die). This was not a morbid journey but a celebration of his life. John Berger, one of the greatest thinkers of our time, is in conversation through the film The Seasons in Quincy structured around the four seasons in an absolutely inspired way of approaching a subject. “The film is a reflection of creation as a metaphor for human existence,” Ryan Steadman. While memory is an essential function of the human mind, the erasure of memory becomes a political tool and an existential question. The ravages of war remain in the psyche long after the physical is repaired. Ghassan Halwani, a Lebanese graphic artist in his debut feature examines how a nation’s collective memory shaves away one’s sense of past and present (Erased, Ascent of the Invisible). Félicité is ostensibly a realistic narrative about a single mother struggling to make ends meet. Shot by the well-known cinematographer Celine Bozon, her camera is organically connected to the characters and to Kinshasa, revealing the joys and lows of life. As Alain Gomis the Director says, “This is Kinshasa, this is our context, but I wanted everyone to be able to relate. It’s about trying to have a connection, an intimacy. In fact, the film is constructed like a blues song.” As the title suggests Correspondências is about communication. Based on the letters exchanged between Jorge de Sena and Sophia de Mello Breyner Andresen, two major Portuguese poets of the 20th century. From 1959 to 1978, the letters chronicle the love found in friendship. Filmmaker Rita Gomes explores themes of isolation, exile and absence in this gentle reverie. Olmo and the Seagull directed by Petra Costa, Lea Glob is a journey through a woman’s mind drifting between fact and fiction.The film presents the pain, sorrow and conflict of a woman having to make a choice.

These films could probably alter the landscape of a viewer’s mind as all art is meant to do. At this moment when all the world hit by the pandemic is rebooting, perhaps this alteration is what will bring greater understanding, tolerance and joy.

Bina Paul
November 2020

Film line-up

All films will be available for 48 hours from 12:00pm IST (6:30 am GMT) on the day it is released as per the Schedule.
Some films have a limited number of views and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Join the conversations, Masterclasses amd On Practice sessions on Zoom, YouTube & Facebook.

On Practice

The Many Cinemas of North-East India

3 December 2020 | 7:00 pm IST (01:30 pm GMT)

Reflections on Cinematography

6 December 2020 | 7:00 pm IST (01:30 pm GMT)


Anjali Menon in conversation with Smitha Nair

4 December 2020 | 7:00 pm IST (01:30 pm GMT)

Dibakar Banerjee in conversation with Ranjani Mazumdar

5 December 2020 | 7:00 pm IST (01:30 pm GMT)

Get in touch with us

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Bina Paul is an alumnus of the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune in 1983. She has been working as a film editor for the last 30 years. Bina has worked with many leading filmmakers in India and has won several State and National Awards for Editing. Some of the films she has edited are Amma Ariyan, Agnisakshi, Janmadinam, Mitr, My Friend, Dance like a Man, In Othello and Daya Dir. She has worked as Senior Editor at the Center for the Development of Imaging Technology (C-DIT) for 10 years. She was also the Artistic Director of the International Film Festival of Kerala for the last fifteen years and was instrumental in making it one of the largest and most popular film festivals in Asia. Bina has served on film juries at numerous festivals including Berlin, Durban, Locarno, Romania and Zanzibar. She has also been involved with teaching at various institutes and is a regular guest faculty at FTII. She has mentored filmmakers at various international forums. Bina has been executive producer and directed documentary films on various issues including women’s sexual and reproductive rights, old age, and various educational campaigns. Currently Vice Chairperson of the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy and Vice President on the NETPAC Executive Board, Bina lives and works in Trivandrum, Kerala.

Baradwaj Rangan is Editor, Film Companion (South). He was formerly with The Hindu and The New Indian Express.

He won the National Award (Swarna Kamal) for Best Film Critic in 2005. His writings on cinema, music, art, books, travel and humour have been published in various newspapers and magazines like The Hindu, The New Indian Express, The Caravan, Arts Illustrated, Open, Tehelka, Biblio, Outlook and The Cricket Monthly. His long-form story on Vikram was featured in The Caravan Book of Profiles, as one of their “twelve definitive profiles.” He writes a column on world cinema at Firstpost.

He has co-written the Tamil rom-com, Kadhal 2 Kalyanam. He has written the Tamil short film, Kalki. He has written dialogue and narratives for the dance dramas Krishna and Meghadootam. His short story, The Call, was published in The Indian Quarterly.

He teaches a course on cinema at the Asian College of Journalism, Chennai.

He has served as a member of the jury at the National Film Awards, and as a member of the selection committee for international films at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival.

Baradwaj has contributed to various anthologies, including an essay in Subramaniyapuram: The Tamil Film in English Translation, and an analysis of Rajkumar Hirani in Behind the Scenes: Contemporary Bollywood Directors and their Cinema. His first book, Conversations with Mani Ratnam, was published by Penguin in 2012. His second book, Dispatches From the Wall Corner, was published by Westland in 2014.

Surabhi Sharma studied film direction at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune, and made her first film in 2001.

She has worked on several feature length documentaries apart from some short fiction films and video installations.  Her key concern has been documenting cities in transition through the lens of labour, music and migration, and most recently reproductive labour. Cinema verite and ethnography are the genres that inform her filmmaking. 

Avijit Mukul Kishore is a film-maker and cinematographer. He works in different genres of film making with special interest in the documentary and inter-disciplinary moving-image practice. He is actively involved in cinema pedagogy and works as a curator of film programmes. His films as director include Squeeze Lime in Your Eye, Nostalgia for the Future, Vertical City, To Let the World In, Certified Universal and Snapshots from a Family Album. His films as cinematographer include Kumar Talkies, Kali Salwaar, John and Jane, Seven Islands and a Metro, Bidesia in Bambai, I am Micro and An Old Dog's Diary.

Part of the School of Human Development at IIHS, Gautam teaches, researches and writes on the politics of urban poverty and inequality, urban and planning theory, housing, and identity and social practice. At IIHS, Gautam has taught under several programmes, including the Urban Fellows Programme, the Urban Practitioners Programme and the PWP-UD.

He anchors the role of IIHS as a National Resource Centre, with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation and is part of IIHS’ work in affordable housing policy and practice. His previous research has focused on displacement and resettlement of the urban poor in Delhi and his new work engages with regimes of urban welfare and social security, including work on urban health. He has been an active part of urban social movements on sexuality as well as housing rights and currently advises and trains governmental agencies at local, state and national levels on housing policy.

He is the author of In the Public’s Interest: Evictions, Citizenship and Inequality in Contemporary Delhi  (University  of Georgia Press 2017; Orient Blackswan 2017), co-editor of the Routledge Companion to Planning in the Global South (Routledge 2018), co-author of Swept off the Map: Surviving Eviction and Resettlement in Delhi (2008), and co-editor of Because I have a Voice: Queer Politics in India (2006), in addition to numerous academic articles. He also writes frequently in public intellectual spaces and frequently in Caravan, India Today, Tehelka, Indian Express, the Hindustan Times and the Times of India.

Hansa Thapliyal, 47, is a film maker, writer and artist, whose works have tried to move between different ways of  telling stories.

She is an alumni of the Film and Television Institute of India. Her diploma film, jee Karta Tha, travelled to festivals in India and abroad and is also featured in the 2 dvd set from FTII, called Master Strokes, featuring a collection of special student works from across the years.

She has worked with needlework and photographs, and her work on Srinagar called His City, collaborating with a photographer from Srinagar, is housed in the permanent collection of the Accademia dei Visionari at ALT in Bergamo, Italy. Her writings have been published by a small experimental press in Australia, called StartPress, as a booklet called A Shelter called Writing.

She has worked extensively on the early history of Indian cinema in Kamal Swaroop’s Phalke Project and has been co writer on Tracing Phalke, published by NFDC.

She teaches film and sometimes, textiles, at film and design schools and also works with everyday materials to conduct workshops for Agents of Ishq and Point of View, enabling young people to talk of their lives and their sexualities.


A film and communications graduate of San Francisco Art Institute and Jamia Millia University, New Delhi, Sandhya Kumar is inspired by the desire to make visible the poetry of everyday life. Her 2012 documentary, ‘O Friend, This Waiting! won the Indian National Film Award for Best Arts/Cultural Film, for its unconventional exploration of the Devadasi tradition in South India through the medium of love-poetry. She has received film grants from the India Foundation for the Arts (IFA) and the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) and has been an ATSA fellow at ARThink South Asia. She is a trustee of Vikalp Bengaluru, a filmmakers’ collective committed to creating platforms for documentary films to reach wider audiences. She also conducts workshops and training sessions on the filmmaking process for learners of all levels.

Nicole Wolf (Berlin/ London) is Senior Lecturer in Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths, University of London. Her research, writing, pedagogical and curatorial projects concentrate on political cinemas and alliances, the poetics of artistic and activist narratives, more recently connected to research on agri-cultural resistance practices and Cinématics of the Soil. Her participation in ‘Living Archive  – Archive Work as a Contemporary Artistic Practice’ and ‘Archive ausser sich’ (both projects by Arsenal – Institute for Film and Video Art, Berlin) include research and writing for the restoration of the feminist collective Yugantar’s (1980-83, India) films as well as the development of the interdisciplinary urban permaculture design course Soil – City- Solidarity, focusing on environmental justice. Recent publications are “Is this just a story? Friendships and fictions for speculative alliances. The Yugantar film collective (1980-83)”, in MIRAJ 7.2. “Fugitive Remains: Soil, Celluloid and Resistant Collectivities”, with Sheikh, Shela; Gray, Ros; César, Filipa; Grisey, Raphaël and Touré, Bouba. 2018. In: Cooking Sections, ed. The Empire Remains Shop. New York: Columbia Books. "In the Wake of Gujarat: The Social Relations of Translation and Futurity". Critical Studies, 4, 2019. pp. 97-113

Krishna works on urban spatial analysis research. His current focus is on developing methods for fine grained population and socio-economic mapping to understand spatial inequality in Indian cities, particularly in the context of urban water resources.  In Bengaluru, he has been working on methods for mapping population at 30 m resolution, analysing inequality in access to domestic piped water supply and estimating urban groundwater budgets.

Krishna also has a design practice, which currently focuses on small scale residential projects. He tries to make these residences as energy and resource efficient as possible.

At IIHS, Krishna supports research and practice projects and is also involved in teaching for the Urban Fellows Programme and Urban Practitioners’ Programme.


Shabani Hassanwalia is a writer by background and a filmmaker by profession, creating non-fiction content in various media since the year 2000. Her work engages with changing socio-political realities, volatile subcultures and intimate personal histories in an India-in-transition.

As a co-founder of Hit and Run Films, she helped build a company that, over a decade, produced, directed and edited feature-length documentary works that travelled to national and international festivals, and aired on various channels. She also does extensive client-based advocacy work using documentary, ethnography, observational and long-format interview methods, to create feature, video, photography and text pieces in various styles and genres.

Her feature documentaries include Being Bhaijaan (2014), Gali (2017) and Out of Thin Air (2009). She is an INLAKS Fellow, and worked at The Sundance Institute, Los Angeles and the Documentary Filmmakers Group, London, as part of the fellowship.

She is currently working as an editor-in-chief for a feminist think tank on feminist perspectives on education for Nirantar, Centre for Gender and Education.

Bigyna Dahal is an alumni of FTII, Pune, the prestigious film school of India where he did his specialisation in Sound Recording and Sound Design. While in film school, three of his student films were awarded the National Award in the best short Film category.

After finishing his studies Bigyna moved to Mumbai and has been working on various projects across genres which includes - feature films, advertisements, documentaries, short films, corporate videos, promos etc. He is associated with films like Ralang Road, Shahid, Mantra, Peddlers (unrelesased) and Asha Jawar Majhe (LABOUR of LOVE) which won the National Award for Best Sound Design in 2015 to name a few.

Bigyna also holds a degree in Physics with Photography from Fergusson college, Pune. He is extremely passionate about music and like many other who come from his state Sikkim is a music enthusiast himself.

He loves to travel and explore places and people. During most of his travels he spends time recording sounds native to each place and to understand and explore the various soundscapes each place has to offer.