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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



MIFF 2020, Open Forum 4: “Films that don’t obey trends are experimental”—Michael Dudok de Wit

MIFF 2020, Open Forum 4: “Films that don’t obey trends are experimental”—Michael Dudok de Wit

On Saturday, 01 February, IDPA’s Open Forum moved on to Animation, dealing with Experimental Animation and its Impact on Mainstream. A cross-section of animation talent formed the panel, local and international, professional and student, beginners and Oscar winners. The session was moderated by IDPA member Ms. Dhvani Desai, a science+management double graduate and an award-winning local animator, whose film Manpasand/The Perfect Match, using stencil art, was considered bold and ahead of its time. Dhvani has curated three animation sections at MIFF 2020 and served as moderator at a Master Class.

Living in the UK, Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit won an Oscar for his short, Father and Daughter, and his feature, The Red Turtle, earned a nomination. Pencho Kunjev is from Bulgaria, a member of the National Competition Jury, at MIFF 2020. He lectures at the Bulgarian University of the Arts. Suresh Eriyat, better known as E. Suresh, is the founder of the animation studio Eeskaurus, and the man who made acclaimed films like Fateline, Fisherwoman, Tuk-Tuk and Tokri. With her film, titled Portrait of Suzanne, in the International Competition Section, Izabella Plucinska is a Polish film-maker, who lives in Germany. Two young animators whose films are in the National Competition Section also found place on the panel, Naveen Kiran Boktapa (Please, 3.6 min, cinematography and editing by Boktapa) of Bengaluru (who did a post-graduate degree in Animation and Film Design at the IDC School of Design, IIT) and Danish Kelkar (Koodedaan/Dustbin, 2.2 min, direction and sound by Kelkar) of Delhi.

Danish, Naveen, Pencho, Dhvani, Michael, Suresh and Izabella

Defining experimental animation, de Wit said that films that “don’t obey trends and explore the unconscious are experimental.” Kunchev confessed that he does not make experimental animation films, but he noted that “the trend is popular in Poland and the Czech Republic”. Dhvani lamented that animators in India were not making films in the vein of Abid, made by Pramod Pati, Head of Animation at FD, in 1970. Responding, Eriyat opined that “we first need to build an audience for animation as a genre, and then think about experimenting. Experiment for experiment’s sake is meaningless. Never start by calling a film an experimental film.” He illustrated this by giving an example that sand animation should be used only if the story demands it. “We are all pushing experimental animation, in small doses”, he concluded.

“Festivals like Berlinale, Annecy, Ottawa and Cracow welcome experimental animation,” shared Plucinska. Kelkar was happy to inform the gathering that students are taught world animation in the very first year at the National Institute of Design, where he is studying. It was there that he discovered India’s first animation film, made by none other than DadaSaaheb Phalke, the Father of Indian Cinema, which was called Aagkadyanchi Mouj/A Game of Match-Sticks, way back in 1915. Admitting that it is difficult for animators to survive, de Wit talked about his own predicament, “I teach, do illustrations and commercials, to keep going. Animation must be funded from Arts Bodies, as it is, but budgets are very small.”

This writer suggested initiation of a process to set-up a Scholarship or Fund, to carry out Research and Development in the field of animation, with the coming together of bodies like the IDPA, FD, NFDC and the Ministry of I&B, in establishing a Foundation. The suggestion was welcomed by the congregation. As a token of appreciation, Usha Deshpande, President, IDPA, offered flowers to the speakers

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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