Over the past decade, Mumbai-based filmmaker Payal Kapadia has built up a remarkable collection of short films. In particular, a trilogy of sorts made between 2015–18—The Last Mango Before the Monsoon, 2015; Afternoon Clouds, 2017; And What is Summer Saying, 2018—stands as a massive achievement and as a hybrid form of new cinema. BFMAF’s 2020 Focus on filmmaker Payal Kapadia presents the first retrospective screening showcasing these three recent short films together.
Though each film could be classified as a different genre—experimental, narrative, documentary—none easily fit within those boxes and all the borders between styles are blurred to obscurity. While they were created as distinct works, these films can be viewed as a cohesive experience and are a testament to Kapadia’s bold artistic vision and unique cinematic sensibility.
When watching Payal Kapadia’s films, one is never quite sure what is a dream and what is reality. At some point in each film darkness falls suddenly and unexpectedly. Memory is not necessarily internal nor embodied; rather, it’s dispersed across rural landscapes and domestic spaces, or else contained within potent objects, drawings, images. As a woman filmmaker in a still male-dominated national (and international) cinema, Kapadia’s aesthetically daring films operate with refreshing viewpoints and unconventional perspectives. They are entirely unbeholden to tropes of either short filmmaking or Indian filmmaking.
The time is right to reflect on this collection of films by Payal Kapadia, as she is currently preparing her feature debut All We Imagine As Light, an Indian-French co-production supported by awards from IFFR/Hubert Bals Fund, Cannes Cinefondation Residency and CICLIC Development Fund. With this Focus programme, we will look back on the filmmaker’s past work which has screened and been awarded at numerous international festivals (Berlinale, Cannes, Oberhausen and IndieLisboa among them) as a way of looking forward to what will come next, not only in her first feature but towards a career of cinematic excellence. —Herb Shellenberger
Live Event — 26 September 2020, 17:00
Filmmaker in Focus Payal Kapadia in conversation with Toronto based writer and director Kelley Dong and programmer Herb Shellenberger discussing her remarkable collection of short films as part of this year’s festival.→
Long Form Writing
by Kelley Dong
Elliptical sequences combine to form a filmic tone poem: the expanded sense of time during a rural summer dusk; the trudging of two scientists who place cameras in the forest for animal observation; watercolours that float atop the landscape; a woman yearning for her late husband. Ever-present clouds drift above the forest valley and back across a city.
With Afternoon Clouds, Payal Kapadia fosters a poetic world within a beautifully simple scenario. In a Bombay apartment, 70-year-old widow Kati and her Nepali maid Mati cook together, conversing while beholding a flower which only blooms for two days. Mati asks, “why don’t you grow a flower that blossoms through the year?”
Payal Kapadia’s most recent film defies easy description. The question posed by the film’s title—and spoken enigmatically by one of the film’s subjects—is answered through the intricate tapestry of sound wedded together by Kapadia into a rich collage.