Auroville Film Festival 2024: First Thoughts on Day 1

The Auroville Film Festival 2024 promises to be an electrifying immersive experience, if we are to go by the jolly good show of the opening ceremony. It sizzled and popped. What josh! The most scintillating part was the Kalaripayattu performance. With swords, and shields and steel whips and spears, I thought someone would get hurt! There was a dancing to it, a whirling, a spiralling. But the artistes were deft and adept and showed a remarkable dexterity, and I will let you know: nobody was hurt, and nobody died! The degree of control with which the artistes commanded their deadly weapons was frighteningly amazing.

There was also a minimalist musical ensemble (I am afraid I do not know the technical term for the kind of music), which began hauntingly like a whisper, a dainty whistling, before it sprang into a rhythmic, thumping display that exulted our ears.

Finally, there was a fire-dancing performance by a woman, who made sure nothing, and I mean nothing, was burnt to a cinder.

The film that grasped me by the scruff was “All That Breathes” is a quaint (as in “unusually beautiful” not “old-fashioned”) quixotic tale. It’s spacetime-gravity is warped by beautiful philosophical and metaphysical speculations. Two brothers in the convoluted mega-metropolis of New Delhi, take care of the birds of prey, the black kites, which are essential to the ecosystem of Delhi, yet are being suffocated out of existence. In their aviary of a basement, a makeshift hospital is set up. The narrative contains the story of one brother’s dreams and aspirations since childhood of becoming an astronomer or geologist, till he makes it to the US for higher education. There are striking lines in this charming film like, for instance, on the profound reality of Darwinian evolution—how that over generations kites have altered themselves to fit in with the whole mess of a city that is Delhi. The images in this charming movie are visually-vibrant; it’s top-notch cinematography. The story is direct and told with candour and clarity of the kind that drags you into its narrative. Deep, explorative with sly, light humour, this is a jewel of a film.

Overall, the first day of the Festival was pregnantly expectant (as they say—I guess). It started with the right dazzling kind of ambience, through the Opening Ceremony, which drew the crowd in, to anticipate some sheer artistry, be it the Ceremony itself, the music, the food, and of course the films.