AVFF Day 2: January 23, 2024

I attended the panel discussion with Yael Bartana of “Two Minutes to Midnight” and Aman Mann of “All That Breathes”. Although, I didn’t watch “Two Midnights…” I found the premise of a world run by women to be compelling and alluring. As an associate Cristophe said, the movie was an experimental, theatrical performance—fictional but very real. The idea is that world has come to a stalemate because of nuclear weapons, and missiles represent toxic masculinity.

“All That Breathes” is about two brothers in New Delhi who save injured black kites and heal and tend to them in their makeshift basement hospital. When it came to Aman’s chance a lot of background information was revealed. I did watch “All That Breathes” and I was struck by the visually-vibrant camera work. Aman tells us as they searched for wildlife in New Delhi, they spent days on single shots. The opening scene of the rats near a street took four days to shoot. With such care and delicate precision, it’s no wonder that the imagery was beyond scintillating.

Apparently, none of the crew on “All That…” were wildlife experts. Shaunak Sen the director studied Human Geography at Cambridge in 2018…which made him curious to find out about the human and non-human interactions, especially with such a concentration of raptors in such a small area in Delhi. Aman goes on to say that the makeshift basement hospital the brothers set up for the kites was “incredibly cinematic” with its water-logged floor and metal-cutting machines. So, the film found itself become a story of brothers and black kites, with its human and non-human interactions in a mega-metropolis of a city. Although, in Delhi the wildlife remains almost invisible.

The film, Aman says, was done in a languid style with focus shifts, which Cristophe called “poetic”.

However, in the backdrop was the protests and violence in New Delhi around the CAA and NRC Bills which was intentionally not brought to the foreground, so as not to sensationalize the violence.

The last question asked of Yael is a good segue into “This Stained Dawn”. When asked about women on both sides of the Gaza-Israel conflict could open communication, Yael gave us a vociferous: Yes!

Now, “In This Stained Dawn” the voices of the feminist women in the Aurat (Women’s) March in Pakistan is vociferous, but the results are bittersweet. There is the triumphant raising of women’s voices and yet an oddly severe backlash from Pakistan’s extreme Far-Right. The women are only claiming bodily autonomy and safety from rape and molestation through the slogan of “My Body, My Choice”. The women also want the freedoms of merely leaving the home, be it to get an education, or to work. The backlash is startling. One man goes off on a feminist on Nation TV with a “Shut up, bitch”. The women marchers are met with cowardly counter-protesters who through stones at them and run away. Nevertheless, a revolution is a carnival for the oppressed, and these oppressed, marginalized women want a fair share of their own seemingly necessary rights, through singing, dancing, carrying placards and a little bit of street theatre.

By Gautam Emani