The Urban Lens Film Festival that will be held between November 18 and 21 includes a couple of premieres, international films and panel discussions. The eighth edition of the festival will be held online, like the previous year. Viewers can register on the Urban Lens website for free to watch the 27 films.

Among the new titles is Coral Woman director Priya Thuvassery’s City Girls. The short documentary profiles two migrant women who have moved to Delhi from Banda in Uttar Pradesh. The women reveal the joys and challenges of migration, the struggles they have overcome to get to the capital, and the meaning of the big-city experience for small-town women.

The other premiere is of Sex [Work] and the City, a historical documentary on the manner in which the sex trade has shaped morality and urbanity in Kolkata. Subject experts Paromita Chakravarti and Dipta Bhog use archival photographs, maps, illustration and present-day footage to make their argument that by the nineteenth century, sex workers were as instrumental in shaping Kolkata as British administrators and middle-class Bengalis.

“The sex worker was almost the heart of the public discourse in the nineteenth century,” an unseen woman notes in the voiceover. “She was helping in constructing the spheres of the private and the public, and also helping in class formation in a certain sense.”

Among the films is Archana Phadke’s About Love, a personal documentary about her relationship with her parents and her family home. Gitanjali Rao’s coronavirus pandemic-inspired animated short Tomorrow My Love will also be streamed at Urban Lens.

About Love (2019).

The international films include Alain Resnais’s the feature Hiroshima Mon Amour. Joshua Oppenheimer’s companion documentaries The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence revisit a series of government-blessed killings of members of civil society in Indonesia in 1956 and 1966. If The Act of Killing revisits the carnage through some of its perpetrators, The Look of Silence switches the gaze onto the victims.

The Act of Killing (2013).

Vietnamese filmmaker Truong Minh Quy’s The City of Mirrors: A Fictional Biography meshes documentary and fiction to present a family portrait that is set against important political events in the country.

German filmmaker Philip Scheffner’s The Halfmoon Files, Day of the Sparrow and Havarie will also be shown at Urban Lens. The Halfmoon Files is of particular interest to Indians. Scheffner revisits a World War I-era archive of the voices of prisoners of war that included the many Indians who fought and died in a conflict they had nothing to do with.

Three of Tamara Stepanyan’s documentaries will be shown, including Village of Women. Stepanyan visits a village in Armenia whose men work most of the year in Russia. The women are left behind to plough the fields, run their families and yearn for company and togetherness. Stepanyan’s Embers and Those from the Shore will also be screened.

Village of Women (2019).

The discussions include conversations with Debashree Mukherjee about her book Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City, a master class with animation director Nina Sabnani and a panel inspired by the documentary Sex [Work] and the City. Tamara Stepanayan, Joshua Oppenheimer and Philip Scheffner will also be in conversation.

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