Films from MFF organized by Jio MAMI: Platter 1

A Potpourri of Vestiges Feature

When Two Worlds Collide (2016) / Matthew Orzel, Heidi Brandenburg Sierralta
When Two Worlds Collide (2016) / Matthew Orzel, Heidi Brandenburg Sierralta
The film title explains the plot before one is presented by the documented reality on screen. Since, the dawn of time, two ideas always existed and from time to time, each has collided with one another to destroy and create new ideas. But how far can we justify the collision, when river of blood flows across the land.

Debut directors Orzel and Sierralta, document the collision between the indigenous Amazonian tribes of Peru with that of the ruling government led by Alan Garcia. The issue begins when the government signs Free Trade Agreement with United States of America and opens its door to the oil companies to exploit the rich resources of the land. The land belongs to the tribes who have been living in cordial harmony with the nature and worshipped the land.

The film reminded me of the fictitious James Cameron film ‘Avatar’. But here nobody was a hero. It was a collision of two worlds belonging to the same land. Between the world of money and power versus the world of savages and wilderness.

In any film, the Director-DP-VFX Supervisor-Production Designer quartet plans the film's look in advance. A look is the visual design that generates the required emotion in the mind of the viewer. The generated emotion is also known as the feel

Filmmakers decide the look by controlling precise factors - the contrast ratio among the fore, middle and backgrounds, the hardness of the shadow, the color and direction of light, whether light is coming from high or low angle, the texture on the subject and the background, the color pallet  sustained through the color of light, make up, costume and color of set properties. 

The look is buttressed by the sound. Sometimes, everything works at the same time across the moving frame, in real time. Sometimes, the spectator's mind mixes all these post process. Eisenstein called these overtonal montage and intellectual montage respectively.

How to show two worlds colliding, visually? Surely, the collision of culture can be represented culturally on the screen? Each culture has different color pallets and sound pallets. Add color association and sound association to this. Jared Diamond has shown in copious number of examples, in Guns, Germs and Steel (1997), how competing cultures go through ideological competition too . They do that through validating their respective cultural tropes - religious rites, language, non-linguistic sign-systems, absolute Truth, color codes, music and dance, group dynamics and tribal relationship. The invading culture wants to show its divinity through this.

Exactly that takes place in Orzel and Sierralta's film. 

To know more, catch the film in the ongoing MFF. You can register here

The film documents the government’s urge to strive development through exploiting every natural resource for oil, steel and timbre. At the same time, the tribal people are not consented before putting up their land for sale to the oil companies.

The film is a constant reminder on how the struggle for existence and development will always clash till the time there is nothing else to die for.


On the Silver Globe (1989) by Andrzej Żuławski
On the Silver Globe (1989) / Andrzej Żuławski
Anthropologist Sir James Frazer published a mammoth study of the world's mythologies and religion, The Golden Bough, in 1890. There, the observations led to an unanimous conclusion that the history of the humanity is totally uniform, obeying the laws of physics. The natural laws lead to the biological laws in a more specific, organic setting. The biological laws, interacting with the phenomenal matter as well as the noumenal mind, leads to an abstract, but in no way non-existent, entity called culture. Mythologies and religion are two earliest symptoms of culture. These are the ways through which the human cultures propagate themselves. 

If the cultures can be traced back, in quite a detailed way, to the laws of physical sciences, then it is easy to see why any human culture would resemble any other under the similar beginning (geological) situation and similar response to similar physical changes by similar human mind, over time. The result would be a deterministic history, where the free will is actually subject to fate (AKA determinism). 

Darwinism brought the idea of  such a deterministic model of human history. Marxism took it forward, in popular cognition. 

In Science Fiction, Asimov plotted the same thought in the Foundation series (1942-1993), on a galactic empire at a date far in future. The basic assumption in all these is that one can predict future for a society if one knows all the parameters in the beginning. This is further based on the assumption that the human mind, brought up in a particular cultural style, would always react in the same way to the similar change in situation.

There are exceptions of course. Such individual exceptions are called abnormal personalities (Gandhi, for example, was one. Abnormal does not mean low or bad. It means beyond the average, outside the norm). Such societies are known to be peculiar.

On the Silver Globe began as a formal study of the humanity in another planet where the new born children, bereft of their cultural legacy, would reinvent myths and religion in exactly the same way as the original humanity.

There would be similar gods, similar battles between the God and the Satanic forces - where the roles of God and Satan would interchange infinitely. There would be Prophets and the Christ, and their would be Crucifixion. 

Such ideas about deterministic history are forged out of flawed readings of Marxist literature. Such a film from Poland was quite likely, in the late 1970s, in the aftermath of the Soviet empiricism in Poland.

This film is legally available on the Youtube. MAMI should be thanked for presenting a restored version of this classic piece on the observation of human cultural forces.

We shall post a pithy technical review of this film here, after the Mumbai Film Festival ends. So, stay tuned!

This film has a repeat screening at the MFF. To register for the festival, please click here.

Readers, please feel free to share your views/opinions in the comment box below. As always your feedback is highly appreciated!

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