Always dreamt of visiting Berlin: Manipuri filmmaker

New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) Five time National Award-winning filmmaker Haobam Paban Kumar says his dream to visit Berlin is finally coming true as his Manipuri film “Loktak Lairembee” (Lady of the Lake) will get its European premiere in the German city next month.

The 71-minute-long film tells the story of a depressed fisherman, Tomba, whose life changes when he finds a gun.

After travelling to different fests, including the Busan International Film Festival and the Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival, the feature film is in the line-up of the 47th Berlinale Forum, which is a section of the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival.

Sharing his excitement, Kumar, who was honoured with a special jury award at the Pune International Film Festival on Thursday, told IANS over the phone from Pune: “It was always a dream to go to Berlin. I am really happy about it, but I also need to have a good opening at the festival. I have five screenings from February 11 to 15.”

“I want more people to know about my film. It’s my first feature film, but I have been making documentaries for a while now.”

Was the process to get his regional film screened in Europe difficult?

“I got the opportunity through Film Bazaar in 2015. I hadn’t even completed the film that time. I met the people from the Berlin film fest in 2016 again. I had finished the film in October 2016. I was waiting for its European premiere and things worked out,” he said.

Film Bazaar, a platform created and organised to encourage collaboration between South Asian and international and film communities, is organised annually alongside International Film Festival of India in Goa.

What is he hoping from the fest in Germany?

“Maybe, I will be able to sell my film. I am looking for a good distributor. I am hoping things work in my favour and I get money for my next project. The Indian government is also supporting with promotion and publicity funds. I have applied for it (government grant to promote his film at international fests),” said the filmmaker, known for documentaries like “AFSPA 1958” and “Phum Shang”.

It has been to various film galas, but is yet to hit the screens in India.

“I need to finish the fest circle first and then only I will release it in India. Taking it to different places is also part of the publicity. More people will watch it if it travels to more places. Reviews by experts will help me too,” said Kumar.

“I am also looking at online distribution,” added the alumnus of the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata.

His movies are deeply rooted in his home state Manipur. Why not other subjects?

“My stories come from daily happenings in Manipur. I started making films to tell our stories. My aim was to connect with mainland India through films. I guess since I come from a small place, it is natural to tell our own stories. It’s an easy way to communicate. Cinema has always been a means of communication for me,” said the nephew of popular Manipuri writer-director-actor Ratan Thiyam.

“He (Ratan Thiyam) is my maternal uncle. Whenever I do a film, I show it to him first,” he added.

His next project titled “Joseph’s Son” also revolves around the northeastern state.

“It is about ethnic divide. This is a big problem in the entire northeast today. There are so many small groups in the region. Earlier, we used to think diversity is helpful and is good. But now, somehow it is creating a lot of problems for people to live together.”

“It is based on Sudhir Naoroibam’s story. It is about Kuki and Naga clash.”

(Natalia Ningthoujam can be contacted at )