Kolkata girl’s documentary on life & death in Varanasi wins Italy honours | Kolkata News

KOLKATA: A Kolkata girl’s documentary on Varanasi’s obsession with death has won big at the recently concluded Life Beyond Life Film Festival (LBLFF) in Italy‘s Torino. This festival is a one-of-its-kind event in the world focusing on eschatological themes.
Participating films dealt with the themes of terminal care, grief, transition, visions of afterlife and multiverse. Balaka Ghosh’s ‘Death in the City’ focuses on Varanasi’s obsession with death.
Organizers of LBLFF believe that cinema is a perfect channel to talk about issues related to the afterlife because of the medium’s immersive capacity and the power of moving images. Ghosh’s documentary was declared the winner in the Best Afterlife Research on Wednesday.
Talking about the festival, Ghosh said, “Most film festivals do not have space for a subject like this. It requires a different kind of mindset to even program it for festival audiences.
We chanced upon this festival while searching online. I feel it is brave of the organizers to run a festival dealing exclusively with such deep, serious and usually unexplored themes.”
Since this is the only such festival in the world, competition is also not easy. “To get selected in such a festival was great news for me. To receive validation was amazing.
I got the news when I was travelling by train to Delhi. In many ways, it was the best time for me to get the news since this documentary is a journey for me at various levels,” Ghosh said.
Ghosh shot the documentary across four years from 2018 to 2021. Her documentary is an intimate portrayal of the city of ‘Life and Death’, as Varanasi is also known as, its myriad communities who live and work in its ancient streets, including those waiting to die or those working with the dead.
Among many other things, Ghosh’s lens focuses on Varanasi’s houses of the dying, its death photographers and sex workers who dance close to the pyres. She also interviewed members of the Aghori sect, who spoke about their rites, such as necrophilia and meditation around bodies at crematoriums and heavy use of alcohol and drugs.
“Many have told me that it is not easy for a woman to convince them to speak on such issues in front of the camera. I am glad that the jury appreciated the spiritual intensity and the research that went into the making of this film,” Ghosh concluded.

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