SiGNS of the celebrated ‘movie mania’ revisited on a jubilee year

Monday, Oct 26, 2015,20:53 IST By metrovaartha A A A

A national festival of cinema in the prototype was what St.Teresa’s College Campus of Ernakulam witnessed in the last few days. SiGNS, the five-day Short film-docu Fest organised by the Federation of Film Societies of India, Kerala Region in association with the Kochi Biennale Foundation took out of the shelves almost 150 films for the candid viewers.
SiGNS is the pioneering festival in India for digital videos featuring national level competition of documentaries and short fiction for the prestigious John Abraham National Awards. John Abraham Awards was instituted in 1999 by the Kerala Region of Federation of Film Societies of India in memory of John Abraham, who was the guiding spirit behind radical initiatives for people’s cinema. From 2005, the competition was extended to the national level and the festival renamed as SiGNS, with a focus on documentary and short films in video format.
SiGNS Film Festival in Kochi started this year with a keynote theme promulgating a resistance against fascism. The subject theme for the festival is ‘Resistance’, said festival artistic director C.S. Venkiteswaran.
The main attraction of the film festival is the short films that talked about the various resistances happened in India after Independence. Experiments came in documentaries in format as well as content. Owing to the liberties of digital film making some documentaries took the time length of feature films. Apart from the films which were to compete for John Abraham Award and the short films which were in the competitions section, many films released in the film festival.
SiGNS started in Thiruvananthapuram in 2005. In 2012, it was in Palghat and from 2013, the permanent venue is decided Ernakulam. Signs is now the most important documentary festival in India. Awards categories in SiGNS are Short Feature, Documentaries, Cinema of Resistance, and Cinema Experimenta. (The awards for Cinema of Resistance and Cinema Experimenta are irrespective of category stipulations.)
Cinema has a long history of not only storytelling and documenting reality; but has also contributed space to preserve traditional art forms from all over the world of all kinds and genres – tribal, folk, classical, popular etc. While some were specifically performed for cinema, others were captured in film ‘live’, while being performed in their contexts.
Song and dance of various kinds have always been part of Indian cinematic concoction and the history of Indian cinema’s interface with Indian music and dance is a complex one of adoption, absorption and hybridization. In turn, many performers have worked in the cinema and have tried to trigger new interfaces and dialogues between the legacy art forms and silver screen.
This year marks the golden jubilee of film society movement in Kerala. The first film society in the state – Chitralekha – was formed in 1965 in Thiruvananthapuram under the leadership of Adoor Gopalakrishnan and Kulathoor Bhaskaran Nair. Within a decade, film societies spread out into all parts of the state, turning into a virtual aesthetic movement of sorts. It introduced the best of cinema from India and other parts of the world to the Malayalee audience, changed their cinematic perceptions and brought about a shift in visual sensibilities.
SiGNS 2015 salutes the pioneers of film society movement in Kerala and wishes to honour those cineastes who created a movement through sheer passion and commitment to the art of cinema.