fragments of an Indian youth in struggle



It is a miraculous catch of grainy black and white images collected over five years of struggle against the Indian People’s Party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and its ultra-nationalist leader, the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. A cine-tract all in poetry and love correspondence, haunted by the twilight and the disillusioned tomorrows. A whole night without knowingby director Payal Kapadia, originally from Bombay, owes its title-manifesto to an inscription on a wall, written in the heat of a collective action.

A long conflict with uncertain and perilous outcomes takes the form of an unpredictable night, where young people grope their way, experiencing their power of action and police repression. Presented at the Directors’ Fortnight, in Cannes, in 2021, and crowned with the prize for best documentary (the Golden Eye), this experimental film, inspired by non-fiction, archives and brings together various materials, films, cellphone videos and surveillance camera recordings, witnesses of the militant effervescence of a worried youth.

The documentary owes its title-manifesto to an inscription on a wall, written in the heat of a collective action.

In 2017, a protest movement started in several Indian schools and universities, after the appointment of people close to the government, affiliated with the Hindu nationalist right, at the head of these establishments. This is the case of the prestigious film school Film and Television Institute of India (the FTII, from which the director comes), equivalent to the Fémis in France. Subsequently, several pro-government filmmakers joined the FTII’s board of directors. The students fear that their school will lose its identity (with censored films) and launch a big strike that will last more than a hundred days.

Payal Kapadia begins filming the fight with his cinematographer and editor, Ranabir Das. The movement knows an even stronger extent in other places of higher education, makes the “one” of the newspapers and puts the government in the embarrassment, before certain media stigmatize the demonstrators (taxed leftist troublemakers, students living at the expense of the State through subsidies).

Intimate chronicle

The film does not follow the chronology of the conflict, but recounts various twists and turns through letters that a young woman, a film student, addresses to her lover, from whom she is separated – the caste system blocking certain unions within of different social classes. The intimate chronicle crosses the collective commitment, the story of the demonstrations, the film student listing the reprisals that her classmates (and herself) must face.

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