For over a decade, the Film Society of Bhubaneswar has been providing an alternate source to cine lovers from the city by offering them enriching cinema from across the globe.
Bollywood, Ollywood and Hollywood – probably in that order – continue to be a rage among the film audiences in Odisha. The ringing cash registers over the decades are evidence that the masses love the mainstream masala but then the critrics are not happy about how a majority of the Indian audience has been bereft of world cinema and treat it only as a medium of fantasy entertainment.
Film juries and independent filmmakers have made it a point in the past as well when commercial mainstream films stole the limelight and lion’s share of the audience. That is why to engage the masses with meaningful cinema as a serious medium, the film society movement took off. Such societies provide a platform where cinema irrespective of the language or country of origin, is showcased for cinephiles to watch, discuss and appreciate.
One such platform exists in the capital itself. For more than a decade, the Film Society of Bhubaneswar (FSB) has remained alive in face of severe economic and manpower crunch to provide an alternate source to cine lovers from the city and offer them enriching cinema from across the globe.
FSB is a voluntary organisation set up by a group of filmmakers and film enthusiasts from the state that came into existence out of a strongly-felt need to create a public forum in Bhubaneswar that could explore the aesthetic, social and educational potential of the cinematic medium for the development of a socially constructive and critical media sensibility.
It promotes the cause of meaningful cinema and makes the medium accessible to a wider audience, especially the younger generation and students.
Talking to MCL, one of the founding members of FSB Subrat Beura said, “FSB was founded in 2004. There were other film societies in Bhubaneswar at that time but they were in a different state of existence, but we, the primary members being me, Satyajit Puhan and Subas Das along with various others took this step to build a platform where people could come in and be a part of the film society movement in order to experience world cinema and engage with cinema as a form of social engagement rather than mere entertainment.”
“Generally speaking, people take cinema as a mindless entertainment medium. And the idea behind the film society movement was to engage with cinema as a serious medium in order to engage with the realities of the society. The objective is precisely to spread the canvas of cinema and establish what cinema can do in terms of storytelling and in being the mirror of the society. It is a brilliant stage for young people to come in and taste the true essence of cinema,” he added.
The first public event organised by the society was a three-day ‘Festival of World Cinema’ held in Bhubaneswar from February 4-6, 2005. The event was open to the public and received an enthusiastic welcome. This started the process of a continually growing membership of the society, which has been registered under the Societies Registration Act of Government of India as a non-profit cultural organisation.
An Executive Committee elected by the General Body manages all affairs of the society. The activities of the society are always informed and guided by its stated aims and objectives outlined in its constitution. In order to become a member, FSB charges a nominal fee of Rs 800 annually and a minimal amount of Rs. 300 from students.
Currently, FSB screens two acclaimed movies on the last Thursday of every month at Jaydev Bhawan. The last screening of FSB included the 2015 Children documentary, The Pearl Button directed by Patricio Guzmán. It was screened in the main competition section of the 65th Berlin International Film Festival. where it won the Silver Bear for Best Script. It also won the Lumières Award for Best Documentary at the 21st Lumières Awards.
National award winning filmmaker Amartya Bhattacharya, who is a regular audience at FSB screenings, told MCL, “FSB is a rare opportunity for film lovers in Bhubaneswar to get exposed to the world of cinema. Unfortunately, most people are misled by the mainstream film industries and carry a complete misconception regarding cinema. FSB enables the young minds to see beyond the border, and peep into a world that they haven’t experienced before. I feel that what FSB is doing is a noble job. It is unfortunate that the seats are still empty. Every show deserves to be houseful. I urge everyone to at least experience one screening. In our everyday lives, we hear so much of opinion regarding cinema, most of which are utter rubbish. I wish people who comment on cinema had the patience to know what cinema is all about, and then voice their opinion. I must say that the FSB’s organising team has been doing a selfless job for years to keep this society alive. I salute their efforts and I wish this film society becomes one of the most active film societies in this part of the globe. I’m sure, greater awareness will lead to more sensible films originating from Odisha, and that’s what we all are dreaming of.”
The organisation now also manages a Facebook page which has been created voluntarily by some of its members and is not an official page. The objective of this page is to bring up the movie screening details from FSB in social media and promote cinematic discussion. Every screening update is posted on the page for followers to keep up with. Many filmmakers, authors, writers and students are a regular audience of FSB.
One of the student members of FSB, Sankalp Mohanty said “It is important for the screen-agers of this generation that they are exposed to some genuine films made by the masters. This could help them create creative spaces for themselves which in return makes them politically, aesthetically, socially and individually sound. And I think FSB is giving that framework for the masses to grow at a very cheap price. I mean 24 handpicked films a year just for Rs 300 makes FSB one of most welcoming film clubs of the country. The convenient timeframes and venue make FSB also a place for cinephiles to interact and share their ideas and make constructive appreciations.”