kashmiri migrants find refuge in kerala, but fear the advance of nationalist rhetoric

First published on The Ground Truth Project on April 15, 2019.

In the wake of the February 14 terror attack in Kashmir—the Himalayan region caught in a decades-long border dispute between India and Pakistan—Kashmiris who live in other parts of India have become targets of persecution and violence.

Kashmiri students have been expelled from colleges, kicked out of apartments, and in some cases charged with sedition for criticizing the Indian government. In various states, shopkeepers have been attacked by right-wing mobs.

But in Kochi, a bustling port city in the southern Indian state of Kerala, Kashmiri immigrants say they’ve found a safe haven.

“They’re kicking us out everywhere else, but here, we’re at peace” said Hilal Ahmed, a handicrafts trader who moved from Srinagar to Kochi 12 years ago. “This is the most beautiful place in India after Kashmir.”

Ahmed owns one of the many Kashmiri shops in Jew Town, a neighborhood that was home to a thriving community of Paradesi (or “foreign”) Jews until the 1950s, when most of them migrated to Israel. Today, only five Jews remain in the neighborhood, which presents an unusual scene: Stars of David and signs announcing “Jew Street” dot a row of storefronts advertising pashmina shawls, Persian kilims, and traditional Islamic crafts. The shops extend all the way to the end of the street, leading to the 460-year-old Paradesi Synagogue.

Jew Street is lined with Kashmiri shops / Photo by Devika Girish
Jew Street is lined with Kashmiri shops / Photo by Devika Girish

There are 35 Kashmiri shops in Jew Town and 81 more in the surrounding Mattancherry and Fort Kochi districts, said Sajid Khatai, the president of the local Kashmiri Traders’ Association. His uncle, Gulshan Khatai, was the first-ever Kashmiri to set up shop in Kochi in 1968. He remained the only one in the city until the late 1990s, when the rising separatist insurgency and the Kargil War between India and Pakistan made tourism an unsustainable business in Kashmir.

That’s when Kashmiri traders started migrating all the way south to Kochi, which was then a burgeoning tourist destination. “We follow tourists, because that’s what our trade depends on,” said the younger Khatai, who has lived here since 1998. “Ours is a trade of peace, not war.”

Another draw was the exceptional religious diversity in Kerala, branded “God’s Own Country” by the state’s tourism department. The state is home to higher populations of Muslims (26 percent) and Christians (17 percent) than most other provinces in India—and two decades of communist rule have ensured that it remains relatively impervious to the sectarian troubles that plague much of Indian politics.

Persian carpets at a Kashmiri shop on Jew Street / Photo by Diana Kruzman
Persian carpets at a Kashmiri shop on Jew Street / Photo by Diana Kruzman

Its deep-rooted multiculturalism makes Kerala one of the safest places for Kashmiris, according to Khatai. For Malayalis, or native speakers of Kerala’s local language, the philosophy is “Malayali-first,” he said. “They leave their religion at home.”

Khatai said that this spirit of tolerance has not changed even in the last four years, which saw the rise of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India after its sweeping victory in the 2014 general elections. Kerala is one of the few states where the party has received almost no support, but in the rest of the country, the BJP has been pushing a nativist, Islamophobic agenda that has been linked to an increase in religion-based violence. The perpetrators of the recent revenge attacks on Kashmiris have been reported to be members of Hindu nationalist groups affiliated with the BJP.

Days after the terror strike in Kashmir, a mob led by the Bajrang Dal, a militant Hindu organisation, took to the streets of the northern city of Dehradun with the slogan “Shoot those who betray India,” demanding that Kashmiri students be removed from town. In Patna, a group of young men attacked a bazaar of Kashmiri shopkeepers with sticks and rods.

On February 23, the Indian Supreme Court directed all states to ensure the safety of Kashmiris settled within their borders, especially students. And yet, just two weeks later, four men clad in saffron (the color of Hindu nationalism) were caught on video beating up a pair of Kashmiri street vendors in Lucknow.

No instance of assault has been reported in Kerala so far, although two students in Malappuram (100 miles north of Kochi) were recently arrested for sedition for putting up posters that read “Liberation for Kashmir.” Khatai is confident that the violence will not spread to Kerala. He said that the only response he’d received from the locals in Kochi after the terror attack in February was concern. “Friends asked if my relatives were safe, they suggested I bring them here.”

Even if the BJP retains power in the coming general elections, Khatai doesn’t think anything will change in Kerala, where the Congress-led, left-leaning coalition United Democratic Front is expected to dominate again. “I have faith in Malayali society,” Khatai said, citing the universal literacy and high rates of education in the state.


The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leads Kerala’s state legislature / Photo by Diana Kruzman
The Communist Party of India (Marxist) leads Kerala’s state legislature / Photo by Diana Kruzman

Despite the lack of overt violence, however, it’s clear that fear lingers in the Kashmiri community even in Kochi. Several traders affirmed that they felt safe in the city, but asked that their names be withheld from this article. They described having to report to the local police station every six months for background verification. “Or else, they’ll think we’re terrorists.”

One trader said that although he has never encountered attacks or threats, he has been harassed by local rickshaw-drivers and workers, who sometimes charge Kashmiris extra for services and say things like “militant” and “go back to Kashmir!” if they refuse. He also said that he is careful to not say too much on the phone when he calls home, out of fear of surveillance.

“No one here can be open about the truth,” he said, “which is that we don’t feel a hundred percent safe, even here.”

This article is part of a collaboration between The GroundTruth Project and the Knight Chair in Media and Religion at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, made possible in part by the Henry Luce Foundation.

deborah stratman’s “hello ladies”

This was published in Film Comment as part of its News to Me digest for the week of May 28, 2018

In her rich and wide-ranging oeuvre of experimental films, Deborah Stratman often excavates the marginalized and sometimes metaphysical narratives contained within physical landscapes. Her most recent feature-length projectThe Illinois Parables (2016), uses the topography of the Midwestern state to thread together eclectic episodes from its history; Optimism, a 15-minute short that premiered at this year’s Berlinale, sketches a portrait of Canada’s Dawson City through stories of the Gold Rush and of the town’s long-standing efforts to rid the valley of a permanent shadow.

Stratman’s next feature project, a hybrid documentary titled Hello Ladies, arises from a similarly inventive blend of history, geography, and ethnography. Stratman told Film Comment that the project will explore “the legacy of women’s public voice in Ethiopia” through three distinct focal points: azmari, an Ethiopian griot tradition often used to critique those in power; the Afar delta, a rare tectonic formation with three diverging continental plates; and the community of Ethiopians in Washington, D.C., who fled their home country during the Red Terror of the 1970s.

“What was interesting to me about the [azmari] tradition is that women were often the singers. That’s pretty unusual, to have women as the visible critiquers of social order,” Stratman said.

She started thinking about contemporary manifestations of this tradition, which led her to Hello Ladies, an Addis Ababa–based radio program run by a feminist hip-hop artist named DJ Lee. Stratman said that Lee and other female DJs and performers will serve as the film’s “guide-provocateurs,” shedding light on the ways in which women define public culture in present-day Ethiopia.

Stratman views the Afar delta as an allegorical counterpart to this project of feminist rewriting. “It’s an ur-birthing zone, the planet is literally bursting up new stuff because these plates are spreading apart,” she explained. It also happens to be the region where Lucy, the three-million-year-old fossil of an early human ancestor, was discovered in 1974. “She’s like your mother’s mother’s mother’s mother’s mother… It’s kind of a mythos of early humanity and proto-feminism.”

And as for Washington, D.C., the third element in her triptych, Stratman imagines it as situated somewhere between these cultural and metaphorical concerns. “It’s another delta, another meta-site of mythmaking and power.” Using the broad sweep of these three ideas, she intends to create a “social-science nonfiction” about “women’s language, gestures . . . and modes of resistance,” and the silencing of countercultural voices.

Stratman will start filming Hello Ladies in the fall in Ethiopia. She plans to shoot a mix of video and analog film, and hopes to incorporate elements of Ethiopian performance—such as a pentatonic musical scale and the choral movements of the popular eskista dance—into the structure of her film. “I’m trying to find a way to riff on traditional forms and to transcribe them into my mode of shooting,” she said.

In the meantime, Stratman has a few other shorter projects in the works as well. This summer, she is collaborating with Barbara Hammer on a project involving some material that Hammer shot in Guatemala in the 1970s. “It’s still very nebulous. It’s going to have something to do with Mayan weaving and Maya Deren,” said Stratman with a laugh.

news to me: corneliu porumboiu, kristen stewart, abderrahmane sissako

Corneliu Porumboiu’s Gomera

Three months after Corneliu Porumboiu premiered Infinite Football at the 2018 Berlin Film Festival, the Romanian director is already in the midst of shooting his next film. Gomera follows a Romanian policeman whose mission takes him to the eponymous island in the Canaries, where he must learn “El Silbo”—a whistled form of Spanish used by locals to communicate across the deep ravines and valleys of the region.

Porumboiu told Film Comment that he first heard about El Silbo through a TV program soon after completing 2009’s Police, Adjective. “The language seemed to resonate with the film I had just finished,” he said.

Porumboiu’s movies have been preoccupied with the workings of language and power, none more so than Police, Adjective, whose climax involves a debate between two policemen over the dictionary definitions of the words “conscience” and “justice.” In a press release, the filmmaker described Gomera as exploring the “possible use of this ancestral language in a world in which communication has become more controlled, with a direct conflict between the verbal and the non-verbal.”

“What got my attention was that El Silbo can be used to encode any Indo-European language,” Porumboiu told Film Comment. He was also fascinated by the opportunity to “speculate about its origins,” which still remain largely unknown.

Over the last nine years, Porumboiu said he has learned more and more about the language and written many drafts of the script. Gomera—the filmmaker’s first project set outside of Romania—has involved extensive preparation and scouting: “I’ve been on the island several times and I’ve also been assisted by whistling language teachers who trained the Romanian actors for more than a year before shooting.”

Porumboiu’s films often involve an inventive play with genre, and Gomera is no different. Viewing El Silbo as a form of “coding” lead Porumboiu to think about the codified nature of film genres.

“Right from the beginning, I’ve associated the whistling language with cinema. When I conceived the film, I was thinking about film noir and the Western,” he said. The unique nature of the language has also forced him to develop a script structure that is very different from his previous work: “The biggest challenge was to find the proper tone.”

Gomera is expected to wrap up shooting soon and will be released in Romania in 2019.

Films on the Horizon 

After debuting as a director with her short film Come Swim at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, Kristen Stewart is gearing up for her first feature—an adaptation of Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir The Chronology of Water. Stewart is reportedly writing the screenplay now and hopes to shoot the movie this summer. Also making her (long-gestating) feature debut is Mati Diop, following her acclaimed medium-length documentary A Thousand Suns (2013). Diop will soon start filming The Fire Next Time, which centers on a 16-year-old Senegalese girl: her boyfriend goes missing, and the bodies of his friends start to wash ashore in Dakar. Meanwhile, Abderrahmane Sissako has announced his next project, The Perfumed Hill. Described as a love story set between Africa and China, the movie is reportedly inspired by a scene in Sissako’s Waiting for Happiness (2002).


      • Paul Schrader’s Bresson-inspired First Reformed opened in theaters last week. Read Schrader’s interview with Robert Bresson (and the fraught story of its publication) in the September-October 1977 issue of Film Comment.
      • The Un Certain Regard section of the 71st Cannes Film Festival featured Nandita Das’s Manto, a biopic of the Indo-Pakistani writer Saadat Hasan Manto. Most famous for his scathing, darkly satiric stories about India’s Partition, Manto was also a successful screenwriter and journalist. Read his 1938 article What Bollywood Must Do, in which he lays out his grievances with Hindi cinema with his characteristically sharp wit.
      • Chris Marker made a chatbot in 1988 on early Apple software using audiovisual elements and snippets of dialogue and poetry. In 2015, the program was revived from a floppy disk and made available online. You can chat with it here.
      • Over at The New York Times, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott look back at four historical milestones and a handful of movies from 1968 and trace their reverberations into the present.

First published in Film Comment on May 21, 2018

sergei loznitsa’s next film

This was published in Film Comment as part of its News to Me digest for the week of May 14, 2018.

The Un Certain Regard section of this year’s Cannes Film Festival began last Wednesday with Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass, a kaleidoscopic look at Ukraine’s conflict region with Russia. It’s characteristically bold material, and Loznitsa isn’t letting up with his next film. In an interview with Film Comment in Cannes, Loznitsa confirmed that he is already in post-production on a new feature—an archival documentary about the Stalinist show trials of the 1930s.

“It’s interesting because the length of the takes [of the trial speeches] is like six minutes, with a static camera,” said Loznitsa, describing the footage used in the movie. “You can feel the atmosphere during the film, what it was like at the time, how it was possible.”

Originally trained in mathematics, Loznitsa began making documentaries in the late ’90s, but his oeuvre has only grown more versatile, ranging from archival shorts and features (Blockade, 2006; Revue, 2008), observational documentaries, recent fiction films like In the Fog (2012) and A Gentle Creature (2017), and the news report–influenced work of Donbass.

Despite its found-footage construction, his next film also exemplifies hybridity by virtue of the political circumstances it captures.

“In documentaries, it’s usually like cinema vérité, 24 frames per second.” he said. “But this [footage] is a lie, 24 frames per second. All the accused, who are innocent, give evidence against themselves, and they all know that it’s a lie. The judges and the prosecutors, they absolutely know, too. They organized it. Only the people in the zal [hall] don’t know. It is staged, it is theater.”

Loznitsa suggested that this thematic concern with media-induced “theatricality” runs through his recent films, including Victory Day (2017), which documents the annual commemoration of the Red Army’s World War II triumph over the Nazis, Austerlitz (2016), which observes tourists visiting the grounds of former Nazi extermination camps, and now Donbass, which explores the making of propaganda and political spectacle.

Loznitsa said that he hopes to have the new film—which he previously has said would be titled The Trial—ready in time for the Venice Film Festival later this year.—Devika Girish

miguel gomes’ “selvajaria”

This was published in Film Comment as part of its News to Me digest for the week of May 7, 2018.

Three years after his sprawling, wildly imaginative Arabian Nights premiered to wide acclaim at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes, Miguel Gomes is gearing up to direct another movie inspired by literature. The Portuguese filmmaker’s fifth feature, Selvajaria, will bring to the screen Euclides da Cunha’s Rebellion in the Backlands—a landmark 1902 Brazilian novel about the brutal war between government forces and messianic separatists in the 19th century.

“Da Cunha’s book has quite a mythical reputation,” Gomes told Film Comment via e-mail. “Like many others, I had heard about it but never read it.” In 2015, when he finally began to read the novel—on a flight to Brazil, no less—it took him just 50 pages to realize that he wanted to adapt it into a film.

“It was a bit insane because the book has more than 500 pages, and the first 50 are just about geography, climate, animals, and plants,” he said. “But they are great!”

The length and scope of the text make for a challenging adaptation, said Gomes, who developed the script with co-writers Maureen Fazendeiro, Telmo Churro, and Mariana Ricardo. “For almost two years we’ve written and rewritten this script, trying to adapt the whole damn thing,” he said. “But we would never get the sufficient amount of money to do the film properly. So the final script is not a full adaptation of the book.”

This also prompted Gomes to choose a different title for the film. The name “Selvajaria” (“Savagery” in English) was inspired by writer Blaise Cendrars’s unfulfilled plans to translate Da Cunha’s book into French. Gomes decided to use Cendrars’s intended title Sauvagerie, “hoping to have better luck.”

Gomes’s Arabian Nights drew on stories reported to the director by journalists dispatched all over Portugal, transforming Scheherazade’s folktales into a trenchant portrait of the Portuguese debt crisis. Selvajaria is a more faithful adaptation of its source text, said Gomes, but “the conflict it depicts resonates in many ways with our own time. The book tries to provide an overview of the state of civilization at that moment in Brazilian history. Unfortunately, things are the same even now—not only for Brazilians but for all of mankind.”

Gomes anticipates that the film’s war scenes will present a significant (and expensive) production challenge, but he is more concerned about his “Flahertynian ambition” to re-create the lives and society of the people described in the novel. “Trying to capture for my film even half of the grace I recognize in the characters of Nanook of the NorthMoana, or Louisiana Story is quite challenging for me,” he said.

Gomes and his team are currently raising funds for the film and expect to start pre-production by the end of this year. The director hopes to shoot the film in 2019, but he added: “As I try to be an honest human being, I can’t really say what the release date will be.”—Devika Girish

roy andersson’s “about endlessness”

This was published in Film Comment as part of its News to Me digest for the week of April 30, 2018.

Adolf Hitler in his bunker. A midwife who loves champagne. A divorce prosecutor who doesn’t trust banks. A man who hasn’t yet met love.

These are some of the characters slated to appear in About Endlessness, the next installment in Roy Andersson’s singular collection of blackly comic films about the human condition. Consisting of a series of loosely connected—and meticulously designed—vignettes, About Endlessness is similar in tone and style to the director’s Living Trilogy (which concluded in 2015 with A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence), except for a few key differences.

For one, About Endlessness features a voiceover—a first for the director. “There’s a fairy describing things she has seen, both beautiful and horrible,” Andersson, who is currently filming in his studio in Stockholm, told Film Comment. The narrator is modeled on Scheherazade in Arabian Nights, “who escapes execution by telling the king interesting stories. Since there are endless interesting stories about mankind, she can keep telling them for 1001 nights.”

Cinematographer Gergely Palos, who previously collaborated with Andersson on A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, is shooting the film. Palos added that About Endlessness has a “more free” structure than the Living Trilogy. “There is no story. There are some characters which we see in several scenes, but there’s no story at all.” Visually, the film will be slightly more expressive in its use of light and color. “It’s a bit more emotional,” he said.

Andersson is known for his beautiful, hyperrealist sets, which are constructed from scratch within his studio. Palos said that their process starts with the watercolor paintings Andersson makes for each scene, some of which the director shared with us below. “Based on the drawings, we usually do a test in an empty studio, without any set, to find the best angles,” Palos explained. “And then we build the scene.” He prefers this method, he said, because it allows him to envision and plan the scene without being constrained by the set.

A variety of artistic influences usually inform Andersson’s films: Songs from a Second Floor was inspired by Peruvian poet César Vallejo, while Pigeon drew upon a number of references, including Fellini, Buñuel, and painters such as Francisco Goya and Bruegel the Elder. About Endlessness is visually inspired by the work of Vincent van Gogh and surrealist painter Marc Chagall, Andersson said.

“One scene is very much a Chagall image with a young couple flying over Cologne, destroyed by bombs during World War II. We also recently shot a scene where the set design is inspired by a sketch by van Gogh called La Guinguette. And one scene in the film re-creates a painting by a Soviet art collective depicting Adolf Hitler in his bunker just days before his suicide.”

About Endlessness is expected to finish shooting in July and will be ready for festivals by April 2019. It’s a much faster production timeline than usual for Andersson, whose last couple films took about seven years each to be completed. “We have managed to refine our work process,” Anderson said. “It’s still meticulous and we still strive for very precise expression, but we have added some techniques to visualize the scenes before we start building the sets.”—Devika Girish

lucrecia martel’s next film

This was published in Film Comment as part of its News to Me digest for the week of April 23, 2018.

With Zama’s distinctive adaptation of Antonio di Benedetto’s novel about a Spanish conquistador in 18th-century South America, Lucrecia Martel confronts what has always been a spectral presence in her work: the colonial history of Argentina. For her next project, Martel will explore the present-day manifestations of this history through a documentary about Javier Chocobar, an indigenous Argentinian activist murdered in 2009 over a land dispute.

María Alché, who played the lead role in Martel’s sophomore film The Holy Girl (2003), is co-writing the project. While in New York, Martel told Film Comment that they started working on the film in 2010, during the eight-year hiatus between her third feature, The Headless Woman (2008), and Zama.

“Unfortunately, these types of incidents are common,” Martel said of Chocobar’s death. But what drew her to this particular case is that the murder was caught on video, by a member of Chocobar’s tribe. “Not only are we able to see the injustice being done to these people, but also investigate the image. What does the image of the native represent? What is its value? How is it used?” This is linked, she said, to the way in which the language of the law is used to portray the conflict. “Images and language are used to create a machine of exclusion.”

Martel and Alché have been able to reconstruct the ownership of the land in question all the way back to the 17th century, the director said. Through this film, they intend to interrogate “the legitimacy of property in Latin America and how that discourse is sustained or supported.”

This will be Martel’s first foray into documentary, which she believes is the genre that has “most pushed and evolved the language of film in the last century.” She is currently experimenting to find the right form for the film, and to adapt her distinctively elliptical and subjective style—which privileges sensory immersion over linear narrative—to Chocobar’s story.

“White people have access to the culture and the decisions of the country. I am trying to find the devices to show how we deconstruct and relate to the Other, to the indigenous, to the unknown. What are our strategies to make them invisible in law and for any benefits as citizens?” Martel said. “I’m still figuring out the devices to expose that.”—Devika Girish

kiyoshi kurosawa’s “to the ends of the earth”

This was published in Film Comment as part of its News to Me digest for the week of April 16, 2018

It’s been barely two months since the U.S. theatrical release of his alien-invasion thriller Before We Vanish (which premiered last year at Cannes), but Kiyoshi Kurosawa is already set to begin shooting his next project: a Japan-Uzbekistan co-production titled To the Ends of the Earth. Described as a “drama of personal growth” by co-producers Jason Gray and Eiko Mizuno-Gray, the film charts the coming of age of a young Japanese woman as she travels across Uzbekistan filming a variety show.

“Last year marked the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Uzbekistan, and we mentioned the possibility of a co-production to Kurosawa-san,” Gray and Mizuno-Gray, who head Japan-based production company Loaded Films, told Film Comment. “To our pleasant surprise he showed strong interest right away.” Uzbekkino, Uzbekistan’s national cinema agency, is co-producing with assistance from the country’s Ministry of Tourism. Gray and Mizuno-Gray said that the government body has been an integral supporter “without attempting to turn the content of the film into a PR vehicle.”

In keeping with the theme of commemorating national friendship, To the Ends of the Earth will have a truly “cross-cultural set,” Gray and Mizuno-Gray said. The cast, which will be revealed in June, consists of “several very well-known Japanese actors, and an Uzbek actor who’s a household name.” The Japanese director’s longtime cinematographer Akiko Ashizawa—acclaimed for her work on films like Tokyo Sonata (2008) and Journey to the Shore (2015)—is shooting the film, and the crew is a mix of Uzbek locals and Kurosawa regulars.

“I’m excited that I’ll be the first eyewitness to what kind of chemical reaction occurs when Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s vision is transplanted to the world of Uzbekistan,” Ashizawa said in an email.

This will be Kurosawa’s second feature to be filmed outside of Japan, after his gothic French-language debut Daguerreotype (2016). It will also be one of the few films in his recent oeuvre that’s based on an original script and not adapted from a literary work. In an interview with Film Comment about Daguerreotype, the director claimed that he chose to make the film in France because at home he would not have been able to develop an original script. Japanese producers, he lamented, are increasingly only interested in adaptations of manga stories or novels: “In Japan, usually what happens is the producer brings in a work and says, ‘Adapt this and then make a movie.’” (In the past he has wryly expressed relief that he was asked to make a film in France and not Hollywood: “I’m pretty sure that if this was Hollywood I would have been broken already.”)

Since debuting with low-budget, direct-to-video yakuza films in the 1980s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa has made over 40 features and has a lingering reputation as a connoisseur of the uncanny. In the last few years, he has expressed his desire to avoid being pigeonholed. “I really like this kind of film,” he told the South China Morning Post in 2016, “but people have seen so many horror films from me in the past that they now can’t help but label me a horror filmmaker. They may feel that I’m too good at this genre to be making anything else. I don’t want them to think that.”

Kurosawa has wrapped up location scouting for To the Ends of the Earth and will soon be shooting for about a month in various regions of the country—urban, rural, and natural settings. “If you’re familiar with Kurosawa’s work, you know how specific the locations are,” said Gray and Mizuno-Gray. “This is no exception!” They are expecting the film to be completed in time for international film festivals in 2019.—Devika Girish

agnès varda’s “let’s talk about cinema”

This was published in Film Comment as part of its News to Me digest for the week of April 9, 2018

When Agnès Varda received news of her first-ever Oscar nomination for Faces Places (2017) earlier this year, she was filming lectures about the film to escape traveling with it. “I’m archiving myself,” said the 89-year-old French New Wave pioneer in an interview with Vulture.

It seems like her auto-archiving mission has birthed her next project. Varda is set to co-direct a TV documentary this year, titled Let’s Talk About Cinema, with longtime collaborator Didier Rouget. Described by the director as “an illustrated chinwag,” it will be an extended masterclass about Varda’s analog filmography, starting from her 1954 debut La Pointe Courte to 1994’s Les Cent et une nuits de Simon Cinéma (One Hundred and One Nights).

“It’s really about transmission and education,” the filmmaker’s daughter Rosalie Varda, who is producing the film, told Film Comment. “She’s going to take extracts from her films and talk about them herself, explaining how she arrives to each scene, and how, in each film, she tries to find a new way of narration between fiction and documentary.” The film will also feature several special guests and past collaborators of Varda’s, which Rosalie says will be a “big surprise.”

Varda has been doing masterclasses and lectures all over the world for the last ten years, which partly inspired this project. In a recent lecture she delivered at Harvard University, she emphasized how important “sharing” is to her filmmaking.

“It’s clear that I don’t make films for myself. It’s really—what I like to do is to share. To share the film with audiences and have what is called feedback.”

Varda had suggested that Faces Places would be her last film for distribution, and that she would now be focusing solely on video art and installations. But it was the ability to share her knowledge with the world that got her excited about this project, says Rosalie.

This will be the second collaboration between mother and daughter. Rosalie produced Faces Places as well, and Varda credited her for coming up with the idea for the film and introducing her to collaborator JR. “We’re good partners in crime,” says Rosalie, who had the idea for Let’s Talk About Cinema even before Faces Places.

“Cinema is a young art. For the new generation, everything is going so fast, that we absolutely need to have films about the history of cinema,” she said. “She’s one of the last directors of the New Wave who’s still active and creating. And it’s really interesting how now, even at the age of 89, she can talk with great clarity about a film from ‘54.”

This will also be Varda’s second time co-directing a film after Faces Places. Didier Rouget has worked with Varda on several films, including Jacquot de Nantes (1991), The Gleaners and I(2000), and The Beaches of Agnès (2008).

“Like in Faces Places, she said that she now needs a little bit of help during the shooting”, explained Rosalie. “She’ll still do the editing herself, of course, because she’s the master of editing.”

There are also tentative plans to make a sequel called Let’s Talk about CineArt, which will focus on her digital and multimedia work since 2000. However, Rosalie emphasized that they’re currently focusing on financing the first installment, which begins production soon and is expected to be completed by September (or “whenever she is happy with it,” added Rosalie with a laugh). It is set to air on ARTE in France, and they’re also looking for American TV and VoD distributors.—Devika Girish