A post-screening conversation will be led by filmmaker, writer, and professor Firas Aladai.
In 1955, Satyajit Ray debuted his "coming of age" film, PATHER PANCHALI, in which the lives of two young siblings––Apu and Durga––are chronicled within the "modern" transformation of life in a rural Bengali village. Influenced by Jean Renoir and the Italian neorealist films of Vittorio de Sica, Ray made his first film with an amateur cast and shoestring budget, all shot on location––at times in the midst of rainstorms––to create something of lyrical beauty and lasting importance.
In this screening, we would like to highlight the role of Durga and her magnetic presence as the "constant compass" in Pather Panchali, which has been more widely considered a film about Apu and his boyhood.
"For most of Pather Panchali, we experience Durga in her role as older sister to her younger brother, Apu. She is his compass: the first face he sees when he wakes up in the morning, the hand that slaps him when he borrows tinsel from her toy box without asking, the tongue that sticks out and makes him smile. They provide for each other a sense of belonging, an affinity that only siblings share. Durga seems not just powerful but prepared for anything while Apu is drawn to whatever he can push through a crowd and get up-close to. His sister’s affections are revealed by how gently she levers open the world for him. She shows him how it’s possible to marvel not only at rain and trains but also at the calm that anticipates the rain and the before-rumble that says: here comes pure speed cutting through a kaash field, leaving us behind." —Durga Chew-Bose
Firas Aladai is a Syrian photographer, writer, and filmmaker who teaches film production and digital photography at DePaul University. His first narrative feature film, Winter, premiered at the Arab Film Festival in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, and was shown at several art house and international film festivals. He recently completed a photography project documenting his travels in Central and South America, and is currently working on a screenplay about a Syrian family living in Istanbul. He earned an MFA in Film, Video, New Media, and Animation from the School of Art Institute of Chicago in 2014.
In 2005, Firas traveled to India to do research on the films of Satyajit Ray. His essay on Ray was published in Syria. He also published essays on the films of Yilmaz Guney and Gillo Pontecorvo.
by Satyajit Ray
1955, digital projection, 115 min
The Girl Who Sold the Sun
THE GIRL WHO SOLD THE SUN, described by its director as "a hymn to the courage of street children," follows the life of a young girl, Sili (Lissa Balera), as she travels between a small town on the outskirts of Dakar to the bustling city center in order to sell one of Senegal's two national newspapers, Le Soleil. Having permanently lost the use of one of her legs, she is expected to join her blind grandmother in begging on the streets; instead, Sili convinces a distributor in Dakar to let her sell their paper by hand, a type of work generally reserved for boys and fiercely defended by them.
The final work from the seminal Senegalese filmmaker Djibril Diop Mambéty (Touki Bouki), The Girl Who Sold the Sun is the second of what was intended to be three independent short films united under the title Tales of Ordinary People, with the common theme of money's power on the economic and cultural reality of the Senegalese “petites gens” (lit. small people)––an affectionate term for the lower classes. Though short in length, the implications of Mambéty's swan song extend far beyond the portrait of one marginalized individual as a reflection on a generation and a people.
THE GIRL WHO SOLD THE SUN
by Djibril Diop Mambéty
1999, digital projection, 45 min
The Cave of the Yellow Dog
With one foot in the tradition of ethnographic filmmaking and another situated in simple narrative drama, director Byambasuren Davaa's second film THE CAVE OF THE YELLOW DOG follows a nomadic family on the Mongolian Steppe as their oldest daughter, the 6 or 7 year old Nansal, visits home on a school holiday. Once home, she sheds a ubiquitous school uniform to be wrapped up in a brocade deel by her parents who encourage her to care for her younger siblings, help make the cheese, collect dried dung, take the sheep out to graze––observations of family life (a family who are essentially asked to play themselves) in the vast, green grasslands.
In the midst of their daily goings-on, Nansal finds a young dog and adopts him against her father's wishes and warnings. Alongside the straightforward narrative, the film touches on ideas of reincarnation and the (un-shown but felt) tension between Nansal's urban schooling and her nomadic roots.
THE CAVE OF THE YELLOW DOG
by Byambasuren Davaa
2005, digital projection, 93 min