Month: July 2018


by Bobby Tiwana, curator of AWAKE at GemArts Masala Festival.

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Still from ‘Hearing in the Bardo’

Again it’s a pleasure to be curating a film programme for GemArts Masala festival. This year’s programme is inspired by my father’s bladder cancer and mother’s atrial fibrillation diagnoses and spending much time in hospital waiting rooms. The irony was they’d both led clean lives. Regardless it got me thinking about lifestyle choices, long-term health outcomes and our inevitable mortality. Whilst waiting, I read NHS information leaflets, I observed the faces and postures of others, there were conversations; and there was time for much reflection.

I knew I didn’t want to show finger-wagging information films or documentaries about how to live better. The starting theme was health and well-being. Upon mining into this further it got me thinking about ‘what does it take to stay alive?’ Whilst my father’s news was a bolt out of the blue he was soon surrounded by a ring of love, followed by much listening, talking and compassion. I had some heart-warming conversations whilst waiting with strangers. People talked, wanting to share. There was no shame, embarrassment or judgement. Instead there was a shared empathy. Human contact and social interaction feel like vital components to being well.

Six shorts have been carefully selected in response to the programme’s theme. Whilst they are not explicitly about health they do strive for consciousness or there is an awakening; and they do embody a sense of humanity, because that is what I think gets us through. Psychology is a theme through all of the films, the mental health of our interior landscapes. We meet characters at a juncture, sometimes young – sometimes old, through live action narrative, stop motion and 2D animation, documentary-fiction and an experimental short.


Still from ‘Three Brothers’

The programme kicks off with two British shorts. In the first, THREE BROTHERS, (a BAFTA Nominee, by Aleem Khan), Hamid, (played by Zain Muhammad Zafar) finds himself at the helm of family responsibility in the absence of his parents.

See the trailer for ‘THREE BROTHERS’


Still from ‘Don’t Think of a Pink Elephant’

This is followed by DON’T THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT (by Suraya Raja). Set in Liverpool, Layla fights her daily compulsions, her fear of certain objects. Now that Mum’s out what will happen between her and her brother Naz?

See the trailer for ‘DON’T THINK OF A PINK ELEPHANT’

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Still from ‘Moongfali Wala (The peanut seller)’

MOONGFALI WALA (THE PEANUT SELLER) (recent winner of the Satyajit Ray Short Film Award 2018) takes us 5,000 miles east to the megapolis of India’s capital Delhi. Every day Shakeel searches for his mother until life’s lottery has its way. Does the past define your future?  We find ourselves at a juncture. Made by filmmaker Etienne Sievers.


Still from ‘The Day’

THE DAY (is made by experimental filmmaker Hilusha Hewagama). A serviceman experiences flashbacks of the past – Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or psychosis? What’s real and what’s unreal – does it matter? This film forms part of a recent wave of filmmaking attempting to make sense of post-war Sri Lanka after 26 years’ of civil war.


Still from ‘Hearing in the Bardo’

HEARING IN THE BARDO is a visual and aural meditation exploring the transient nature of life, death and rebirth. Shot in Nepal with the Sherpa people, filmmaker Isaac McCardle has created contemplation through film. The mountains of the rooftop of the world and the ethereal narration by Tenzin Phuntsok ease us to the next state of our existence.


Still from ‘Maacher Jhol (The Fish Curry)’

We conclude with the animated MAACHER JHOL (THE FISH CURRY (by Abhishek Verma). Lalit, a 34-year old bachelor has something on his mind. He’s making fish curry, his father’s favourite dish. Set to a score of Bollywood classics which play out on the radio.

See the trailer for ‘MAACHER JHOL (THE FISH CURRY)’

The films will be followed by a post-screen discussion with industry professionals facilitated by myself, Bobby Tiwana.

GemArts Masala Festival: AWAKEFRI 20 JUL, 7pm, BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, South Shore Road, Gateshead NE8 3BA

Tickets £5 Buy here

Ticket includes welcome drink

Age 14+

Running time 2 hours