INTERVIEWS, NEWS — 12/03/2010 6:44 PM

Kim Longinotto : “I really want to make more films in India”.

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Last november,  the Sheffield Doc fest honored Kim Longinotto with the Inspiration Award, “an award given to an industry figure that has done immense positive work for the documentary industry”.  During the same event, the British producer and director’s last doc, “Pink Saris” received a special jury award. In this interview, Kim Longinotto speaks about her work and her love for India.

kim-lingonotto-sm

. Can you tell us your story ?

I was born in London. I studied film at the National Film and TV School in Beaconsfield. I made my first film, “Pride of Place”, there when I was 26. After the NFS, I worked as the cameraperson on a variety of documentaries for TV including CROSS AND PASSION, an account of Catholic women in Belfast, and UNDERAGE, a chronicle of unemployed adolescents in Coventry. In 1986, I formed the production company Twentieth Century Vixen with Claire Hunt.

. What was the subject of your first doc films ?

I made my first two films at the NFS and they were a way of re-visiting my past.  The first film “Pride of Place” was about my boarding school which was closed down soon after the film was shown.  The second film “Theatre Girls” was my final year film and set in a hostel for homeless women.  I spent a year living on the streets when I ran away from home

. Are u considering yourself as a feminist doc maker ?

I often make films about marginalised people, or outsiders, and they often tend to be women : professional Japanese wrestlers in “Gaea Girls”; a Cameroonian judge and prosecutor in “Sisters in Law”; women in Tehran trying to leave their marriages in “Divorce Iranian Style”.

. Why are you interested by doc format ?

I’m passionate about documentary because reality always proves to be more amazing, more extreme and inspiring than anything I could ever imagine and write in a script.

pinksaris-kunni3401

. You just received an award at Sheffield for “Pink saris”. What is the story of this doc ?

Pink Saris follows the stories of four young girls in Uttar Pradesh, Northern India who come to Sampat pal, the leader of the “Pink Gang” for help. Sampat Pal is now very famous with many papers about her.

Sampat like many others was married as a young girl into a family which made her work hard. But unusually, she fought back, leaving her in-laws and eventually becoming famous as a champion for beleaguered women throughout Uttar Pradesh, many of whom find their way to her doorstep. Like Rekha, a fourteen year old Untouchable, who is three months pregnant and homeless or the fifteen year old Renu who was abandoned by her husband from an arranged marriage. Both young women, frightened and desperate, reach out for their only hope: Sampat Pal and her Gulabi Gang, Northern India’s women vigilantes in pink.

. How did you produced “Pink Saris” ?

I was greatly helped by Girjashanker Vohra, the sound recordist, and Amber Latif, who worked as the translator. And all the financing came from the wonderful Hamish Mykura at Channel 4 here in London

. Did you show the finished doc to the woman you followed in India ? How was their feedback/reaction  ?

Our plan was that they would come to the first film festival but it has been so hard to get them passports  as they don’t have birth certificates.  Suresh Panjabi has been working on it for months and we are hopeful it will be sorted out very soon.

. In how many territories / countries have you sold the doc ?

It’s just finished. The first festival screening was at the Toronto International in September.  It has now been invited to 40 more festivals and new requests are coming in every week

. Where did you sold “Pink Saris” in India ? Asia (TV or theaters) ?

The Indian premiere is at the Goa film festival this month.  The Asia premiere is in Hong Kong in March 2011.

. Is it easy to distribute docs about Asia in Asia ?

I will very soon find out. I have made films in Japan which were easy to distribute   I don’t know if an Indian film will be different or not

. Do you want to do more docs in this part of the world ?

I really want to make more films in India. It’s a fascinating country.

. Have you recently (during last 12 months) watched an Asian doc which you have specially appreciated ?

I am a long-time admirer of Anand Patwardhan’s films (Anand Patwardhan’s website).

Interview by mail on 17 november 2011

About Kim Longinotto

Her awards :

Longinotto’s films have won international acclaim and dozens of premiere awards at festivals worldwide, including the World Cinema Jury Prize in Documentary at Sundance for ROUGH AUNTIES. Highlights include perhaps one of her best known works, SISTERS IN LAW (2005), winner of a 2008 Peabody Award and two Cannes awards, including the Cannes Prix art et Essai Award; THE DAY I WILL NEVER FORGET (2003), which won the Amnesty International DOEN Award at IDFA and Best Doc UK Spotlight at Hot Docs; the recent HOLD ME TIGHT, LET ME GO (2007), winner of the Special Jury Prize at the International Documentary Film Festival, Amsterdam (IDFA); The BAFTA Award-winning DIVORCE IRANIAN STYLE (1998); DREAM GIRLS (1993), winner of Best Documentary at Films de Femmes, Creteil; and SHINJUKU BOYS (1995), winner for Outstanding Documentary at the Sand Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. (From Women Makes Movies / WMM)

Kim Longinotto wikipedia page and IMDb page

Her interview in The Guardian

About Pink Saris

A film by Kim Longinotto
UK/India, 2010,

96 minutes, Color,

DVD, Hindi, Subtitled

Awards :

CPH:DOX, Amnesty Award

Sheffield Doc Fest, Special Jury Prize

Abu Dhabi Int’l Film Festival, Best Documentary

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Asia Cinema Fund backs diverse slate (Film Business Asia)
6 doc projects will be presented at Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum 2012
Discovery Asia-Pacific and NHK launch doc copro on Japan’s recovery
Taiwan documentary honored by CINE Golden Eagle Award

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