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Rima Das to receive Cleveland International Film Festival’s honour for rising, mid-career filmmakers

Team OGS


In its 43rd edition held from March 27 to April 7, 2019, the festival will present Indian director Rima Das with its ‘Someone to Watch’ award given to mid-career filmmakers who are on the rise in the international filmmaking scene.

In addition, Das’s films ‘Bulbul Can Sing’ (2018) and ‘Village Rockstars’ (2017) will be showcased at the festival with Das in attendance for the screenings.

Born and raised in Chaygaon, a small village in Assam, India, Rima is a self-taught filmmaker and has almost singlehandedly made both films which will be screen at Cleveland. The films are set and shot in her own village and reflect her personal experiences growing up, when her father head teacher of a girls’ high school, and mother ran a local bookstore and printing press. As a child, Das was adventurous and creative, spending her days climbing trees and exploring nature. In addition to writing and directing, she now manages the Mumbai-based production company, Flying River Films, which supports local and independent filmmakers in the region.

‘Village Rockstars’ and ‘Bulbul Can Sing’ both premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and centre on young, rebellious girls. The former has won numerous awards on the festival circuit, including an India Gold and Best Film on Gender Equality at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival; Best Feature Film at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles; and was India’s official entry to the Oscars. ‘Village Rockstars’ is on the 10-year-old village girl, Dhunu, comfortable with her all-boy gang of friends. Her impoverished single mother supports her against others to achieve her impossible dream to own a guitar one day and form a band with her buddies. Dhunu has to fight not just poverty but also the rigid gender rules that dictate a young girl’s behaviour and aspirations, with strict taboos linked to puberty.

And her latest work, ‘Bulbul Can Sing’ is on the exuberant young woman, Bulbul, most happy when she’s hanging out in the fields with her friends Bonny and Sumu. As these three teenagers, two girls and a boy, begin to define their own identities, they find themselves increasingly clashing with the age-old rules set down by the village. Bulbul is attracted to a boy for the first time, but her mother advises that “Girls should be modest. Girls should behave well.” Sumu is bullied for not conforming to what his peers expect of a young man. For Bonny, the pressures of the community become unbearable. ‘Bulbul’ also won the India Gold at the 2018 MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, and both films continue to travel and win across the international film circuit. Das has won several national and international awards and nominations for her work, and in 2018 she was one of GQ India’s 50 Most Influential Young Indians; the Cleveland honour adds to her bourgeoning achievements.