The 2013 Chico Independent Film Festival gets underway beginning this Thursday, Oct. 24. The event will run until Saturday, Oct. 26, at the 1078 Gallery – located at 820 Broadway. Tickets are $8 for general admission; $5 for students; and $75 for V.I.P. – which is good for the whole weekend. To purchase, and to check out the complete schedule, click here.
One of the films that will be featured at the festival is the Australian film, “The Sleeping Warrior,” which will be making its American World Premiere on opening night. A Q&A session will follow the film’s screening, and an encore will show on Saturday.
Edit: Sarkar said, in an email received by the Chico Movie Examiner, that he is uncertain if he will be able to attend the premiere due to personal reasons.
Chayan Sarkar, the director of “The Sleeping Warrior,” spoke to the Chico Movie Examiner about his film. The trailer can be found on the left side of this column.
Check out the full interview below.
David Wangberg: Judging from the trailer and the IMDb page, this looks like it’s very heavy on Hindu religion and spirituality. Do you consider yourself a spiritual person?
Chayan Sarkar: Well, yes, and I wouldn’t really say really religious. I focus the film more on the spirituality, but, obviously, there are religious elements from Hinduism, and I’ve used certain symbolism of Hinduism in the film. However, I keep the focus on spirituality than religion. I come from a Hindu background, and [with] my mother being very spiritual, I have had an interest in spirituality. So, yes, I would consider myself a spiritual person, and I think I’d like to develop myself spiritually and try to be conscious on that. When you’re living in the western materialistic world, it’s not always the ideal situations around you to stay spiritually focused. Through the film, I wanted to talk about the importance and the significance of spiritual elements and spirituality in life.
DW: I only read a very brief part about it; I didn’t want to spoil it before I see it. Is it about a guy who explores his life path? Is it that kind of film?
CS: It essentially connects spiritual elements coming from a Hindu perspective in India with Australian aboriginal spirituality. In recent times, there have been so many people in Australia and the U.S. and other western countries who travel to India or Tibet to explore their inner selves – to discover themselves spiritually. In this film, I play the [lead] role as well. I play a guy named Rishi, who comes from India to Australia to explore the indigenous spirituality. Liam, who is Australian, has an interest in Indian spirituality. When Rishi arrives, he starts to feel a spiritual energy in the place. Australia is very ancient; the spirituality of the Indigenous people has been there for 60,000 years.
Spirituality has a lot to do with the nature and the preservation of the nature and to not interfere with the nature. I don’t believe in having one protagonist, and [he] goes through his journey and reaches his destination. My film has a number of protagonists, and I had an indigenous artist roll mock-up with Crusoe Kurddal – who is quite a talented and famous actor. He’s a protagonist; I play a protagonist; and I have an Australian guy who is playing the role of Rishi’s friend. He’s also on his own quest and journey into spirituality. And then there’s another played by Natalie Blair, and she has her own quest about what is being close to nature and what is being close to Indigenous culture and all those kind of elements.
All the lead roles have their purpose, and they explore their questions through the film. But the film doesn’t necessarily answer all the questions; it raises more questions for each protagonist.
DW: Is this a multiple plot-line film like “Pulp Fiction” or “Crash” where it all comes together at the end, or is it all just one straight story?
CS: No, it’s nothing like that; it’s a simple story. Someone comes, and they happen to discover some remains in the land. They came there to be close to nature; to practice a spiritual and harmonious life, and they happen to discover some human remains, and the essential question of the film starts from there. If it was an indigenous sacred land or ancestral burial ground for indigenous people, the very fact of them practicing spirituality on that land is a breach of spirituality and Indigenous rights.
DW: Now, this is the first film that you’ve directed. What interested you in taking on that role?
CS: I have been in the filmmaking industry for the last 20 years, and I have never wanted to direct a film. I could’ve directed films before [this] – I’ve acted in many – but I did not want to make a film of my own unless I had that dying urge to tell something that is important – a story that has an important message for the world. When I wrote this script, I did not know that I was going to make the film and direct it. However, this was something I immediately knew that I would love to do. So, I just happened to find a story, and I had to really, really make this film. And I felt very passionate about the story. Although it was my first film, I’ve made some documentaries; I’ve done some acting; and I’ve done some producing for many, many years. And I told myself that I’m only going to direct something when I feel the time is right.
DW: So this is a personal project for you?
CS: It’s a fictional story, but what I did is I embedded a lot of authentic elements from Hindu spirituality and the indigenous perspective. For example, Crusoe is playing the leading role of Maka – an Indigenous artist, who is actually a visual artist. During the film, he has painted a number of great works. When you watch the film, you will see him paint through the film. Having said that it is a fiction, it has got all the elements that are real and authentic. And then you have the land rights issue that I’m discussing in the film. They’re also valid in Australian society. I pulled out elements from real life, and I created a fiction. It’s a personal observation, rather than story, of what is happening around the globe –not just in Australia – with indigenous sacred land and its significance.
DW: How did you feel when directing the film, and how did it feel once it was completed? Were you nervous at all?
CS: As you can see, there was a lot of work as a first-time filmmaker, because – particularly on this film – I was also playing a lead role. So, the job was huge; it was a massive task. If you say whether I was nervous, well, I was very, very, very tense about running on schedule. As an independent filmmaker, you have a certain amount of time to finish the film. So, I got two well-known actors, and I only had certain dates with them. I did shoot the film, pretty much, entirely outdoors, so, I knew that if it started to rain or something goes wrong, I won’t be able to finish the film within my budget, and I wouldn’t be able to tell my story. I had that pressure all the time. A little bit of nervousness is healthy, but I was so focused that I don’t remember really feeling it. I just had my schedule, and I worked on it and with my other actors.
DW: Since you did direct and act in the film, how did it feel to be in front of the camera and behind it, too?
CS: I think it’s a great experience. I think the good directors must know acting; it can resolve a lot of things with actors when you’re directing. Secondly, I’m a big Woody Allen fan, and I love the way he works. I have seen all his films; I’ve read a lot about him; and I think that it is very much possible to be involved with your project as long as you’re doing your homework; you’re passionate about the role that you’re playing and not just one because you want to be in the film. You’re playing a role that has relevance to you, and you can really, really bring certain strengths as a director into that role, too. I think a lot of people find it daunting, but Woody Allen doesn’t, and a lot of other directors don’t. So, for me, I enjoyed it. Right now, I’m filming another project and acting in it as well.
DW: Oh, you’re filming and acting in another project?
CS: Yes, I am. I got a lot of great feedback for my role [in “The Sleeping Warrior”] from audiences and film critics around the world and at the other festival where I showed it in Greece. So, I’m going to be exploring a completely different character in another project.
DW: Your email address is [redacted] at Bollywood Dreams [the production studio]. So, is “The Sleeping Warrior” a Bollywood film?
CS: [laughs] No, it’s not. However, Bollywood is something to which I’ve been connected for a long time – being in the Indian film industry. I have a lot of contacts and experience and connections, so my business has been supporting and consulting the filmmakers from India to be able to film here. I think it’s important also to know that Bollywood is no longer what many think it signifies – song and dance, a romantic love story, and so on. Steven Spielberg’s “War Horse” was financed by Bollywood – it was financed by Reliance Entertainment. Many, many global films are coming out of Bollywood. “The Sleeping Warrior” is not a Bollywood film, but if you think that since I’m an Indian director with a company called Bollywood Dreams, and my films are going to be Bollywood films, I have no problem with that. Because I think that cliche about Bollywood making only commercial films that are not available globally has to go. Now, Bollywood is making global and international films. My film, if you think about it from the director’s perspective, it’s an Indian filmmaker living in Australia. I am originally from India, but I moved to Australia 14 years ago, and I have an Australian citizenship. In one famous Indian newspaper, they compared me with some of the greatest Indian filmmakers from Canada and other parts of the world. I think that, if people think that “The Sleeping Warrior” is a Bollywood film, then people must think that Bollywood is making global films. If it’s an Australian film, then they should look into the Indian side of it. The production company is Australian, so this isn’t a Bollywood film.
DW: Yeah. I knew that you moved to Australia, but I didn’t know if you took that genre with you.
CS: I’m glad you asked, because it’s very important that I clarify. It’s an Australian film; it’s an international film; and it has Indian elements in it. It is not a Bollywood film, unless you want to see it from the Bollywood perspective.
DW: I know a lot of Bollywood films started to get noticed after Danny Boyle’s “Slumdog Millionaire,” and that was one that was very Bollywood-inspired.
CS: Well, “Slumdog Millionaire” had that cast and crew from Bollywood. My film’s cast and crew is predominantly Australian; there are a few Indians –including myself – and some Italians as well.
This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Chayan Sarkar for taking the time to speak about “The Sleeping Warrior.” Sarkar also mentioned that the best way to see this would be on a big screen, so be sure to see it at the Chico Independent Film Festival this week.