Maya premiered at the British Film Institute’s National Film Theatre, London; followed by another screening in the UK and one in Canada. It was also a semi-finalist at the LA CineFest, and is now an official selection at three more festivals – Aab International, Roma Cinema DOC and Barcelona Planet Film Festival. More coming up soon!
Orson Welles’ Touch of Evil recognizes the obdurate flaw of attempting to stabilize and control boundaries and at the same time marginalizing the already marginalized; making this film a suitable text for a post colonial discourse. In one particular scene that depicts the interaction between Quinlan and Sanchez with the presence of various other characters, we are subjected to an unpleasant interview that soon turns from being verbal to even physical. Sanchez is harassed for speaking in a different tongue, belonging to another race and most importantly for coming from a land that is not America. It is due to the recognition of Sanchez’s identity as an outsider or in postcolonial terms an “other”, that makes him a vulnerable subject. According to Homi Bhabha, “Knowledge of the colonizer thus becomes power over them [colonized] and their visibility to the colonizer leaves them powerless” (Fuller, 2016).
The scene takes place in a compact space inside a house, yet the frame accommodates several characters at once and it is the positioning that indicates the significance of those characters. The use of shadows to represent blurred lines of power and culture is another extraordinary technique found in the scene. As Sanchez struggles to introduce himself, Marcia is escorted out of the room, leaving the former on his own. At this point, everyone else in the room is looking down on Sanchez as he struggles to make a point. Every time Sanchez moves from one extreme corner to the other, it illustrates his position as the ‘other’. His identity as a Mexican and his occupation as a shoemaker is questioned; along with being slapped for talking in Spanish. Vargas (standing on the extreme right side) offers to listen, as he happens to judge the situation as someone who is familiar with Sanchez’s language and tries to give him the benefit of the doubt, unlike the others (positioned on the extreme left side). Quinlan’s menacing presence in every frame compliments his character perfectly well as he continues his domination in the room. Vargas questions the ambiguity concerning the dynamites, but is soon put down by Quinlan as he says, “It’s only human you’d want to come to the defence of your fellow countrymen”. Quinlan’s presence and actions in the film elucidate the hypocrisy of Anglo superiority. He goes on to say – “he can talk Hindu for all the good it’ll do to him”.
This scene only heightens the sense of alienation and dislocation in the film. The term border itself is a constant reminder of demarcating what lies on the other side, especially for someone like Sanchez or even Vargas. “Symbolically, one is constantly crossing the borders of good, evil, logic and sanity… If border towns do bring out the worst in countries, perhaps then, they are metaphors for what those countries really are” (Krueger, 1972). For Welles, it is the border town that manifests disparate ideologies for the characters within the film, and the class contest between various terrains.
- Fuller, S. (2016) The US-Mexico border in American cold war film
- Krueger, E.M. (1972) ‘“Touch of Evil”: Style expressing content’ In: Cinema Journal 12 (1) pp.57–63.
EURIPIDES’ MEDEA – A GREEK TRAGEDY
About 3 years ago, as the bunch of pioneering theatre students of the country embarked on this journey to discover the art of performing on stage and everything that made the art form it was, I was one of those students whose hand seldom shot up unlike some of the other ‘bright’ students when a question about theatre was asked on the first day of class. Soon we began our early theoretical studies delving into various theatrical traditions, including that of Greek Theatre and that was really the first time I discovered my love for the art that spoke of Hamartia (tragic flaw), Catharsis (purification and the emotional response of the audience), Mimesis (Imitation), Pathos (suffering) and Hubris (excessive pride).
When I was offered to direct a Greek Tragedy three years later, I knew how big of an opportunity it was to give the audience something so raw and so full of emotions. It was about making sure these Greek terms were not just long forgotten textbook phrases. I remember telling a production member when blood was smeared on the white cloth and how important it was to justify the agony of it all; the tragic stories our ancient Greek fathers had profoundly left behind. Medea was one such story that had to be told, because of its simple ability to unearth some of the most catastrophic kind of raw human emotions and yet had to be very deeply and subtly tackled and portrayed on the stage.
When I first came across this story of Medea and Jason, the latter who was already an ancient Greek hero, with powerful themes like justice, morality, revenge, betrayal of marriage, child killing all of which is put across beautifully by Euripides in an unfolding series of tragic events, my co directors, the script team and I had spent days and nights on revising the script with full of brilliant epiphanies and I must say, every one of us delivered. The power, of course, lied in our story and our connection with it.
The play had a Greek Chorus of 7 members. They were trained and choreographed to bring out 7 different emotions as they posed and spoke with their masks on. As soon as the stage lights lit up their masks and togas, they looked magnificent as they delivered exactly what my co directors and I had envisioned.
The actors portraying the characters in the play did what they had never done before, to encounter and absorb every last bit of those powerful emotions and doing so by concentrating on the way they moved on stage. There was no rightful expression of the character, but only bringing out the pain that was born out of justifying the actions of that character. Loss and a magnitude of peripeteia lied within every one of those characters.
Medea, unlike most other tragic stories, gives us Hamartia right in the beginning. As the director, this was pivotal to my understanding of its plot and my vision of opening the doors for the audience to experience the pathos till the very end and like me, some might even discover justification in the end, but the clash of morality and revenge is absolutely subjective and one always does have a choice. To have all the emotions at their peak in Episode 9 of the play as Medea slits her sons’ throats to seek revenge on her unfaithful husband and to experience at the very next moment the purging of those emotions to something so cold and so lifeless like the fresh corpses of the little boys in Medea’s lap, full of blood, is something only a few of us working on the production, the actors and the live audience could truly fathom.