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‘Tora’s Husband’ director Rima Das wins APSA Academy Grant

The Oscar nominated Assamese filmmaker received one of four prestigious US$25,000 grants towards the development of a feature film.

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Indian filmmaker Rima Das has been awarded a prestigious filmmaking grant at this year’s Asia Pacific Screen Award (APSA), taking place in the Gold Coast last week.

The APSA Academy Film Fund grant will provide Das with US$25,000 towards the development of a feature film. Das was one of four recipients, selected from a pool of 120 submissions.

Das was also a APSA Best Director nominee for her latest feature film Tora’s Husband, and held a Q&A screening of the film on November 4 as part of the APSA program.

“I’m really happy [with the nomination], and it will help the film a lot. It will encourage us, not only as a director but our team and our community back home. Although every film is special, shooting this film during COVID was quite a different experience from my other films,” she told Indian Link.

 

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Charting the struggles of a family trying to stay afloat during COVID, Tora’s Husband is an intimate family drama set in small-town Assam which she directed, wrote, produced, and filmed during the pandemic. It stars Das’ own brother Abhijit and his wife Tarali and was shot in their hometown of Chaygaon in Assam.

Das’ films regularly garner international acclaim, with Tora’s Husband premiering at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival. In 2018, her second feature film Village Rockstars became the first Assamese film to be chosen as India’s official entry for the Oscars.

“It broke boundaries. The way I made that film with a small budget, and it travelled to big festivals, it gives a lot of courage to myself and others that it is possible to achieve your dream…it doesn’t matter, [what] your budget [is] or where you’re coming from,” she reflected.

“I didn’t start working so [that] one day I’ll be an inspiration; [at] that time it was just that I needed to do it because there was no other way out.”

Aside from the international accolades, Das is most proud to be encouraging the next generation of filmmakers.

“Most parents still don’t consider working in the film industry as a [viable] profession. Whatever my journey [is], I feel lot[s] of people are encouraged,” she says.

“[People] always tell me I don’t know my value…what you are for us. The way they look at me and the films, that is my real achievement. It makes me cry when they come and speak to me.”

Rima Das’ Best Director nomination is her second appearance at APSA, having previously been nominated under Best Youth Film for Village Rockstars in 2018.

‘Every film nominated is important, and I don’t see it as a competition or that I am winning over the [other filmmakers], because of the efforts behind [each] film,” Das said.

Das was also on this year’s APSA Awards’ second jury, selecting the winners in the Youth, Documentary International and Animation categories. She says she enjoyed deliberating with her peers on and looking for entries that resonated emotionally.

“It’s interesting how I’m looking at a particular film, and how my fellow jury members are looking at the same film…The jury deliberation, it matters. It’s beautiful, how we take a decision after giving our own point of view [and] after a discussion,” Das said.

“[We looked] at lot[s] of things – the story, the style, the craft, the body of work the director’s doing. But also, we follow[ed] our intuition…when we [make films], we’re not looking for perfection.”

Tora’s Husband is one of five South Asian led projects nominated at the 2023 Asia Pacific Screen Awards, now in its’ 16th year.

A boy on his dad's shoulders reaches up to a tree with a stick and his family watch. A still from Tora's Husband,
Still from Tora’s Husband. (Source: Supplied)

Other South Asian contenders included Kenneth Cyrus, nominated for Best Cinematography for his work on Lubdhak Chatterjee’s Whispers of Fire & Water. Sundance award winner Against the Tide, produced by Koval Bhatia and Sarvnik Kaur took home the APSA Best Documentary film award, with To Kill a Tiger, directed by Canadian-Indian Nisha Pahuja, also nominated in this category.

Prior to the ceremony, Dominic Megam Sangma received the Cultural Diversity Award for Rapture (Rimdogittanga), a Garo language co-production between India and China exploring the politics of fear in a north-eastern Indian village.

Das’ says she plans to release her film Tora’s Husband in Australia soon, and is excited to see how Australian audiences respond to the film.

“I feel [Tora’s Husband] is quite universal; people [have been] writing to me saying they can see themselves in the film. I always say the background was the pandemic, but it is more a human story for me,” she said.

“I’m really hopeful and looking forward to it.”

Tora’s Husband by Rima Das was nominated as part of the 16th Asia Pacific Screen Awards.

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Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy
Lakshmi Ganapathy is an emerging journalist and theatre-maker based in Melbourne.

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