Updated May 23rd, 2024 at 00:16 IST

Kannada Short Film Sunflowers Were The First Ones To Know Premieres At Cannes 2024

Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know... is one of 18 titles that will be judged by a five-member jury chaired by Belgian actress Lubna Azabal.

Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know... | Image:X
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Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) student Chidananda S Naik’s 16-minute short fiction film, Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know..., premiered at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on Tuesday afternoon. The Kannada-language film, based on a folk tale about an old woman whose theft of a rooster plunges her village into perpetual darkness, is in the La Cinef competition for film schools. The awards for this section are scheduled to be announced on Thursday.

Competition and jury for Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know...

Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know... is one of 18 titles that will be judged by a five-member jury chaired by Belgian actress Lubna Azabal. Shivamogga-born, Mysore-based Naik is attending Cannes with three principal crew members – director of photography Suraj Thakur, sound designer Abhishek Kadam, and production designer Pranav Khot. The film’s editor, Manoj V, was unable to attend the festival. The team traveled to the festival at their own expense.

Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know... poster | Image: X

 

Naik's journey 

Naik, who holds an MBBS degree, shifted to filmmaking after practicing medicine for a while. He recalls, “My parents were extremely upset with me when I made the move. But now, five years on, I am here with their support.”

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The film was shot on location in Pune. Given its storyline about a village where the sun stops rising, Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know... had to be filmed in darkness. “Night is a character in the film,” Naik explains. “It was a challenge considering the limited resources we had at our disposal.”

The story is deeply rooted in Karnataka. Naik notes, “It is very known within the state, so I am surprised that nobody outside Karnataka has ever heard the folk tale.” A conversation with the late writer UR Ananthamurthy inspired Naik to explore stories and songs of the Banjara community to which he belongs. Ananthamurthy emphasized that it isn’t the language but the literature in that language that matters.

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Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know.. | Image: X

 

Naik's previous work

Based on his research into Banjara literature, Naik made a 12-minute documentary, Bhule Chuke Tules (To the Forgotten), which premiered at the International Documentary and Short Film Festival of Kerala last year. “Banjaras have a rich oral culture but the lines separating the community from the Kannada-speaking population have blurred,” Naik observes.

Naik grew up on commercial Kannada cinema and discovered filmmakers like Girish Kasaravalli and other non-mainstream directors later in life. He eventually enrolled in a one-year course in the television wing of FTII. Naik now runs a club of writers with several other aspiring filmmakers. “We call it Ashtray,” he says. “We develop projects, write ideas, and analyze them. We watch films, get their scripts, and discuss them.”

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(With PTI inputs)

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Published May 23rd, 2024 at 00:16 IST