Are you tired of watching commercial movies — the next one more predictable than the last one you watched? Or are you a cinema buff for whom the independent cinema selection on online portals is way too limited? The good news is that if you are looking to widen your horizons when it comes to movies there are plenty of short films that are catering to the tastes of those looking for off-beat films to watch. Your alternative movie-watching experience would also help you engage in conversation with fellow movie lovers and perhaps even make new friends.
The best films have a few key things in common: concise storytelling, great performances, an original concept, and stunning visuals. You can learn from each film as you go by.
Dimapur-based couple, Moa and Arnela Subong, who are also part of the band Abiogenesis, have been making short films through Abiogenesis Films since two decades. Enter My World, their latest film, is set to the tunes of a homegrown genre of world music that infuses jazz, rock and pop with tribal Naga chants. It is a sound Arenla has grown up hearing: “How-ee, how-aa, how-ee, how-aa”. For her ancestors across tribes in Nagaland, this was the go-to chant for any group activity, be it farming, fishing, or even dancing. Today, the chant has evolved into a genre of world music.
The film is a 75-minute Howey musical that has a simple premise. A writer (Arnela) and her assistant get lost in a jungle and are held captive by hunters in a Naga village suspecting them to be spies. It is then that they realize they are caught in another era altogether: a folk era. The end is electrifying with the tiger-spirited man and the boar-spirited man confronting each other and the writer and her assistant trying to flee. The unique and colourful Naga costumes and culture, along with the picturesque location of Nagaland make this film a real treat. But the highlight, admits the duo, remains the music. “It is a Howey musical while the spoken dialogues are in English, the tunes are all Howey.” What makes Enter My World so special? “If you listen to our music, you will feel like singing. It’s fresh and it comes from the heart. Howey has the potential to energise both the listener and the singer,” says Arenla who has scripted, directed and acted in all the films they’ve done.
Moa and Arnela have also produced two other films: Lichaba’s Daughter (2017) and Big Time Buddies (2003), both of which were screened at the Days of Ethnographic Cinema in Moscow in 2012.
Lichaba’s Daughter is based on Ao-Naga folklore which has been modified and modernized by the writer for a more dramatic appeal. The Naga tribe has been known to communicate with one another through singing and they also sing or chant while working in groups or alone. This is shown widely in the film, as also the traditional attires and the landscapes in Nagaland.
The story goes that Lichaba, the maker of the universe, had a daughter Tsungrosenla (Arnela), who while hunting with her friends was captured by neighbouring tribesmen. Tsungrosenla married one of the men Miga (Moa) and settled down to a family life. One day she reminisced her days with her father, her beautiful looks and everything she had and hoped she could get it back. Her husband consented to her pleadings and agreed to get the special food from Lichaba. But before returning to his wife, Miga was warned by his father-in-law to refrain from opening the food box he sent his daughter. Noticing a change in her appearance, Miga suspected it was something to do with what his wife’s father had sent. While we would usually love a happy ending, what follows will surprise you.
Big Time Buddies is a cocktail of compassion, rage, and tragedy; simultaneously a delicate romance and the coming of age of youngsters who come to terms with the dreaded HIV/AIDS infection. The film gives a message through the youth, rather than loud proclamations from well-known personalities. Played by youngsters and solved by youngsters, the whole crisis is brought out through music and simple dialogue. The film made for Nagaland St AIDS Control Society has brought out many conversations that have otherwise been dormant for a while.
Do watch Lichaba’s Daughter and Big Time Buddies on YouTube. Enter My World is available on Amazon Prime Video.