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Two foreign filmmakers, whose documentaries premiered this week at IFFI in Goa, find fascinating subjects in India.
In the family of German painter Fritz-Munich, the stories of India were retold too often to retain their novelty. His sons knew them by heart and were fed up with them. So, after Fritz-Munich's death, his photographs and India-related papers were packed up and tucked away. However, when one of his sons mentioned this casually to filmmaker Walter Steffen nearly five years ago, the latter realised the significance of Fritz-Munich's work. While rummaging through the collections, they found nearly 1,000 photographs of India taken in the '30s, besides several important documents. There was another hidden treasure in the recordings that Fritz-Munich had captured on his 16 mm camera — a three-minute footage of his meeting with Mahatma Gandhi. Fritz-Munich was a popular painter in the courts of Indian princely states and did portraits of nearly 50 royal personalities. Piecing together the story of the five years he spent in India, resulted in Steffen's new documentary, Munich in India. The film premiered this week at the 43rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI), Goa, to an enthusiastic audience.
Alongside Munich in India, another foreign documentary shot in India has been sharing the spotlight at IFFI. However, The Revolutionary Optimists that deals with a more contemporary subject — Amlan Ganguly's initiative to educate and empower children living in two slums in Kolkata — too had an interesting journey. When American documentary filmmaker and writer Nicole Newnham first read about Ganguly on a website in 2008, she instantly called him up. Ganguly hung up on her saying he was with the children and too busy to talk at that time. Newnham was impressed and made up her mind to document his work. A year later, they started filming Ganguly's work. After shooting for more than three-and-a-half years, they held the premiere of The Revolutionary Optimists this week at IFFI.