"One of the most difficult challenges was to edit the film, without forcing an apparent narrative structure into the lives of the protagonists."
27th Vilnius International Film Festival Kino Pavasaris
24 March - 3 April, 2022
Ayena - Mirror
March 31 - April 3
kinopavasaris.lt - #STANDWITHUKRAINE
In the aftermath of an acid attack that changed their life forever, 'Ayena' explores moments of friendship, resilience and the daily negotiations of two extraordinary young Indian women.
Hello Siddhant thank you for talking to The New Current, how have you been holding up during these very strange times?
These pandemic times have been difficult for people across the world surely. I am one of those people as well. Especially the initial 1 year of the pandemic was dreadful, both on personal and professional accounts. As the restrictions have been easing and the world is attempting to retain some sort of normalcy, things have definitely improved. But now there is war, just around the corner from where I reside in Budapest.
Have you been able to remain positive and explore new creative endeavours?
In the beginning, it was extremely difficult to remain positive, but slowly after I joined my master's course, I am able to explore myself as a documentary filmmaker and grow as a professional at a much quicker rate. The course I am doing right now is called Docnomads and it takes place in 3 cities across Europe, Lisbon, Budapest and Brussels.
Congratulations on being in the Documentary section at Vilnius Film Festival 2022, what does it mean to you to be able to be part of such an amazing lineup of films?
It's an absolute honour for my film Ayena (Mirror) to have been invited to Vilnius Film Festival 2022 and I was physically present at my Lithuanian Premiere. Additionally, my excellent Lithuanian collaborators were also standing in solidarity and supporting me, as we presented the film to the Lithuanian audiences.
Lithuanian co-producers: Arunas Matelis, Algimantė Matelienė
Music Composer: Gintaras Sodeika
Vocalist: Aldegunda Gaile
Colourist: Tomas Rugys
Sound Designer-Mixer: Israel Banuelos
I am eternally grateful for having this wonderful team and It feels very rewarding to be part of an excellent lineup of films, chosen by the festival and receive a meaningful response from Lithuanian audiences.
Can you tell me a little bit about your film and what was the message you wanted to convey with this film?
Ayena (Mirror) explores moments of friendship, resilience and the daily negotiations of two extraordinary Indian women, who were attacked with acid. The experience of making the film, made me question the ideas around identity. When in a sudden moment one’s face is destroyed, disfigured, how does that person process that loss?
Acid attack is a form of gender-based violence that entails throwing acid at the bodies, particularly the face, of women. It is aimed at controlling and dishonouring women by literally scarring them for life. There is a need to relook at the mainstream discourse of victimhood and move beyond to understand the survivor from their perspective; the way they see themselves. While closely following Ritu and Faraha, my main protagonists, I witnessed and recorded their daily negotiations with their surroundings – how subjugating an unfathomable sense of loss they patiently and
meticulously work towards reclaiming their lives.
What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing your film to life?
I think there were several challenges that one faces as a documentary filmmaker, especially while approaching such a sensitive topic. One of the most difficult challenges was to edit the film, without forcing an apparent narrative structure into the lives of the protagonists. How everyday life itself can become a form of resistance and can reveal a story that originates in a sociological space but concludes in a psychological space.
How important is it for you to be flexible with your approach to your film once you start production, do you prefer to keep to the text how it’s been written?
I feel that documentary filmmaking is a very flexible process and the approach is in constant evolution. A certain amount of learning and unlearning is practised frequently throughout the journey. It is important to learn and adapt from your surrounding's realities and then interpret that through the filmic médium.
Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?
Many things would have been approached differently, especially how a filmic form is approached. As a debut feature film, it was a learning process and the experience I gained from this film will be invaluable for my future projects.
And finally, what do you want your audiences to take away from your film?
I believe that in its sublime emotionality, Ayena (Mirror) will engage audiences on a human level and guide them to rethink and reinvent the ways we identify with each other. I wish to engage viewers into the depths of these women, devoid of elevation to them as divine or degradation as disabled, bringing to light elements of their lives — their coming of age, redefining their relationships, and fleeting moments of carefreeness.