Fire in the Mountains, competing in the World Cinema Dramatic Competition, is the story of a mother’s struggle to save enough money so she can take her wheelchair-bound son for physiotherapy. Meanwhile, her husband steals her savings so he can pay for an expensive religious ritual, that he believes would be a better remedy. Set in a Himalayan village, the film has been produced by JAR Pictures (Liars’ Dice, Gangs of Wassepur).
Director Ajitpal Singh, who is a self-taught filmmaker, said in a press note that the film was a “dream since 2012 when my first script was selected for Sundance Mumbai Mantra Script lab”. Further, “The idea of Fire In The Mountains came from a personal tragedy, when my cousin sister Amarjeet Kaur died because her husband didn’t take her to the hospital thinking she was possessed by a ghost.”
Photo Credit- Fire in the Mountain
He said, “The film is about the clash of two worldviews- traditional and modern, with a strong woman at the heart of it and I hope my film will make people ask some relevant questions about their blind faiths.”
Fire in the Mountains has won two awards, namely, ‘Prasad Lab DI’ and ‘Moviebuff Appreciation’ at 2019 Film Bazaar’s Work-In-Progress Lab.
The other Indian contender, Writing with Fire, has been directed by Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh of Black Ticket Films. It will compete in the World Cinema Documentary category. The film revolves around a team of Dalit women reporters who launch India’s sole Dalit women-run newspaper in a news landscape dominated by men. Chief reporter Meera and her team break tradition to redefine what it means to be powerful, on the news frontlines and in their own homes.
Photo Credit- Writing with Fire
Thomas and Ghosh are known for their unique style of documentary filmmaking, with a focus on making documentaries “look good” while telling stories that have social impact. In one interview, Thomas said that in India “It wasn’t cool to watch documentaries.” But, she said, “If a 30-second TV commercial can tell us that we want something, then why can’t we apply the same principles and aesthetics to telling stories, beautiful stories, about real people? That’s the idea behind Black Ticket Films.”
The duo won the National Award in the Environment film category in 2013 for Timbaktu, a film that explored the intimate relationship between farmers and the land. Their earlier work includes films on themes of environment, public health, women’s rights, and sustainable resilience of local communities towards climate change, among others.
The number of submissions for the Sundance festival this year saw a slump from 15,100 submissions last year to 3,500 this year. Representing 29 countries, the festival will screen 72 feature films, 50 shorts, 4 indie series, and 14 new frontier projects from January 28 through to February 3 across US cities.
“Of course, the pandemic year demanded adaptation,” said Keri Putnam, Sundance Institute’s Executive Director, in a statement. “On a deeper level, we also recognize the urgency of supporting independent storytellers at a time of great upheaval in the film and media fields. We’re proud this edition of the Festival is fiercely independent, and will reach people everywhere, celebrating both the theatrical experience at our Satellite Screens and streaming on our platform.”
For the Special Screenings section, the festival will screen Life in a Day (2020), which captures life on one day during the Covid-19 year – 25 July, 2020. The film is compiled from 15,000 hours of footage submitted by people from across 192 countries.
The Sundance festival is curated by the non-profit Sundance Institute that works towards creating a space for artists in film, theatre, film composing, and digital media to create and thrive. Founded in 1981 by Robert Redford, the Institute’s signature Labs, granting, and mentorship programs, dedicated to developing new work, take place throughout the year in the U.S. and internationally.
The Sundance Institute announced its final line-up of films on Tuesday, and also said that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the edition will go beyond its traditional screening at Park City, in Utah, and resort to satellite screenings at independent theatres and drive-ins across the United States.