“In feature films the director is God; in documentary films God is the director.” – Alfred Hitchcock
Much can be said about the art of nonfiction filmmaking. It reveals to us the rawness of human experience and captures the abundance of stories all around us. A good documentary film can teach us things we never knew or things we never thought were possible! If you don’t watch documentary films, we recommend you start with this list of independent non-fiction narratives from India. These handpicked 5 documentaries are superbly told tales full of adventure and drama from the land of 1.2 billion stories.
Directed by Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi
This 2015 documentary film chronicles the first ascent of the “Shark’s Fin” route on the Meru Peak in the Indian Himalayas. It won the U.S. Audience Documentary Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The films tells the story of three climbers who had attempted but failed to summit Meru in 2008. As they return to conquer its peak – a 4,000 foot wall known they are forced to face their demons, survive near fatal injuries and a catastrophic avalanche. The film is a mixture of footage that chronicles both attempts (the failed 2008 and the successful 2011) and will keep you on the edge of your seat through out.
Directed by Abhay Kumar
This 2014 film has been called a 2014 hybrid documentary, as it employs documentary footage alongside fictional reconstructions to tell a profoundly moving tale of the high-pressure environment at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS, New Delhi). Deeply experimental in nature, it takes a critical look at India’s education system and the angst that comes with academic ambition in this country. ‘Placebo’ which was filmed by the director on a handicam went on to win the National Award for investigative film, was an official selection at IDFA in Amsterdam and won Best Film at EBS International Documentary Festival 2015.
3.Superman of Malegaon
Directed by Faiza Ahmad Khan
When this documentary based in Malegaon, released in 2012 it became the talk of tinsel town. It tells the story of a small town fraught with communal tension and economic depression. To escape the harsh reality of their world, its people seek refuge in the fantastical world of cinema. They make their own quirky, low budget, socially aware and notoriously funny spoofs of Bollywood films. Sublimely ingenious, simply bizarre and purely hysterical, the film is a tribute to a spirit that can never be vanquished.
4.Beyond all boundaries
Directed by Sushrut Jain
This documentary by explores the anxiety and larger than life celebration after the 2011 Cricket World Cup Win. It follows three people, who have devoted their lives to cricket and whose lifestyle exemplifies the fact that in India, cricket is not just a sport but a religion. In the struggle and triumph that make up their journeys, we get glimpses of the hope and despair that characterize life in modern India.
Directed by Novita Singh
Adventure sports is still a nascent industry in India, and the fact that the Paragliding World Cup 2015 was held in Bir village in Himachal Pradesh went down without much buzz. This documentary chronicles the event while also going far beyond, into the history of Bir as a village where paragliding is a way of life. Filmed over nine months, this is a narrative of the human spirit for adventure and soaring above the limits.