Payal Kapadia on winning India’s first Grand Prix in over 30 years at Cannes

Payal Kapadia. Photo: Ranbir Das

Here is the official statement released by director Payal Kapadia, who won The Grand Prix award for All We Imagine as Light at Cannes Film Festival 2024.

This is the first Indian film in over 30 years to be selected in the Main Competition section of the Cannes Film Festival, making Payal also the first Indian female filmmaker ever to be selected in the Cannes Competition.

“The last few days have been like a dream!

“We received an avalanche of congratulatory and encouraging messages from so many people back home. We have been showered with so much love and affection and I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you.

“It took a long time to make this film. We were in the middle of completing the post-production when we found out that it was selected for competition at Cannes. This was beyond what we had expected. It made us both excited and nervous. So many great filmmakers whose work I admired would be there with us, watching our film! As our screening came closer we were all anxious. I felt encouraged when the amazing actors from the film arrived to be with us. Just one year ago, before the start of the Monsoon, we had started preparation on the film and now exactly one year later we were all together again but in a completely different context and a completely different world.

“It’s always a pleasure when a unit can be like a family of friends. And this is an extension of what our film is about. Coming from an artistic family, I was already privileged. But even for the women in my family, it was not always easy to choose the professions they did, albeit easier than for many others in the country. My mother studied at the JJ School of Art and my sister at JNU and these institutes allowed us to take up the professions that we did. For me, the greatest learning was being at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) where I was a student for five years.

“FTII was a space where we could not only formulate our thoughts about filmmaking but also about the world we inhabit. Filmmaking does not exist in a vacuum. It is through debates and discussions, questions and self reflection that we move closer to the films we choose to make. FTII is a place that encourages independent thoughts. My classroom was so diverse! We had students from every corner of the country. We didn’t always agree with each other and it was in these differences that we learnt from one another.

“Affordable public education has been instrumental in making this possible. And it is not just FTII. If we look at films being made in our country, you will always find someone in the crew who went to a public institute – Jamia, JNU, HCU, SRFTI, KR Narayanan, just to name a few.

“Unfortunately, public institutes are becoming more and more expensive nowadays. These spaces can only remain relevant and can encourage discourse if it remains accessible to all. If it becomes an elitist space like various public universities have become over many years, it will be useless to the nation. There are many private institutions that are made only to maintain the status quo and give opportunities to the elite. A space like FTII is somewhere in between at this point in time. We should strive for it to be even more accessible. This does not only apply to higher education but more importantly to public primary education where there is a significant need for raising the quality of education.

A scene from Payal Kapadia’s All We Imagine as Light. Photo: Loudspeaker Media

“People at Cannes asked me why it is taking 30 years for a film to be selected. While I did ask the selection committee this question, we should also ask ourselves this as well. Why can we not support more independent filmmakers? One of the reasons I was able to make this film is because of the French Public funding system and I would like to take a moment to talk about this system.

“In France, a small tax is levied on each and every ticket sale of a film as well as a tax levied on TV channels. From this the CNC fund is created that allows independent producers and directors to apply for funding. Distributors and exhibitors also get funding to distribute these films once they are complete. In our country, charging audiences a tax would be rather unfair. However, a tax on the profits made on blockbuster films can surely help in funding an independent film fund. If such a system was made in our country with an autonomous body to run the fund, it would only encourage more and more independent filmmaking. For a democracy to thrive, voices need to remain independent from big studios that are run by rich industrialists.

“Recently, the Kerala government has started such a fund that supports female filmmakers as well as filmmakers from under-represented castes. I think this is the need of the hour. I know that a lot of well meaning individuals in the film industry have started their own production houses. But they only support filmmakers they know. There should be some autonomous system with representation that could give opportunities to filmmakers even if they know no one in the film industry.

“Governments too should not be the producers but only facilitate funding. Independent producers should be able to apply to them. I’m thankful to people in the Kerala film industry. So many well established actors and producers were very supportive to our team though I’m an outsider to this industry. They did not think that they were stars and were willing to meet me, and give me time. I am very grateful to them.

“In Kerala, even distributors and exhibitors are open to show more arthouse films. Audiences are open to watch different kinds of movies. We live in a country where we are lucky to have so many cinemas. We should accept that many different kinds of films can exist together.

“As the election results are around the corner, I can only say that whoever comes into power must work towards a more equal society where every individual has the right to our country’s resources and that they are not limited to the hands of a few. The resources are also non material, like cultural capital, like education and access to the arts. As citizens of the country it is our responsibility to hold every government accountable for this.

“Long live solidarity and inclusivity!

“Long live Indian Cinema with all its differences.”



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