Against the Tide wins top awards at two prestigious film festivals on same day

Mira Nair with Sarvnik Kaur and Koval Bhatia. Photo: Loudspeaker Media

It was a double treat for Sarvnik Kaur’s Sundance winner documentary, Against the Tide, which won top awards at two prestigious film festivals on the same day, November 4. The film won the ‘Golden Gateway Award’ at the 23rd Jio MAMI Mumbai International Film Festival and the ‘Best Documentary Film’ at the Asia-Pacific Screen Awards 2023.

The film has won 10 awards so far, including a special Jury prize in Vérité Filmmaking at Sundance Film Festival 2023, the UN Perception Change Award at Visions du Réel 2023, the Grand Jury Prize in the Documentary Competition at Seattle IFF 2023, the Sustainable Future Award at Sydney IFF 2023 and the Best Feature Award at Ice Docs 2023. It recently won Best Documentary at the International South Asian Film Festival Canada.

Against the Tide was the only documentary selected among 14 features in the South Asia Competition section. The 97-minute film in Koli, Marathi and Hindi language is about two friends, both Koli (fishermen) from Mumbai, who are driven to desperation by a dying sea. Mumbai fishermen Rakesh and Ganesh are inheritors of the great Koli knowledge system—a way to harvest the sea by following the moon and the tides. Rakesh has kept faith in the traditional fishing methods, while Ganesh has moved away from them, embracing technology. Against the Tide is a tale of deep friendship and rising resentment between the two men, against the backdrop of a sea that is increasingly turning hostile because of climate change. Their friendship begins to fracture as they take very different paths to provide for their struggling families.

Excited about the awards, National Award-winning filmmaker Sarvnik Kaur says, “Last night was something special for Against the Tide. We are so honored and humbled to receive these awards. It’s not just recognition of the craft and years of toil by my crew but also of the heroic efforts by the Kolis to live in this apathetic city with dignity and pride. This award is not mine: it belongs to Ganesh, Rakesh and all the other Kolis who persevere with their ancestral value systems and give us the space to call this city our home.”

Producer Koval Bhatia adds, “We are absolutely thrilled to receive the recognition from these incredible institutions: both MAMI and APSA play such an important role in cinema as platforms. We hope the tide continues to turn for Indian non-fiction and independent cinema, and that these awards help our film reach more audiences. We’re excited for where this journey takes us next.”

The film has been edited by Atanas Georgiev (Honeyland) and Blagoja Nedelkovki and Moinak Bose is the sound designer. Igor Vasilev has done the music. It is produced by Snooker Club Films and A Little Anarky Films in co-production with Les Films de l’Œil Sauvage with the support of International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), Doc Society Climate Story Fund, Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, Catapult Film Fund, Chicken & Egg Pictures, the Sundance Institute, SFFILM, AlterCine Foundation, Région Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in collaboration with the CNC and Procirep Angoa.

Says Sarvnik Kaur, “I am often told that Against the Tide looks like ‘life itself’ and it is not to my credit alone. This film was made possible because of the collaboration I found in Ganesh, Rakesh, their spouses, family members and the entire Koli community that gave me a chance to bear witness, so together we could meditate on how the collective narrative of our times is formed of multitudes of singular narratives of trauma. To the backdrop of a dying sea and an indifferent metropolis, this film is an ode to the Kolis of Mumbai and their very heroic act of living life with dignity, courage, love and forgiveness in the face of an all-pervasive adversity called climate change.”

Sarvnik is a documentary filmmaker whose work takes a skeptical stance towards the ‘grand narratives’ of modernism and ‘Scientific Certainties’. Made of moments that hide anxiety and conflict just beneath the surface of the normal and the mundane, her films speak of the predicament of being human in our times. Her first film Soz – A Ballad of Maladies was awarded the 64th National Award for Best Debut Direction besides bagging the Best Film at IDSFFK 2017 and the Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film at the Film South Asia 2018.

Her films have been part of several Ph.D. theses of film scholars at New York University, Harvard University, JawaharLal University, Tata Institute of Social Sciences etc. She is a HotDocs Accelerator Lab, Chicken & Eggs Eggcelerator lab and IDFA Academy fellow, and her films have been supported by Catapult Film Fund, Sundance Documentary Fund, San Francisco Film Fund, IDFA Bertha Fund etc.

Koval Bhatia is a filmmaker and producer based in India. She has been heading A Little Anarky Films for 12 years, during which time she has directed and produced commercials, documentaries and TV shows. She began her journey as an international producer with Against the Tide, which she has pitched at multiple markets and forums across the world. Her short documentary as director and producer, titled She Run The World, premiered at The Smithsonian and at Hot Docs Canada. She is currently a Getting Real Fellow at the International Documentary Association (IDA) and a Hessenlab Talent.

A graduate from Eurodoc and a recipient of the Emerging Producer’s Bursary from the World Congress for Science and Factual Producers, Koval’s work has been supported by Sundance Documentary Fund, Hot Docs, Catapult Film Fund, Docs By The Sea, SFFILM, Al Jazeera, and DOKLeipzig. She is currently serving as Chair of Jury at the IDA Awards and as a mentor with In-Docs.



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