Nandita Das, the film's director speaks about the MANTO at the Sydney Film Festival: Yesterday was the Australian premiere of MANTO. Sydney is the second stop after the world premiere in Cannes. Somehow, we associate "international" with the Western World or the Far-East but often forget “down under”, a whole continent of diverse people: Australia.
The Sydney Film Festival is a lively, colorful and a welcoming space. I have known its director for the last 10 years. Nashen Moodley, the then director of the Durban film festival had invited me for my first film, Firaaq. The Sydney Film Festival has close to 300 films. During the month of June, the whole city flies the colors of the festival.
I’ve been to Australia twice before. Once to Sydney about 14 years ago and more recently to Perth and the beautiful city of Broome, a scenic beach town with a largely indigenous population. But this time is special; bringing MANTO to the Sydney Film Festival for the Sydneysiders. I was curious to see what kind of reception it would get.
When I reached the State Theatre, the venue for the special presentation of MANTO, I was awed by the magnificent architecture of 1929. A mix of Gothic, Neoclassical and Baroque styles, it was the perfect setting to screen MANTO. It was encouraging to see long lines outside the theatre and overwhelming to see a packed house with a capacity of 2000 seats. While it was largely a local “white” audience, there were also South-Asian faces that I saw as I introduced the film.
Unlike Cannes, there is a Q&A with the director after every screening. It is the best way to know how the audience feels and if the film resonates. Otherwise, you only get very short and at times superficial feedback as people walk out of the theatre.
After the film, when I came back on stage, it was heartwarming to see a very genuine collective applause for the film. We then moved on to an interaction of frank and nuanced questions and discussions. Today is a sold-out show and I look forward to the screening and to the new questions it may bring with it.
NANDITA DAS AT SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL