Mumbai: Life has come a full and happy circle for Indian filmmaker Gitanjali Rao. While her animation short film "The Printed Rainbow" had won the Kodak Discovery Award for Best Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, she has now been invited to be on the jury this year.
The 64th Cannes Film Festival runs from May 11 to 22, 2011, and Rao will be on jury of the Kodak Discovery Award for short films.
"I am thrilled to be on the Kodak jury of the Cannes festival," says Rao. The award is presented by the Semaine Internationale de la Critique (SIC, International Critics` Week), a prestigious parallel section of the Cannes festival open only to first and second films.
In fact, it is a double whammy for Rao at Cannes, as her feature animation project "Girgit" has also been selected at the Cinema du Monde pavilion in the Cannes Film Market, which showcases young, emerging directors.
"It is one of 12 projects in development selected from countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America, Middle Eastern countries and Eastern Europe. It`s a like a co-production opportunity sponsored by the Institut Francais and French TV channels, to help filmmakers find producers and promote their works in progress.
"This is a great opportunity for `Girgit`, which was abandoned mid-way in production, by Indian producers for lack of funding. `Girgit` is a survival story, of people you look through in the city but who actually make the city work," she said.
Rao is the first Indian animation film director to be invited on the Kodak Discovery Award jury.
"I`m specially honoured because the Critics` Week completes 50 years this year. It has discovered the films of world renowned directors like Bertolucci, Ken Loach, Amos Gitai, Wong Kar Wai and Alejandro Inarritu, among others," says Rao. Jerzy Skolimowski, senior Polish director, is jury president for the award.
Rao`s "Printed Rainbow", an exquisite, feminist animation film about an old woman and her cat who escape into a dream world inspired by matchbox labels, made a spectacular debut at Cannes in 2006. It scooped up three awards for best short film in the Critics` Week - the Kodak Discovery Award, the Rail d`Or and Young Critics` Award. The film travelled to over 100 international festivals and won 27 awards.
Rao has several promising irons in the fire. In addition to "Girgit", she has worked for a year and a half developing a feature animation film project with Walt Disney Studios India called "Shadows Of the Mahabharat".
"It is a realistic Indian story using puppet animation of two orphan children whose grandfather is in a coma. The children bring traditional leather puppets to life, reunite the family of five leather puppeteers who have migrated to the city, and finally revive the grandfather himself. I did have creative differences with Disney, but eventually they stalled saying that animation films in India do not gross more than Rs.4 crore," she said.
She is also working on an animation short film "Lovestory 2011", "which is a take on the ultimate Bollywood fantasy." It will be an international production, using puppet animation.
"Indian animation is only about 10 years old and, being an expensive medium, needs government support, such as from the NFDC (National Film Development Corporation)," she said.
"It would take 40 artists a month to make four minutes of animation and at least two years to make an animation feature. Even Disney and Pixar took the time and effort to build an audience; we need to invest in doing that too."
Meanwhile, with a-month-and-a- half travelling in Europe to the Cannes Film Festival, Krakow in Poland and the Annecy Film Festival, it`s going to be a great summer for Rao.