Achyutanand Dwivedi’s victory at Cannes Film Festival marks a milestone for India

Achyutanand Dwivedi’s victory at Cannes Film Festival marks a milestone for India
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It was a challenging yet interesting task since the guidelines instructed filmmakers to shoot on vertical format instead of the regular horizontal format.

In the three-minute short film, ‘Seed Mother’, Achyutanand Dwivedi follows around Rahibai Soma Popere, who explains the need of agro-biodiversity in a time when the health of people as young 20 is under jeopardy. Dwivedi’s three-minute long film not only helped Rahibai’s story reach a global audience but also earned the filmmaker the third prize in Nespresso Talents 2019. A prestigious award held annually as part of the Cannes Critics’ Week, the award ceremony helps encourage new perspectives in filmmaking. In its fourth year, it is a contest limited to the films that are shot in a vertical 9/16 video format.

Dwivedi’s film appeared in this year’s theme, ‘We Are What We Eat’, which aims at exploring the concepts like diversity, cultural knowledge, and experiences through food. Rahibai, who has a deep understanding of crop diversity, put her knowledge to use in order to create a nursery of Blackberry with over 4000 seedlings. She then established a nursery of hyacinth beans (9 types)-5000 seedlings, rice, vegetables, and shared them with 210 farmers in 7 villages of Akole Block. As a member of Kalsubai Parisar Biyanee Samvardhan Samiti, Akole, she has established a community seed bank in her own house for conservation and revival of crop diversity and wild food resources.

‘Seed Mother’ in its limited three-minutes records Rahibai’s motivation to take forward the initiative she had taken almost 10-years-ago. In the film she explains that with the increasing diseases among young Indians, it is necessary our diet is well maintained. She puts forward the importance of farming which is often ignored by the residents of urban spaces, and as the film moves forward she explains how she is trying to create an awareness about healthy diet. As we hear Rahibai’s voice in the background, the vertical frame spans around the edges of seeds and crops taking us deeper into a venture which continues to remain unknown in a so-called developing world.

The film picks up on the theme in a rather contradicting tone, where Dwivedi subtly points out the need to switch to proper diet which continues to remain an ignored factor among people in the cities. Due to the compulsion of shooting the film in a vertical frame, Dwivedi was able to focus on what was more important and the film maintained a focused structure throughout. During a conversation with Anupama Chopra for Film Companion, Dwivedi mentioned that it was the vertical format which had excited him the most. He said, “When we shoot we make our eyes travel from left to right...when you narrow down the frame from left and right, you get a lot of space on top and bottom. You can use that to move the eyes from top to bottom...not only visually but also conceptually.” The format has motivated Dwivedi to pick up more such works that rely on it, and he is also planning on working on a full length documentary. He has explained, “I see myself doing experiential documentaries to express myself through interesting themes and subjects.”

Dwivedi’s win at the Nespresso Talents 2019 is a big win for India since it is the only trophy that has come home this year from Cannes. Other than Dwivedi who won the third position, the contest was won by New Zealand's Josh Morrice for ‘Subak’, about rice cultivation in Bali, while the second prize went to Mexican filmmaker Marco Aurelio Celis'Ruffo’. The contest had received nearly 371 videos from 47 countries on three categories: Farming and Biodiversity, Food Heritage and the Value Chain and Food in Popular Cultures.

Watch Dwivedi’s award winning short film here.