“You just have to LOVE what you are doing and believe in its results, and all of these challenges become joys”.
The art of the documentary is one that requires patience and interest in equally large amounts. Rhythms of the Thar is a colourful examination of liminal cultural spaces in India’s Thar Desert. Looking at tribal customs as they experience birth, rebirth and decay as the world around these former nomads continues to turn a little faster than most of these people can run.
The film is an exploration of tourism, music, self-expression and self-determination for a group of people who are torn between the pull of modernity and its opportunities -limited though they may be for most without a doubt- and the traditions which they have cultivated over generations. This struggle is highlighted as the film weaves it’s way through colourful cities and imposing landscapes. From traditional dress to ancient architecture to the history that determined the flavour of each area visited - nothing is left to the imagination as the filmmakers painstakingly balance the beauty and struggle of the geography and their human subjects alike.
Lebanese filmmaker Karim Baz oversaw the project and was kind enough to share his insight with Decompoz on the experience of capturing life on film.
DECOMPOZ MAGAZINE (DZ): Tell us a little about yourself: could you tell us where you grew up and how you got your start in film.
KARIM BAZ (KB): To me film was always a “beautiful and smooth” way to deliver any kind of message; I believe that creating a film/visual content is simply creating an attractive container for your message, and I found it the best way or the most accepted way that you can use to reach people whose opinions are totally different from yours.
DZ: Can you tell us what drew you towards documentaries specifically?
KB: After working in the Cinematography field for many years in Lebanon, I decided to start a travel journey, that does not have an ending date, and after I embarked on it, I started to realise that a big number of people and communities, hidden here and there, don’t have the opportunity to give their opinions, to deliver any message. As a filmmaker, I thought of producing documentary films that could be the voice of these people, where they can shout and scream through and reach people who otherwise would never even know they existed.
DZ: Documentaries are all about exposing new places, ideas and stories to a wider audience, how do you want this audience to feel when they see your work?
KB: Mainly, as Triple One productions, what we are always trying to do is to not “want” the audience to feel in any specific way, and this is why we do not really include our point of view in any of the projects, so what we focus on more is to transmit/copy the real situations as they are in terms of content, but through beautiful imagery after a deep research even about the characters themselves, so we do our job and keep the rest open for each individual to feel and think and realize what reflects his very own mentality, thoughts and background.
DZ: This particular film is so linked to its location; what were some of the joys and challenges of filming in areas that aren’t fully developed?
KB: As TOP team, we have a personal relationship with India which made us spend a lot of time there, and be attracted to produce two documentaries there; but yeah, we cannot ignore that, dealing with people who do not speak your language is never easy, trying to organize schedules is beyond complicated and travelling in remote areas where facilities do not exist is always a challenge, but the trick is very simple, you just have to LOVE what you are doing and believe in its results, and all of these challenges become joys, maybe not at the moment, but after you realize what you learned from them or when you watch your final film for the first time.
DZ: The film features women and children forming small or large groups in many shots, were these shots easy to coordinate or happen organically?
KB: Actually, we did not create these set ups, we just saw them… but definitely, a group of people sitting in the ground, will never be looking at one lens by coincidence, and here comes the role of our production manager, to help a bit orienting them by asking one of the kids to look at the camera for example and stuff like that but as long as we do not need our characters to look to the camera, we just take their permissions to film, nothing is manipulated.
The Thar Desert, also known as the Great Indian Desert, is a large, arid region in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent that forms a natural boundary between India and Pakistan. It is the world's 17th largest desert, and the world's 9th largest subtropical desert. About 85% of the Thar Desert is in India, and the remaining part in Pakistan. In India, it covers about 320,000 km2 (120,000 sq mi), of which 60% is in Rajasthan and extends into Gujarat, Punjab, and Haryana. This desert comprises a very dry part, the Marusthali region in the west, and a semidesert region in the east with fewer sand dunes and slightly more precipitation. [Reference: Wikipedia]
DZ: Ultimately what would you like people to take away from the film?
KB: First, I would like people to know what is going on, what is the reality; On the other hand, I really want people, from wherever they are, to take a break, and think of the traditions and cultures and indigenous communities that are fading away, and I would definitely like if each person can just think if he/she is involved in letting these things happen in a direct or indirect way, and act accordingly.
DZ: In your opinion, what is the role of a filmmaker in today’s society?
KB: Well, this field is wide enough to absorb a huge number of people worldwide, and I see many things in common for sure, but many things that are really different as well between fiction and factual films.
As a documentary filmmaker, I think the role of a filmmaker in this side of the field is to deliver a transparent, artistic and objective message about a specific topic, in a way that a man using 13% of his brain capacities, or a cave man, can understand the message perfectly and then decode it the way it suits them, not the filmmaker.
DZ: What are your plans for the future? I understand you’re currently in Cambodia, are there any upcoming plans or projects you’d like your audience to be looking out for?
KB: We are in Cambodia now working on the pre-production of a feature length documentary film that will highlight the rise of the traditional art scene in Cambodia, after the genocide of the Khmer Rouge happened. It will be a bit different than our latest projects, in terms of structure and concept as well as distribution, but our signature, “our objectivity” will be our main focus as it is in our other projects.
Our projects are being streamed now on many international online platforms, like Amazon prime, Hulu, Vimeo on Demand, Realeyz, Docurama as well as other digital platforms and linear players.