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The Battalion

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The Battalion

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Aggies bring Indian dance to German film fest

Tarang
Tarang

For former visualization students Jonny Greenwald, Class of 2009, and Shyam Kannapurakkaran, Class of 2010, the path to a career in the film industry started with a school assignment. 
Now poised to screen in Oberhausen, Germany, at the International Short Film Festival, the oldest film festival in the world, “Tarang” is a three-dimensional collage of a traditional Indian dance performed by Aparupa Chatterjee, Class of 2011, combining nine different performances to create a single coherent experience. 
The film also features a musical composition by Ganesh Rao, Class of 2011 and former visualization student.
The former students’ professor Karen Hillier, now a professor emerita of the visualization department, said the initial assignment for the project was to make students aware of the process of observation.
“We were looking at David Hockney’s work with cubism and futurism, talking about multiple points of view for a single piece of work,” Hillier said. “The intention was to make the students aware of how, when you view something in the world, the process of observation is very kinetic. You move your eyes all the time, which is very unlike a still photograph. They don’t represent how our perception works at all.”
Kannapurakkaran, who built the 3-D camera rig to capture the performances, said one of the initial difficulties of making the film was that it wasn’t like anything else.
“The problem was we couldn’t tell anybody what we wanted to make because it hadn’t existed before, so we didn’t have a reference point we could point at and say, ‘It’s going to look like that,’” Kannapurkkaran said. “People thought, ‘Oh, it’s going to look like ‘Avatar,’ which was hilarious because it looks nothing like ‘Avatar.’”
The film, a revision of the original student project, only came about when a proponent of the project, 3-D historian Ray Zone, passed away and the filmmakers felt a tribute was necessary.
“Everybody knew him,” Kannapurkkaran said. “Fortunately I was able to meet him and tell him about my project, and he was at the festival. So I told him about the screening and he said, ‘I’m one of the judges,’ so I was like, ‘Oh.’ It was so scary. After the screening Ray came and said, ‘It’s too short, I want to see more of it, but it’s the most beautiful 3-D film I’ve ever seen.’ Like, what? That was a big compliment. And then Ray passed away in 2012, which was very sad. When he passed, I called up Jonny and said, ‘We need to extend the film for Ray.’”
Greenwald, the film’s director and editor, said it felt strange taking the project international.
“It’s very incremental, those little steps, getting noticed in one film festival, and another,” Greenwald said. “I think that’s the path we’ve been taking. Even though ‘Tarang’ is technically five years old, most people see it as weird and new, so they keep going back to it. It’s got this really long life-span.”
But the journey is more important than the destination, Greenwald said.
“It’s a long and winding road, and I’m very much still on the journey,” Greenwald said. “I’m not trying to think too much about the goal because L.A. is so crazy. There’s this astronomical sort of stardom that just happens. So you never know. I just try to keep it to the point where we’ll continue making stuff, always driving forward.”
The film will be screened April 30-May 5 in Oberhausen, Germany.

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