Culture Review: Banned Film, Lost Dutch Masterpiece, Books for Mental Health and More

An eclectic selection of arts and culture news from India and around the world.

Jayan Cherian. Credit: Youtube

Jayan Cherian. Credit: Youtube

Jayan Cherian’s Ka Bodyscapes blocked by CBFC

The Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) has denied clearance to a new film by New York-based Malyali poet and filmmaker Jayan Cherian. The CBFC claims that Ka Bodyscapes contains “sensitive gay scenes, use of derogatory words against women, and vulgar dialogues.” Cherian is best known for his film Papilio Buddha (2013), about Dalit oppression in Kerala, which was also only cleared by the CBFC with difficulty. Listen to him discussing Papilio Buddha with students here.

Goutam Ghose’s Sankhachil released simultaneously in India and Bangladesh

Goutam Ghose’s new partition-based film Sankhachil (“Boundless”) was released in both India and Bangladesh on the Bengali new year, April 14, reports PTI. Prosenjit Chatterjee, a producer and the lead in the film, said that Sankhachil will help revive “content-rich cinemas in different genres on both sides of the border” and “open new frontiers for filmmakers of both West Bengal and Bangladesh who equally suffer due to limited audiences and geographical barriers.” Co-producer Habibur Rahman Khan of Bangladesh said the venture serves as a model for further projects of European-style collaboration. Watch the trailer here.

Pakistani directors demand Bollywood ban

Al Jazeera reports that a group of Pakistani film producers and distributors has motioned the Lahore high court for banning Bollywood films in Pakistan. They say that Bollywood films are a threat because fewer middle-class Pakistanis are watching local films.

Documentarian A. J. Schnack. Credit: Twitter

Documentarian A. J. Schnack. Credit: Twitter

Each US mass shooting makes this documentary

The documentarian A. J. Schnack has created a simple but powerful, 14-minute documentary called Speaking is Difficult, about US mass shootings. The film juxtaposes recent footage of sites where shootings have occurred with audio of the calls made to the police at the time. Schnack plans to add new footage and audio each time a shooting occurs. According to The New York Times, an average of one shooting a day occurred in the US in 2015. The title of the film, Schnack explains, reflects one of its aims, which is to highlight the lack of a national conversation in the US about mass shootings. Read more and watch the documentary here.

“New Rembrandt” unveiled in Amsterdam 

A “New Rembrandt” was unveiled on Tuesday April 5, at the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, reports The Guardian.

But it wasn’t the Dutch master who painted this masterpiece. It was created by computers. A team of data scientists, developers, engineers and art historians from organisations including Microsoft, Delft University of Technology, the Mauritshuis in the Hague and the Rembrandt House Museum in Amsterdam collaborated to develop a software, using more than 168,263 Rembrandt painting fragments, that then created a facial recognition algorithm. The final 3D painting consists of more than 148 million pixels.

“If you look at how music has embraced the computer, why doesn’t that happen in visual arts?” asks Bas Korsten, who thought up the project.

Carvaggio masterpiece discovered in France

A Carvaggio painting found in an attic in Toulouse, France, is creating rifts in the art world, reports The New York Times. The painting, which is of “Judith Beheading Holofernes,” is valued at more than 120 million euros and is awaiting a buyer.

However, experts have not agreed on whether the painting is actually by Michelangelo Merisi da Carvaggio, who worked in Rome, Naples, Malta and Sicily between around 1592 and 1610, or the Flemish copyist Louis Finson. The Louvre museum has been researching the painting for the past two years but has also not reached a conclusion.

Orhan Pamuk, whose A Strangeness in my Mind has been shortlisted for the 2016 International Man Booker Prize. Credit: Wikipedia

Orhan Pamuk, whose A Strangeness in my Mind has been shortlisted for the 2016 International Man Booker Prize. Credit: Wikipedia

2016 International Man Booker prize announced

The 2016 International Man Booker prize shortlist consists of six novels from Turkey, China, Italy, South Korea, Austria and Angola, narrowed down from an original 155 contenders. The winner will be announced in June.

Judges called Elena Ferrante’s The Story of a Lost Child “a veritable feast.” Despite her international fame, Ferrante has never been publicly identified. She interacts with her translator only through her publisher.

Yan Lianke’s The Four Books is set in a labour camp before and during the 1950s famine in China. The novel, which took Lianke 20 years to plan, was banned in China at the time of its publication.

Here’s the full shortlist:

A General Theory of Oblivion, Jose Eduardo Agualusa (Angola)

The Story of the Lost Child, Elena Ferrante, translated by Ann Goldstein (Italy)

The Vegetarian, Han Kang, translated by Deborah Smith (South Korea)

The Four Books, Yan Lianke, translated by Carlos Rojas (China)

A Strangeness in My Mind, Orhan Pamuk, translated by Ekin Oklap (Turkey)

A Whole Life, Robert Seethaler, translated by Charlotte Collins (Austria)

Books as prescription for mental health

Now, doctors in the UK can prescribe books to their teenaged patients who suffer from mental health problems. A new project by the agency Reading Well for Young People exploits the healing powers of reading: it provides doctors, counselors and school nurses with a list of 35 fiction and non-fiction titles that they can suggest to their patients. Reading Well estimates that one in every 10 teenagers in the UK suffers from mental illness in one form or another.