Trees Under the Sun (2019) is a story about a Dalit family and their experiences, struggling to survive and make ends meet. The film also highlights how the socially backward communities in India face caste discrimination in their daily life even today.
A Dalit family comprising of a man, his wife, and their son, live on a backwater island in Kerala. During a heavy rainy season, their small house submerges in the floodwater. The family who lost their house and properties in the flood and eventually lost their job sets for Himachal Pradesh to work as guards for an apple orchard. They reside in a small house in the lone apple orchard in the middle of the Himalayan Mountains; the place, the language, and the culture, all being totally unfamiliar to that family.
With the changing seasons like winter, autumn, and summer, this film depicts the life of common people struggling hard with these seasons and nature to make a living.
108 Minutes | Malayalam | Drama | 2019 | India
In its persistent mission and zeal to promote good cinema, the Indian Film Institute brings you the experience of the Director of the film - Bijukumar Damodaran
Why this subject matter for your film?
This is the story of homeless people. In our country, many marginalized people have no land or home as their own. This is a reality existing in India. Especially for many Dalit families, still home is a dream that they cant make real. Also still in this so-called developed community, the people from lower castes have been experiencing a social outcast considering their cast and colour. These are realities and we can't deny this. That's why this subject became important.
Where did you find this story for this film? I personally know many people who belong to the Dalit community and do not have a home or land of their own. Since I am also from a Dalit community, I know very well the gravity of these issues. The story developed from some realities mixed up with some fiction elements.
What were the challenges you faced in making the film?
The film was shot in different climates. We waited for one and a half year to get all the seasons to portrait the film. The spring, summer and winter season in Himachal Pradesh, the rainy season in Kerala. So these were very difficult portions to shoot. The locations both in Himachal Pradesh and Kerala are in remote places. In Himachal, the house was situated on a remote hill and the whole crew needed to walk up about 3 Kilometre by carrying all the shoot equipments. Also in Kerala, the house was in a marshy place in the midst of an island. Shoot during the rainy season was too difficult. The winter season shot in Himachal was also very difficult. The crew from the south are not used to the winter season so the shoot in heavy winter was also a difficult one in Himachal.
Did you face any problems in releasing the film? As usual, the art-house movies are very difficult to get a theatre release in Kerala. The film has been released in Kerala in few theatres and at the same time had a release at few major cities across India.
What was your background before making your first film? I am a Homoeopathic medical doctor by profession. Still working with the government at administrative level, working as District Medical Officer. Before making my debut film in 2005, I did not have any previous experience with film. I was a regular viewer of international films at Kerala international Film Festival. That was the only link with cinema I had. By seeing the films from masters and by seeing many international classic films, I realized that film is not a medium for just entertainment, but it can be used as a social tool, political expression and artistic realization. That's how I wanted to make a film and eventually became a filmmaker.
How do you think filmmakers like you can overcome common challenges like finance and distribution?
It's a very difficult part. Sensible producers who know the art and politics of films need to make every artistic film. Searching and finding the right producer is very important for our film. Regarding the distribution, the international festival market is a good option, if the films can enter in a major international film festival. Distribution for art house films in Kerala is actually we can count as Zero possibility. In Kerala, if a film recognized in a festival or got an award like a national award or any festival, then the theatre, TV, and yes the people too said that "Oh this is a good cinema, So we don't want it". This is the real situation in Kerala for all the independent art-house films. And this is a sad reality in Kerala. I am ashamed to say this, but this is the reality. Not even the government supports these acclaimed artistic films in Kerala.
Meet the Director - Bijukumar Damodaran aka Dr. Biju
Bijukumar Damodaran, known mononymously as Dr Biju, is an Indian Film Director and Screenwriter.
3-time recipient of the Indian National Film Award, he is considered as one of the most important contemporary voices in Indian cinema. He is one of the rare film directors in India who is always raising his voice openly for social justice, gender equality, environmental problems and about issues surrounding people of marginalized communities. He has been invited as a member of the jury in many well-known film festivals across the world.
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