UMSI professor’s doc premieres at Venice Film Festival
For the Love of a Man, a documentary produced by assistant professor Joyojeet Pal that explores the culture of fandom surrounding South Indian movie stars, has been selected to premiere at the 72nd Venice Film Festival.
Produced by Pal and directed by Amsterdam-based filmmaker Rinku Kalsy, the documentary examines the importance of movie idols in South India and the socio-economic forces fueling a culture of ardent fans.
“Fandom is a very complex phenomenon,” Pal said. “People easily take fandom for something crazy, but there is a lot of social, economic and political explanation for why we see fandom in India the way we do. The inspiration was to try and understand how these various factors—ranging from devotional practices that derive from the Bhakti tradition to political practices that originate in the Dravidian movement in Tamil Nadu—play a role in the evolution of fandom.”
The documentary centers on the fandom of South Indian superstar Rajnikanth who is celebrated for his roles as the everyman in Tamil cinema and for his personal journey from bus conductor to India’s top-earning film star.
The film, delivered in the style of Tamil cinema, follows the lives of Rajnikanth fans including a small-town politician, a peanut seller and former gangster and a Rajnikanth imitator.
“I wanted to find out more about these men whose devotion, obsession and fandom for the actor stopped at nothing," Pal said. "The documentary shows us that there is no one way to be a fan. It is a look at the lives of real people to explore why they do what they do.”
The documentary will premiere in the Venice Classics category alongside a selection of restored classics and documentaries.
"To find the work recognized at the top venue in the world is an incredible honor,” Pal said. “This is the first time a Tamil-language documentary has been selected for a world premiere at the festival, so we are very hopeful that this ends up being an important moment for regional-language documentary cinema in India.”
The Venice Film Festival, which aims to promote international films, cinematic freedom and dialogue, will be held September 2-19, 2015.