In 2016, talented homegrown comic artist, animator and filmmaker, Ishan Shukla, through an absurdist and fantastical lens, unveiled his sharply political vision set in a dystopian society through an animated short film titled Schirkoa: In Lies We Trust. It is based on his graphic novel. The film's brilliance garnered several international accolades such as the Best Animated Short award at the LA Shorts Festival and had the honor of being a rare phenomenon where an Indian short was longlisted for the Academy Awards. Ishan’s project did not end there. Over the years, the graphic novel turned short film evolved into a full-length 103-min feature film, and a couple of days ago, it made its World Premiere at the prestigious 53rd International Film Festival of Rotterdam (IFFR), which began on the 25th of January this and will continue till the 4th of February.
Now, what makes Schirkoa so unique? It has to be the themes it explores. For most parts, science fiction narratives in filmmaking have been more of a Western endeavor. But Ishan, as an Indian animator, is changing that. The film is set in a dystopian world that is inspired by Ishan’s metaphorical reaction to the world we live in today. The entire cinematic world consists of just two nations which comprise a diverse amalgamation of cultures, identities, and languages. Schirkoa is a multi-cultural and multi-lingual nation that is trying to achieve utmost sophistication and ‘perfection’. In their country, all citizens wear paper bags on their faces to dissolve differences. Codes, instead of names, are written on their foreheads. However, under the veil of perfection, there is often systematic authoritarianism involved.
The second nation, Konthaqa, is less mechanical and more human, vibrant, and romantic. Sometimes it even goes to the brink of irrationality, and eventually chaos. Both nations have thought-provoking ideologies to run their nations and the better alternative can only be subjected to an individual's perception.In this vast backdrop, a personal tale unfolds, tracing the experiences of a humble man whose life takes him to extremes as he navigates the realms of society, spirituality, and family, seeking meaning along the way. Tensions begin to flare when the citizens of Schirkoa begin to hear whispers about this unknown mythical land without face paper bags. Things take a turn dramatically when an anonymous citizen sparks an accidental revolution.
While the thematic political layers of the film are powerful, it is augmented by a cool plethora of voice actors comprising international stalwarts such as contemporary Argentine auteur Gaspar Noé, Italian actress Asia Argento, Iranian-French actress Golshifteh Farahani, French singer & actress SoKo and Montreal-born garage rocker King Khan, with appearances by directors Lav Diaz, Karan Johar and Shekhar Kapur. The 2D/3D film is elevated to the next level by an eclectic and immersive soundtrack composed by the renowned Sneha Khanwalkar, the brains behind iconic compositions for films like Gangs of Wasseypur and Oye Lucky Lucky Oye.
Schirkoa: In Lies We Trust has been co-produced by France's Dissidenz Films, India's Red Cigarette Media, Germany's Rapid Eye Movies, and Mumbai- and London-based Civic Studios. New Europe Film Sales is in charge of international rights.
Ishan’s incisive Orwellian political commentary through a Blade Runner meets Star Wars alchemy of psychedelic visuals was a film that was an absolute treat to watch over the weekend. Once it finishes making its rounds in the film festival, be sure to watch it as soon as it releases.
Watch the trailer below:
Follow Ishan Shukla here.
If you enjoyed reading this, here's more from Homegrown: