On a rather strange evening, a stack of fictional letters were discovered in a student’s cupboard at the Film & Television Institute of India. The letters addressed to the protagonist’s unnamed lover, L. What they reveal makes up the dreamy yet striking plot of Payal Kapadia’s A Night of Knowing Nothing.
Shot over a five-year period, the film can be best described as a hybrid, containing staged scenes, unrehearsed moments, and archived footage that comes together beautifully in this conundrum of a film.
Defying mainstream tropes of romantic letters written to one’s lover, the letters which form the narration of the story reflect upon the duality of a student’s life in India’s turbulent socio-political climate.
Kapadia quite evocatively captures the powerful moments in the timeline of India’s recent student protests, the inner turmoils and anxieties of being a student in the country, and the adversities that political reforms have posed to the young community.
The film is shot stunningly in textured black and white sequences by cinematographer Ranabir Das. Kapadia’s past experiments with fictive cinema have carved a unique style for her as an artist and storyteller. Her previous works include The Last Mango Before the Monsoon, Afternoon Clouds and And What Is The Summer Saying.
With its abstract yet relevant story that oscillates between the personal, political, and more — Kapadia’s film is highly relevant and important to the times we live in. The film has garnered the attention and support of film festival circuits globally. Her accolades for this particular film include the Golden Eye award at the Cannes Film Festival and the Amplify Voices award at the Toronto Film Festival.
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