A still from Bittu
A still from Bittu

Director Karishma Dev Dube’s Bittu, which was in the race for a nomination at the 2021 Oscars, bagged the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short at the 19th edition of Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA). Karishma Dev Dube is an award-winning filmmaker based in New York. Born and raised in New Delhi, Karishma went to the States to attend the Graduate Film Program at NYU, where she was a Dean’s Fellowship recipient. Her latest film Bittu is also a Student Academy Award Winner and recipient of the inaugural Black Family Prize grant and Reise Award for post-production. Bittu had its North American premiere at Telluride Film Festival and has played at festivals internationally, including the BFI London Film Festival, Palm Springs Shortfest, and Short Shorts Asia Film Festival.

“Bittu is inspired by an infamous school poisoning that took place in India in 2013. The film is less about why and how the poisoning happened; instead, it explores a child’s experience suddenly and senselessly thrown into such peril. At its heart, the film is about a fierce sense of loyalty and friendship held by a young girl who is punished for her individuality and somehow saved by it,” said the director.

Children must be allowed to be themselves. Even though they could be adamant at times, one should make more room in the collective psyche of the family space to let them speak their minds. The shorts jury, which included Tanuj Chopra, Nik Dodani and Sakina Jaffrey, hailed the film as “riveting and compelling”.

Her first film, Devi, premiered at BFI London Film Festival before playing 56 international film festivals, including Edinburgh Film Festival, Frameline, Palm Springs ShortFest, LA Film Festival, and Outfest LA where it won the Grand Jury Prize for Best Short Film. When asked about the IFFLA feat the director said, “IFFLA feels like family ever since I attended the festival back in 2017. I’m looking forward to being back in person someday. At its heart however the film centres on the friendship between two girls and how it is tested on this day at school.

Karishma Dev Dube
Karishma Dev Dube

“I developed the film for about two years before spending two months trying to cast it in 2018-2019. A year and a half of editing later, I had a film that was a proof of every team member’s amazing work. I was grateful to work with talented people through the process,” she added.

To be a director whose film was also in the race for Oscars, what were the expectations. “We were grateful to receive that kind of validation for our film. Most of all, the lifespan it has given this short, the access to a larger audience, it’s what most filmmakers dream of,” she pointed out.

Are short films going to be the order of the day now? “I think short films are a necessity for filmmakers trying to make work with limited resources. I also think they’ve always been around. Maybe now there’s a growing audience and larger platforms for shorter content. It’s a positive development,” she signed off.

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