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MIFF 2024 Highlights: Ekta Mittal’s ‘Gumnaan Din’ Delves into Migration and Longing

Mumbai: The Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) 2024 featured a profound short fiction film, “Gumnaan Din” (Missing Days), directed by Ekta Mittal. This evocative film, which explores the poignant themes of separation and longing through the lives of migrant workers, was showcased as part of the ‘Berlinale Spotlight: Berlinale Shorts Package’ at MIFF. Originally selected for Berlinale Shorts 2020, “Gumnaan Din” portrays separation as an inevitable part of daily life.

During a press conference at MIFF, Ekta Mittal shared insights into the film’s creation and the deeper narrative it presents. She explained that the film emerged from a long process that began in 2009 with a project titled “Behind the Tin Sheets,” which produced three short films about migrant construction workers. Despite completing these films, Mittal felt that the story was incomplete, leading to the creation of “Gumnaan Din.”

Mittal highlighted the precarious lives of migrant workers, noting how their identities often shift with their surroundings. This theme was further explored in her film “Birha,” inspired by the poetry of Punjabi Sufi poet Shiv Kumar Batalvi, which delves into the mental impact of separation on workers. “Gumnaan Din” builds on this by focusing on the missing days in these workers’ lives, capturing their experiences in an evocative and abstract manner.

“There are many reasons why people choose to go missing,” Mittal noted. “For workers, it’s an isolating experience to be in a labor colony. During the filmmaking process, I stayed with the families of migrant workers and observed that nothing in life or relationships is permanent. The COVID-19 pandemic only confirmed this.”

Reflecting on her Berlinale experience, Mittal described it as overwhelming and humbling, praising the strong curation at the festival. She expressed uncertainty about whether the workers fully understood the film but was confident that they could identify with its themes.

Looking ahead, Mittal remains dedicated to exploring labor and migration issues. Her next project will focus on internal migration within a state, continuing her exploration of worker issues.

“Gumnaan Din” is a 28-minute film presented in Hindi, Punjabi, and Chhattisgarhi. Mittal noted that despite the abstract and poetic nature of short films, they are not necessarily made on small budgets, and viewing time has a limited relationship with costs. She also emphasized that films do not always need to be activism-oriented but can explore emotional aspects in creative ways.

Mittal highlighted the diminishing resources for documentary films and the challenges in promoting them on streaming platforms. “If it goes to festivals, it will get noticed,” she remarked, noting the decline in television popularity. She also mentioned that she never felt the need to showcase her film on multiple platforms to increase viewership but was thrilled when there were organic screening requests from educational institutions and other entities.

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