IN SEPTEMBER 2009, Ambarien Alqadar started filming, rather obsessively, her father’s descent into Alzheimer’s. His memory contained clues to her family history, a history she desperately intended to save. As he narrated the last fragments that remained, a recurring image stood out in her mind—of him sitting with her mother by a sea one afternoon, her mother wearing red bellbottom pants.
The Ghetto Girl (2011), Alqadar’s new documentary, opens with a shot of a woman in red bellbottoms, big sunglasses, a red rose in her hair and black high-heeled pumps. She traipses about a park, stopping only to pose for a camera, the outlines of those in the background blurring. The Ghetto Girl is a the story of an imaginary girl looking for a lost home movie, a search that takes her into a maze of lanes in Jamia Nagar, which the documentary calls India’s ‘Little Pakistan’, and which she calls home. The film, which Alqadar describes as an exploration into what it means to be a Muslim in India today, is funded by the Public Service Broadcasting Trust (PSBT) and was screened as part of Open Frame 2011, PSBT’s 11th annual film festival that ran from 9-17 September.
For a decade, PSBT, a nongovernmental, not-for-profit trust, has worked to democratise the media and render mainstream the independent documentary. It supports the production of 100 documentary films a year that are independent of the state and of private enterprise. Every year, it delivers 52 of these films to the national broadcaster, Doordarshan, and, over the last decade, its annual festival has evolved into an invigorating platform for spotlighting sociopolitical concerns. To mark their 10th anniversary, 2011’s Open Frame focused on PSBT-funded films—both those produced over the past year, and a retrospective of those produced over the past decade.