WRITING ON THE WALL
Director:Aditi Sharma, India
The series looks at contemporary street artists in the backdrop of their local socio-political conflicts and investigates how provocative street art in these countries is giving rise to a new language of resistance.
From its origins in New York, the politics of street art hasn’t changed. Uprooted by war, hounded by governments, silenced by force, repressed voices, with their backs against the walls are still picking up spray paints and unapologetically re-claiming public spaces. ‘Writing on the Wall’ is a series that documents such unrelenting voices across the globe, responding to their clarion call to challenge the status quo.
The series visits different countries in different episodes and profiles street artists, whose subversive art has broken away from the regular tropes of the assertion of the writer’s personal identity and assumed the role of the voice of a state’s body politic. It further investigates the various social, political or economic conditions that have influenced or triggered their art.
The first episode features Zulkarnaen Othman from Singapore. A national award winning artist and head of an art collective RSCLS, Zul has been the most fierce advocate of street art in his country and one of the loudest voice against the stringent censorship laws and racial profiling prevalent in Singapore. The second episode features Tyler from India who navigates the streets and policemen of Mumbai suburbs to leave satirical pieces of art, sometimes combined with powerful words on the walls of the city. His provocative Banksy-style art pieces have been laying bare the social and economic inequality in India and at the same time calling out politicians for being complicit in the rising intolerance and polarisation of its people. The third episode is about Arcadia Blank who has been creating thought provoking textual interventions at unusual places across the country. His short but profound musings fight the delusions of grandeur of a city known for its consumerism and architectural excesses, consciously placing his work on construction elements. Arcadia, often poetically, denounces the society’s misguided notions of happiness and questions the city’s cultural identity and those who live in it.
The other episodes too, carry similar stories from other parts of the world. Bleeps from Greece, TvBoy from Spain, Shamsia Hassani from Afghanistan and Yazan Halwani from Lebanon offer the audience their perspective on the conflicted world around them. From economic inequality to ideological conflicts, from wars to political corruption, these artists are taking on the system, one mural at a time.
An important theme that the series explores is how this art has made itself relevant to the world around them and what are the kind of risks these artists take to stir political and social dialogues.
2019 was a dangerously eventful year for Indians. We witnessed the rise of a fascist regime and the large scale violations of basic and constitutional rights of citizens across the country. Many days, I found myself on the streets, along with thousands of others who came out to protest against the divisive policies of their government. We chanted slogans for freedom and carried banners full of poetry and art work. Resistance was now in the streets and so was its art.
It was around the same time that I was pursuing a documentary on the art and dissent of Zul Othman. But as I witnessed more artists who were risking their safety and their lives in India and across the world, I had a strong urge to document more of them. For their issues might have been different but their art spoke to me in a language that I understood well. It was the same way Indians invoked revolutionary Pakistani poet Faiz and Indian poet Amir Aziz’s poem “Everything will be remembered…” resonated with Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters.
Some of these artists, operating under the radar, would not find their art being catalogued. And a few years later their work would be lost in the vast digital sea of content. For these reasons, I feel compelled to move into action and bring their stories out in the world. So they may inspire dialogue and dissent in a world.
Beginning her career with writing sports stories in 2005, Aditi Sharma has played many roles since. She has been a cinematographer and co-producer on two features, been associated with award winning docu-films, started her own production company, formed an independent film festival and co-founded a pathbreaking travel technology start-up.
Aditi started her journey in media post her Bachelor’s in Mass Communication from the University of Delhi. While she started out as an intern in Zee Sports, she soon started writing and producing stories. However, her keen interest in cinematography led her to the prestigious Film and Television Institute of India where she studied cinematography in 2005-6. While she was in Delhi, she scripted, directed and shot many corporate and documentary films. Her directorial debut, “Winning Mindset” won the Creative Excellence Award at ICFAI. In Mumbai, she broke gender barriers with her first feature “Tikli and Laxmi Bomb” that won several international awards including the Best Film at Berlin Independent Film Festival. Aditi was the cinematographer and co-producer on the film. Her second film “Tottaa Pataka Item Maal” also screened at many festivals. Both films released on Netflix. Aditi started her own company Crimson Palette and has written/produced several shorts and corporate films. Her love for travel has led to the formation of a traveling film festival called Wanderlust and a video discovery start-up called ’The Unknown Planet’ for which she has has directed and shot over 3,000 hours of content.
(subject to travel restrictions due to Covid-19 and availability of subjects)
Pitching – August 2020-November 2020
The series is being pitched at various platforms currently. If selected, the series would also be participating in Astra Lab (Romania) and One World Media (UK) Incubator Labs in October and at IDFA Pitch Forum in November 2020.
The series is anticipated to finish its pitching rounds by November 2020 post which I’m hoping there would either be a producer or network attached to the series.
Pre production (Research and scripting) – December 2020-January 2021
Production (Recce, Shoot) – February 2021-June 2021
Post production (Music, edit, sound designing, color grading, VFX) – July 2021-October 2021
Funding – Alternatively, if by November 2020, I’m unable to finalise a producer or a network, I would try to raise separate grants for development, production and post production for the series.
Budget – 125,000 USD for 5 episodes
The project is currently in development/pitching stage. I’m seeking funding/production support from Co-producers/Executive Producers/Financiers. I’m also seeking a broadcast deal with a television/digital network. The project has pitched at Doc Edge New Zealand 2020, Cedoc Co-production Market DocLab Poland 2020 & is a semifinalist at IDFA Pitch Forum 2020 (final results awaited). It was also the semifinalist at the Sundance Episodic Lab 2020 and has been selected as a part of the online catalogue of Pitch the Doc. It has secured Women Make Movies as its fiscal sponsor in case of funding in the USA.