A filmmaker’s attempt to bring a rare tribal dance routine to the fore with her documentary — Gusadee

Posted on 30 August, 2017 by Team Wishberry


There are numerous tribes in India who till date practise their age-old culture and routine untouched by the modern world! Each one of these tribal groups has a mesmerising distinctive language, customs and routine. One such tribe — the Gonds and their dance form Gusadee, caught the notice of an independent filmmaker, who instantly made capturing and immortalising this art form her mission.

Jennifer Alphonsse is a passionate filmmaker from Hyderabad who has worked on 3 films so far, and has travelled to numerous National and International festivals with them. She currently is raising funds on Wishberry for her documentary film Gusadee.

Tell us a bit about yourself.

Jennifer: Ahh! What do I say... Almost all my childhood I’ve been dreaming to tell stories, to work in movies or television. Either tell a story through a feature film, a documentary or a music video… anything. I simply love to tell stories.

One of my favourite films growing up was a Telugu film called Sagarasangamam, a very inspiring film; Kamal Hassan played a dancer who is a big failure in life. But that is not what the film is majorly about. It is about passion, art, and is so inspiring and gripping it literally pushed me to learn Bharatnatyam! (Laughs)

This film changed the way I looked at stories and storytelling, even today I look up to that film, the dance, the way it is shot, it made me realise how powerful this medium is. It can create magic, it can change the world for that matter, not only do films entertain people but also it perfectly captures the essence of life.


What all stories have you worked on, so far?

Jennifer: I started from theatre, then began working as an assistant director for feature films and before I knew it, I had my debut short film, Kachra, making its way to the New York Film Festival, it won 3 State Awards, and a Jury Award at the Hyderabad International Film Festival. Then, my second short film Strangerssss went on to win over 17 International Awards and also was selected at Cannes Short Film Corner. My third film, a feature length documentary The Take Over that focuses on how the digital medium changed the face of Indian Cinema travelled to Cannes Film Festival and won the Royal Reel Award at Canada International Film Festival. I’ve even worked on many ads, music videos, and experimental videos with social reform messages.

So, tell us about Gusadee. What got you to work on this documentary?

Jennifer: Before Telangana split I was planning to work on a documentary on the divide. That’s how I ended up visiting Adilabad, a small district in Telangana where the people of the Gond tribe live. I spent a lot of time with them, was wonderstruck when I witnessed them dance and decided to work on this documentary.

I’ve been associated with them for the past three years now, I want the world to know about them and their rich culture and dance form. But, as it is a documentary and that too on a tribe I couldn’t get many people to come forward and produce the film. The government does lend support, but the amount is not enough to do justice to the standards of what a Nat Geo or a Discovery would expect. To meet those standards I need to spend a little more money, which is why I’ve gotten the project to Wishberry.

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What does it take to shoot a documentary? What kind of preparation do you undergo?

Jennifer: So we have been preparing for almost 2 years now, the Gonds also are well prepped and waiting for us to just come and shoot it already. The process is tedious; one needs to be aware of what is happening so they capture it rightly. A filmmaker can’t just show up with a camera and shoot a documentary. However, there are two ways of doing this, one is putting together a routine by requesting the tribe to perform again and again. And, the other is to place multiple cameras and recording everything and later choosing different shots of the routine.

How big is your team?

Jennifer: (Laughs) …the team is actually very small! Probably 7 of us, but once we’re done with the shoot more work will come in and will need to add more people to the team.

Haha… Ohhh! Are all the team members your friends?

Jennifer: Yes, yes we’re all friends.  We have all put in as much as we could from our own pockets so far.

Why is this so important for you?

Jennifer: After going there, and seeing them, and witnessing people of our land having such deep routed un-documented celebration of culture – I had to record it! Also, we’ve all seen African tribes, North American tribal culture highlighted. People know about them, and take interest in their life, but why, only because someone shot their life and culture and shared it. We can’t complain that no one took interest in the lives of tribe’s from our country; we have all the expertise and equipment we’d need to document. I felt bad about not knowing about the tribe that has been around living in my own state, and took it on myself to record it. And hopefully, someone who is better equipped takes note of them and helps these people out.


Where does Gusadee as a project stand today?

Jennifer: The pre-production is done. The next step would be just going and shooting, the recce is done, preps are done; only shooting needs to commence now. We just have around 2-3 rounds of shooting and editing to be done. Max by Feb I should be ready with the film.

Apart from Gusadee, are you working on anything else at present?

Jennifer: So there is a feature film that is in the process. But Gusadee is priority and is my main focus!

Jennifer has some amazing rewards in store, including a credit as the Associate Producer! Take a look at her campaign page and spread the word.

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