Curated by Deepti Rao
This week THECULTUREAGENDA brings to you ‘Birds of a Feather’, a selection of two short documentaries, TUNGRUS by Rishi Chandna and CUCLI by Xavier Marrades, that explore our relationship with our pets, more specifically pet birds.
I’ve always found it strange that people have birds for pets – usually clipped and caged. But in these films, we see two pet birds that have attained a higher status in the eyes of their owners, though their stories meet quite different ends.
In the bustling suburbs of Mumbai, a rooster has risen in ranks to be the king of a small middle-class household. Tungrus is a hilarious portrait of a family, done in a style reminiscent of a piece of investigative journalism with whodunit-esque interviews of the family members, that eventually leads to the fall of the mighty king.
Let’s be honest, how many of us have spotted a chick or duckling and thought how wonderful it would be to take it home and cuddle? In this is classic example of how very often our expectations fail to meet reality, filmmaker Rishi Chandna uses quick cuts of the rooster in action to build the story. Shot entirely inside the apartment, with a few shots of the surrounding matchbox-style constructions of suburban life, reinforces the bizarreness of having a loud rooster as a pet. The film pushes the buttons by asking the inevitable murky moral question: would you eat your pet?
The second film in the selection is Cucli, an atmospherically shot Catalan language film by Spanish filmmaker Xavier Marrades. On the opposite end of the spectrum from Tungrus, Cucli shows us a special bond between a lonely truck driver, Ramon, and a dove that he saves in the cellar of his house.
Marrades chooses to tell this story through perfectly framed and beautifully lit shots that look like paintings. We see Ramon’s house, his aging parents and him on the road with Cucli perched on his shoulder. As the story unfolds, through the visual language and using tiny elements of fiction, we learn that this bond is more than what meets the eye. For Ramon, Cucli is a loving message from the other side, turning a truck driver into a philosopher.
Both Tungrus and Cucli are part of over 300 documentary films made available by the International Documentary Film Festival of Amsterdam (IDFA) to watch online for free. Hungry for more? Check out the films here