Tana Bana

(India, Ireland, 2015, 78 mins, DCP)
International Premiere
PROD Rachel Lysaght, Pat Murphy
CAM Shivani Khattar
ED Kyle Haskett
MUS Dan Negovan
PROD CO Underground Films


As technology develops and a global corporate culture continues to emerge, we risk losing local craftsmanship and the beauty it can create. Such beauty is fully on display here, in Pat Murphy’s in-depth look at the craft and business of Indian sari production. Set in the city of Varanasi, this documentary introduces us to the weavers, the traders and the merchants of the traditional gown. There’s some interesting ethnography here; for one, we see Muslim weavers interacting with Hindi traders in an atmosphere of tolerance. The sari is, of course, a wonderful ethnic product, and here we get a look at the garb in all its gorgeous intricacy. On top of this, there are elaborate wedding rituals, a look at the burgeoning feminism in some Varanasi schools, and the ever-present threat to traditional culture that capitalism represents.

Mostly, though, this is a deep-dive into an ancient craft: from dyeing to drying, stretching to weaving, we get an education in the possibilities of creating beauty. There’s a range of methods to making the gown, with the finest hand-woven examples taking one month to produce—and when you see one of them you might decide that it’s too beautiful to wear! Rich in colour, steeped in culture, and full of fascinating detail, this is a fashion movie unlike any you’ve likely seen.

“While rich with luscious shots of fabrics, dye and crumbling architecture, [the film] remains rigorous in its focus on the aesthetics and economics of this ancient industry.”—Irish Times

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Website: undergroundfilms.ie