With his documentary on three blind chess players ready for public screening, Ian McDonald hopes the local audience will connect with it
Working on Algorithms taught Ian McDonald several things. But the first lesson he recollects is, “in the land of the blind, the sighted are at a disadvantage.” This British sociologist and short filmmaker has been making “observational-style documentaries” since 2006 and has a keen interest on the subject of sports with a difference. And when he witnessed the talent at a blind chess championship in Mumbai, back in 2009, he knew he had to tell the stories of these young players. So after four years of following three of them from their hometowns to tournaments across the world (Serbia to Sweden and Greece), Algorithms, McDonald’s first feature documentary, was screened at the International Film Festival of India in Goa. Since then, it has made an appearance at 30 international film festivals across the globe. Among the awards it has won is the Ram Bahadur Trophy for Best Film at the 9th Film South Asia (FSA) festival in Kathmandu, Nepal, and also a nomination for the Grierson Award, that’s considered the Oscars of the short film world.
Even The Hollywood Reporter has called McDonald’s documentary “poetic…stirring…visually interesting.” But no amount of global acclaim seems to satiate McDonald. The filmmaker and J Geetha, his wife and producer of the film, are keen on it reaching the general public in India, who know very little about this game and its players. “When we finished the documentary in 2012, it felt like we had climbed Mt Everest. Only after that did we realise that marketing it would be another huge hurdle,” McDonald says. So after more than two years of trying to convince theatres, PVR took it up and will be releasing the feature documentary on August 21 across six cities – Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru. To the duo, this is like a homecoming of sorts for their film, that was shot in Panipet, Bhubaneshwar, Baroda, Mumbai, Coimbatore and Chennai.
Meanwhile, as they shuttle between Trivandrum (where Geetha’s production company AkamPuram is based) and the UK, McDonald is wrapping up work on his next project, set to release in a couple of months. “It is about Geetha’s father. A veteran hand radio operator, who even now, in his 70s, keeps in touch with people from across the world with his radio,” he says, adding, “it is about the community, friendships, the passing of time and old technology.”
Algorithms releases on August 21 at PVR. Details: algorithmsthedocumentary.com