John Thimothy is an Indo – Canadian film director, Founder, and CEO of the Regina International Film Festival. His debut short film The Notion has impacted audiences at a number of renowned film festivals. In this interview, John talks about his journey as a new storyteller, the type of stories he believes in, his political views and his future projects.
Let me begin by congratulating you on the success of your debut film The Notion. It seems as though you have achieved everything that a debut director would aspire to accomplish. How has the journey been?
Thank you. It’s been a very validating journey. It’s wonderful to see the film resonate with large marginalized groups of people. When I took the script to the actors to play the key roles, the common response they had was, “This is great, very interesting, but people won’t get it.” When Kani Kusruti and Shweta Gupta decided to come on board by believing the story line, I knew it would draw the interest of many people.
How were the interactions with diverse audiences? Were the reactions universal?
How have audience members responded to the Notion? Has there been many differences of opinion or has there been a more centralized or universal view of the film?
There are lot of opinions and interpretations are mutual and universal but have seen many different perspectives as well from friends and festival circle. I saw that the Croatian audience found the story possess very deep emotion, in India with divers groups found the storyline can be some more elaborative, while larger audiences in India gravitated more comfortably towards the hidden sarcasm mocking the standalone aspect of parodical Indian society on gender issues. There have been a lot of frequently asked questions, shared in many festivals – Why did Padma (The lead character ) actually make that choice? Is it relevant? I often smile and reply what you think?.
What made you choose to create a film that could be considered as controversial to many audience members? Was it your intent to create a film that goes beyond the norm, or what people typically view as being acceptable? Are there any directors or films that influenced you in the past?
I believe no body starts a movie with an intention to create a controversy, when the core value the movie put forward contradict with traditional social structures cause the fire and the so called controversy . I feel in many societies cinema that serves debatable values has been really under utilized. on the contrary commercialized full packed entertainment always well received and some time it can adversely influence the society especially one with low literacy rate and limited global access. I always fascinated by realism in cinema especially movies that flicker large array of emotion and gives new direction to your thought process, it can be anything a narrative of extreme sadness ,violence, sex, political sarcasm and romance in conjunction with contemporary or historic social threads. Infact my movie taste been constantly changing , and my movie consumption started going down as well. Over the last 6 years, I have found myself increasingly exploratory towards documentary style movie that keep you think over and over the value of life and the abundance of privilege many of us have. Answering your question there are many filmmaker’s work have influenced me but hard to pin point one .
In 2018, India abolished Section 377 from their criminal code, thus decriminalize homosexuality. Do you think films like The Notion have had an influence on the social and cultural changes and emerging fights for equality in India?
There are many movies travelled antiparallel to traditional norms some survived but vast majority couldn’t succeed. All of us are becoming increasingly vulnerable to narratives that are being manufactured by forces that control our mainstream media which always try to fit in norms and trying to justifies the glorified traditional values and culture. I personally believe film’s role in short term changes are not widely successful, but I feel certain that it will have its place in a long term dialogue.
Finally, when can we expect your next directorial?
We are totally focused on reaching as much as festival we can share The Notion.We are working on some interesting Feature documentary subjects, a feature movie script and a period short film as well. We are still at a very early stage, and in constant lookout for partners.