A chronicle of blind moves
By Shyama Krishna Kumar
Published: 23rd July 2014 09:07 AM
Last Updated: 23rd July 2014 09:07 AM
BANGALORE: In 2006, Ian Mcdonald, an independent filmmaker, happened to read a small newspaper article about a tournament for visually impaired chess players in Kerala. The report captured his imagination and a couple of years later there began a three-year-long journey that culminated in the making of the award-winning documentary, Algorithms. “I was not able to follow the report at the time as Geetha, my producer, and I were finishing a short documentary on Kalaripayattu. So I cut out that report and kept it in my wallet, where it stayed for two years before we began to research it. It was then that we discovered a thriving but hidden community of visually impaired chess players. Curiosity turned to amazement. I then knew that this was a film that I just had to make,” says Ian.
Algorithms tells the story of a group of boys who dream of becoming chess masters, driven by a man with a vision, Charudatta Jadhav. And on July 24, Vikalp, a film collective, will screen the documentary at Everest Talkies at 7 pm, in an effort to popularise independent films from all over the world in Bangalore.
Ian, Geetha J and team shot Algorithms for exactly three years – starting with the National Team and Junior Chess Championship for the visually impaired in Mumbai in January 2009 and finishing with the National Junior and Women Chess Championship in January 2012.
“We amassed around 250 hours of footage, which took us over a year to edit into the 96-minute film that it is today. Also, chess matches often last up to four hours, and we needed to shoot a lot of matches,” he says.
On working with a director like Ian, Geetha says, “Ian has immense patience and he is an intuitive cinematographer. Both qualities have been central to Algorithms. Funnily, Ian and I met during a conference on international solidarity against globalisation in Mumbai. Neither of us had made independent films – I had worked in television. And Ian had made short research films on physical culture and sports mainly for his teaching. When we got together, it kind of made it possible for us to articulate what we wanted to do with the medium — something more artful, something more meaningful. Algorithms is our first feature length documentary.”
Geetha applied to all kinds of funding bodies to get the film up and running.
“But we were knocked down. Some were willing to come on board if we did a ‘quick’ film — wrap it in a year. It is risky to fund a three-year shoot, but that is what Ian wanted to do and we could not have done a film on the blind chess community in any other way. And so I would say this is a loan budget film,” she says.
Like all good art, the film has changed the duo for the better. “I began to rethink what it means to see, and question the limitations of eyesight and understand the importance of foresight. I learnt from these chess players.. the importance of vision — to really see is to see beyond. There is a bizarre paradox here, the blind were actually teaching me, a sighted person, what it really means to see,” says Ian.
Geetha agrees and says that making the film has made her a calmer person. “And less reliant on sight. Algorithms will always remain very close to my heart. It means a lot to us that the boys, their families, coaches, players, schools, tournament organisers and the All India Chess Federation for the Blind have believed in us and trusted us absolutely. Also, FIDE, the world chess federation, helped us a lot in taking the film forward. We are very grateful to them as their support has been so unconditional,” she says.
Algorithms will be screened by Vikalp Bengaluru at Everest Talkies in Fraser Town on July 24 at 7 pm.
Sign up for my free email chess course for Beginners and Club Players. In this free course, I focus on helping beginner chess players see the entire board. You will learn how to attack your opponent from move 1 and create a new threat with every single move! I’ve created this series of lessons designed to help beginner and club level players understand the game at a deeper level so that you can start beating higher rated players immediately. Start getting free tips from me directly to your inbox!
– GM Susan Polgar