Raghu Rai - An Unframed Portrait

How to find the essence of a moment with the camera? Magnum photographer Raghu Rai who, as a young man, was mentored by Henri Cartier-Bresson, seems to know the formula. For many decades, his intensive photographs have shaped the collective memory of India and far beyond. Rai’s images help us to profoundly understand that crises like the Bhopal disaster of 1984 or the excruciating ongoing conflict in Kashmir are by no means temporary news but events which dramatically and permanently affect the lives of the victims.

While working, the photographer appears distant, solely interested in the right camera angle, no matter whether his subject is a person hit by crisis, the greatly admired Mother Teresa, or a flock of seagulls. What may seem like aloof measuring and calculating is, in fact, an almost uncanny attentiveness and mindfulness with which he looks at the world, and to which his pictures owe their enduring integrity.

Young filmmaker Avani Rai has captured all this. With a sharp aesthetic sense and a lot of gentle irony, she has assembled film and photo material to create this very personal portrait of - and a continuing conversation with - her father. Her film is supported and accompanied by a formidable sound design.

“You must point the lens to where the most birds are!” Raghu Rai’s eyes never rest and frequently he tries to instruct his daughter during the film shoot. Avani Rai presses the shutter button. A single bird flies through her picture. Both father and daughter find the essence of the moment, but each in their own way.

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Avani Rai

Avani Rai is a photographer based out of Mumbai, India. She has worked as a cameraperson on a number of short films, both in fiction and documentary. Uski Baarish (2013), premiered at Clermond Ferrand International Short Film Festival and was shown, amongst others at Toronto International Film Festival. As a photographer she has contributed to the Sunday Guardian, Scroll and The Wire. Her recent work, „Raghu Rai - An Unframed Portrait“, premiered at IDFA in the competition in 2017. It has travelled to DocPoint (Finland, Estonia), Doc Aviv (Tel Aviv), Docs Against Gravity (Poland), Oslo (Norway), TRT documentary days (Turkey) – as opening film, Doc Edge (New Zealand), DOK.fest Munich (Germany).