On The Film
Algorithms was my highlight of Durban International Film Festival 2013, and one of my favourite films of the year. Superbly shot and paced with hints of Bresson’s subtle tactile aesthetic and a wry warm humour, the film’s protagonists – young blind Indian chess players aiming for a place at the World Championships and their families – are beautifully observed.
Phil Harrison , Filmmaker, Ireland
I laughed, I competed, I wept, I cheered… You took me through a gamut of emotions. The lyricism of the frames and the brevity of the narrative drew me in completely. A hard task in this genre and what you both have achieved is no mean task. Congratulations!
Latha Menon , Ad and doc Filmmaker, India
I have always loved working with people who are blind and deafblind because I was captured immediately by the tremendous new perspective and appreciation I got when I saw the world the way they did – with their entire body and the wonderful use of hands. I loved Algorithms for celebrating this beautiful perspective while showcasing the boys for exactly what they were – boys, each with their unique personality and social situations that made them the competitor that they were.
Namita Jacob , Director, Chetana Charitable Trust, India
I’ve known Ian and Geetha for many years and have been witness to their independent and joint adventures in filmmaking. I’ve always been interested in their choice of subject matter, especially of this film, which is why I was keen to get involved. Present at various discussions on what type of documentary it should be, I personally argued for a more straightforward narrative approach. To my consternation, but I have to admit now, relief, Ian and Geetha had their own ideas. I find Algorithms refreshing in an age where, quite often, we are spoon-fed ideas. I am really struck by its ability to just drop you into the world of blind chess and allow you to ‘feel’ around the many themes. As a viewer, I feel privileged and also humble to be a witness of that world.
Gary Armstrong , Associate Producer, Algorithms
Scoring the music for Algorithms was a particularly interesting experience for me since it connected two of my biggest passions – music and chess. Ian expressed a desire for a score modeled on traditional South Indian Carnatic music but with the guitar as the musical driver. The trials and tribulations of the blind chess players, the resilient hope that drives the children, their parents and their mentor Charu and above all, a reaffirmation of how much chess levels the playing field as a grand sport of egalitarian values, were all takeaways for me to reflect in both direct and subliminal levels through the score. It became clear that my music would be integral to Algorithms.
I used the traditional Carnatic “Kutcheri” style percussion ensemble to complement the ‘untraditional’ guitar. With the percussion, I explored color, texture, sonority and imagery, not just rhythm. There is quite a bit of improvisation over not only structural musical forms such as ragas, talas and harmonic concepts around the basic composed sketches, but also improvisation over movement of the film. This summarizes the fluidity and organic nature with which the score and film came together, even as we set out a specific focus to the aesthetic of the score much like Ian did to the film itself. Ian has made a truly moving film. His story telling process and the visual tones that emphasize his beautiful and penetrating lens work stand testament to the power of documentary films and how uniquely placed it is in teaching us about the human condition.
Prasanna , Composer and Guitarist, Algorithms
I find the director’s decision to make the film black and white even after a colour shoot an interesting one. But it was Ian’s decision to abandon a normal 80% grey level and go for a high contrast look that excited me. It gave me great freedom and a lot of space. I went for a look that reinforced the depth of a black and white image and thus the depth of the film. Algorithms is an unforgettable experience and Charu is my hero! What an inspiring character!
Razi , Colourist, Algorithms
It was a great experience working with Ian and Geetha on this film. Algorithms gives us a rare insight into the world of Blind Chess. Even after the work on the film’s Sound got over, the characters of the film lingers on in my mind.
Harikumar N , Sound Engineer, Algorithms
Coming into the final stages of the edit that Ian and Geetha undertook, I made sure that the edits reflected the observational reality as well as maintained a rhythm between the stories of the four main characters and their emotional ups and downs. I enjoyed the work as it opened up a new world for me. The emotional and intellectual stimulus Algorithms provided will remain with me forever.
Ajithkumar B , Editor and Post-Production Advisor, Algorithms
Helming a four-year project with the struggle for resources and time remaining a constant can seem painful but working on Algorithms has been a fulfilling experience. Moving with the blind chess community has been a rollercoaster of emotions – exciting tournaments, poignant stories and thoughtful insights, but what has been etched in my mind is the beauty of the mind game and how it empowers the blind. Interestingly, I have ceased to see the blind as blind and have learnt to be less dependent on my sight! I am proud to be the producer of the first ever feature documentary on Blind Chess, and that too from India!
Geetha J , Producer, Algorithms
Chess is an ancient and universal game with origins in India. When Geetha and I began this project in India in 2008, we knew what we were encountering was unknown, complex and beautiful. Then began a journey that challenged our perception of ability and disability, of sight and vision. The paradox of using a visual medium to image those without sight that weighed heavily on us lessened with the complete trust we gained by being with the community through the years. Four years later and with over 240 hours of footage, we began to compose the first ever feature documentary on Blind Chess.
Initially, my concern was to capture this mind game as a game of equality for the blind and a metaphor for life. Chess demands patience and foresight that go with being blind. Four moves in, it puts the sighted on par with the blind. Blindness that emerged as ‘difference, not lack’ then went beyond to actually critique our ocular-centric world. Also, with one constant focus on the truth of the lives of the blind chess players, the slant shifted from the sociological to the philosophical.
I began to understand the Indian verse: sukha dukhe same kritva – that joy and sorrow, profit and loss, winning and losing are but the same; they torment us but we must treat them as same and engage in life. Finding hope in hopelessness and possibility in impossibility, the Blind Chess community moves forward, reminding us of the forgotten significance of touch and of the materiality of our social existence in an era dominated by the visual and the virtual.
Ian McDonald , Director, Cinematographer and Editor, Algorithms