The Legend of Fat Mama (India/Canada)

Saturday, 6th December, 2014 | 5:20pm | The Screening Room

Filmmaker: Rafeeq Ellias
Country: India/Canada
Language: English
Duration: 24 min
Genre: Short, Documentary, Cultures
Year of Release: 2005

A multiple award winning documentary by Rafeeq Ellias for BBC World, broadcast in over 200 countries, this is the story of India's tiny Chinese community in Kolkata's 'melting wok'. The first of its kind ever to document the trauma of incarceration and deportation of Chinese families after the India-China war in 1962, The Legend of Fat Mama is also about the ties that bind: from chow mein and tandoori chicken to Bollywood music! The sad-happy story of the Chinese community in Calcutta, India, and its migration to Toronto, Canada, after the Indo-China war in 1962. Through the search for a woman who once made the most delicious noodles in Calcutta's melting 'wok', discover great street food, a handwritten newspaper, buzzing mahjong parlours, and the first all-woman dragon dance group. Experience too, the pain and hurt at the treatment the Chinese received (like Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbour) after the Indo-China war, even as they celebrate the Chinese New Year in the spirit of generosity and forgiveness.

An award-winning photographer and cinematographer, Rafeeq Ellias began his photographic career in Japan in 1974 while creating advertising for Japan Air Lines, Suntory Whiskey, Imperial Hotel, TIME Magazine and assignments for the New York Times Travel Section.

His print work has received over 40 awards in India and around the world, ranging from an Emmy at the hands of actor Mia Farrow for his films for UNICEF to the Communications Arts Guild in Mumbai to ADASIA (where he won gold, silver and bronze in a single year for three print ads) to Graphis Press in Switzerland, The Art Directors Club of New York.

His films include his first 16 mm documentary as a cinematographer for Britain’s Channel Four on the Kumbh Mela in India, The Nectar of Immortality. Another on the condition of Bombay’s pavement and slum dwellers, Slum Mumbai, and yet another on a historic 150-year old library in Bombay, Steps in Time.

His fourth film, made for BBC World and broadcast in over 200 countries, The Legend of Fat Mama was also his first as a director and scriptwriter as well. The film won two National Awards, best film at MIFF 2006, and runner-up at Asian Broadcast Awards in Singapore. The film has been screened extensively at festivals in New York, Seattle, Toronto, Manchester, Barcelona and Oslo as well as at seminars at leading universities.

Rafeeq’s other passion is photographing ballet and opera which he has been engaged in for the last 10 years in Moscow, Novosibirsk, Ufa, Tashkent, Moldova and Bucharest for an international festival of dance and music. His first feature film as director and cinematographer, Love You To Death, an official selection at 10 international film festivals and winner of an audience award in Anchorage, premiered in leading cinemas in India in February 2012.

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