Thursday, August 14, 2008

Sikkim (1971) - Satyajit Ray

Sikkim is a documentary by the Oscar winning directory Satyajit Ray that was produced and commissioned by the Chogyal of Sikkim.

Sikkim is a documentary about the nation of Sikkim, made by Satyajit Ray in 1971. The documentary was commissioned by the Chogyal (King) of Sikkim at a time when he felt the sovereignty of Sikkim was under threat from both China and India. Ray's documentary is about the sovereignty of Sikkim.

The film had to undergo double censorship from both the film's commissioners and the Indian government, when Sikkim became a state of India in 1975. The documentary was banned by the Indian government, and all known copies of the documentary destroyed.

For many years, it was thought that the only surviving record of the film is a scene-by-scene written reconstruction of the film by the remaining film team members. However, in January 2003 it was reported that a good quality print has been kept by the British Film Institute.

According to the BFI - the print is in need for immediate restoration. But Sikkim is yet to be restored. According to AMPASA sources, the results of the photo-chemical tests run on the film were most discouraging, and digital tests did not yield enough color to work on either. The only solution lies in a shot by shot digital restoration by a digital artist. However, the costs are prohibitive --- about $250,000 for a 52-minute documentary. The good news, on the other hand, is that the digital costs are coming down rapidly. In a couple of years, it is expected to be down to $100,000. So, right now the plan is to wait.

However, according to the AMPASA director Mike Pogorzelski, the Heffenrefer print, although almost without colour, is better than the other two. If and when Sikkim is digitally restored, it is the one that will be used.

The fate of Sikkim, therefore, is still hanging in the balance.