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ShortList 2019: ‘The Field’ Director on How She Found Radical Intimacy Amid Indian Cornstalks

In director Sandhya Suri’s first fiction short film, a woman prioritizes her desires and challenges narrative stereotypes about Indian women

Last Updated: February 26, 2020 @ 6:22 AM

Sandhya Suri, director of “The Field,” had a unique strategy for shooting the key postcoital conversation between two lovers in a darkened corn field of Shahzadpur, India, mid-harvest: The pair’s dialogue was recorded before shooting officially began on the short film — and away from the crew.

“You have to be very careful shooting a scene like that,” Suri told TheWrap. “I wanted the lovers to feel really comfortable and have a lot of space.”

For Suri, the imagery of two illicit lovers in a field fomented the story that ultimately became “The Field,” her first fiction short film and a finalist in TheWrap’s ShortList Film Festival. But she also wanted to create a work that allowed a woman to claim her desire and rejected stereotypical depictions of Indian women as the victims of domestic abuse and violence.

“To me, it was very much about making a film which was deeply political in not talking about the social conditions of the women in India,” Suri said. “This was the most political way to approach this film, to make it not about a woman who is an adultress and then gets stoned or has to face terrible consequence, but just about a woman and her desire that is totally universal.”

Corn, in a way, also plays a central character in the film. While sugarcane fields are more commonly used for lovemaking scenes in Indian cinema, Suri said, the film needed to be intentional in the type of crop it chose for this particular film.

“This field is her magical place, her place which is protected for her and her lover but it’s also the place that’s going to nourish her when this field is cut down … so there’s this pain in cutting it down,” Suri said. “I did a huge amount of research about the right type of corn which remains green so it felt sensual, but it’s also ready to harvest so we could cut it over film.”

After searching through much of India for the right corn field, Suri ultimately found a farmer in Shahzadpur — a northern village in Haryana — who agreed to harvest the surrounding crops a week earlier to create the lone cornfield seen in the film. And when the field is ultimately cut — both in film and on the actual farm — the film leaves on an open-ended note, as the woman returns to her husband and looks at the barren fields.

“It’s a cycle, isn’t it? The harvest comes around again. The corn will grow again,” Suri said. “There’s something cyclical about the land and the harvest and fruit and pleasure.” In all its quiet moments of courage and desire, “The Field,” she said that it’s ultimately an “ode to a passing moment.”

“She maneuvers through all sorts of difficulties and physical hardship,” Suri said. “She maneuvers a little space for joy in her life.”

Watch the film above. Viewers can also screen the films at any time during the festival at Shortlistfilmfestival.com and vote through Aug. 21.