Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
Center for Contemporary South Asia

Film Screening: The Providence Premiere of "A Night of Knowing Nothing"

Friday, September 16, 2022

6:00pm - 8:30pm EST

True North Classroom, 280 Brook St

In collaboration with Magic Lantern Cinema and the Department of Modern Culture and Media, SCSSA invites you to join us for A Night of Knowing Nothing. After it won L'Œil d'or, le prix du documentaire ("The Golden Eye, The Documentary Prize") at the Cannes Film Festival in 2021, the film was exhibited in select cities around the US earlier this year. We are thus excited to present Brown and the wider community with the Providence premiere of this work.

One of 2021’s most electrifying debuts — and winner of both an Amplify Voices Award at TIFF and the Best Documentary award at Cannes — Payal Kapadia’s hybrid feature A Night of Knowing Nothing is a fever dream of impossible love tied to a broader reflection on contemporary India. Structured around letters discovered on a film-school campus from an unseen protagonist, L, directed to her estranged lover, K, Kapadia’s film is at once grand and contained, weaving fragments of a romance and moments of domestic life with handheld documentary footage captured around the country over several years.

In this fervent cinétract on love and revolt, which doubles as a love letter to cinema itself, essayistic and epistolary forms suffuse the burnished, chiaroscuro images with both yearning and introspection. Utilizing a variety of formats and formal approaches in service of an entrancing, cohesive whole, Kapadia offers a rich and sensual interplay between sound and image that heightens the film’s atmospheric textures. The dialectic of presence and absence fuels the paradoxical conundrum of capturing the flow of history, while the fitting leitmotif of dancing courses through the film with unbridled energy.

Both explicit and subtle in its invocation of great parallel cinema filmmakers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, and Mrinal Sen, A Night of Knowing Nothing is far from an exercise in nostalgia. Instead, it updates those artists’ oneiric visuals and intellectual acumen to reflect on the current state of Kapadia’s home nation — specifically the obstacles faced by its youth. A film of unexpected urgency that delivers on the exhilarating potential promised by Kapadia’s breakthrough shorts, A Night of Knowing Nothing announces the arrival of an audacious cinematic talent.

Student Programing