To compete in the International Documentary Challenge, this entry had to conform to the assigned genre of “biography,”
In the weeks preceding the competition, Pender-Cudlip had been in casual contact with his former professor and filmmaker Larry Burke, who shared with him recent footage of his friend Sanjiban Sellew, the much-beloved Berkshire filmmaker, artist, and actor. Actively dying of brian cancer, Sanjiban was being carried up a mountain in western Massachusetts by friends and family to find a piece of granite for his own headstone. Pender-Cudlip was fascinated by the jovial nature of the expedition and moved by Sellew’s transparency around his impending death, including the clarity and honesty with which he spoke in other autobiographical footage taken during his final days. Some weeks after Pender-Cudlip viewed this remarkable footage—and two days before the documentary competition criteria were announced—Sanjiban Sellew passed away.
Pender-Cudlip asked the Sellew family if they would consider letting him continue the revealing and intimate portrayal of death that Sanjiban had himself begun. With their blessing, the resulting documentary captures the family’s honoring of Sellew’s artful, eccentric life and the remarkable transference of Sellew’s body to the afterlife.
“This film epitomizes our approach to documentary,”
Sellew’s twin brother John serves as the steward of the narrative, as the family ferries Sanjiban’s body from his makeshift shrine in the dining room to the furnace of the local crematorium. SANJIBAN is an intense, life-affirming story about the profoundly human experience of saying goodbye. The short documentary will premiere on May 1, 2012, at 7:00 PM at the University of Toronto’s Innis Town Hall.
Film credits include: Ben Pender-Cudlip, Director, Producer, DP; Kristen Salerno, Editor; Casey Atkins, Associate Producer; Kristen Salerno, Sound Mix; Audrey Knuth, Sound Engineering;
Ben creates nonfiction films that explore our common experiences and feelings as human beings. Ben founded Unrendered Films to bring documentary storytelling to socially responsible organizations, nonprofits, and brands. He is a graduate of Bard College at Simon’s Rock, and lives in Boston, Massachusetts. http://unrenderedfilms.com
Sanjiban grew up in New Marlborough, MA, with his twin brother, John, a painter, and their sister, Susan, a farmer. In December 2011, Sellew was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforme (GBM) brain cancer, a high-grade, rapidly growing tumor. Sellew’s quirky and tender films and performance art have been seen by audiences at the Berkshire International Film Festival, Made in the Berkshires, and Mixed Company, among other venues. His short films include Self Arrest, Not Me, Animal Tricks, I Got Mail, and One on None. http://www.sanjibanfilms.com
Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival
Hot Docs is North America’s largest nonfiction film festival, featuring 189 documentaries from around the world. This year’s festival is April 26 to May 6, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. http://www.hotdocs.ca
The International Documentary Challenge
The Doc Challenge is a timed competition in which filmmakers are given five days to make a short nonfiction film on an assigned theme. Learn more: http://docchallenge.org;
Contact: Ben Pender-Cudlip
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Unrendered Films is a boutique video production company in Boston with a singular focus: telling stories.