Film Archive

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International Programme 2016
Cities of Sleep Shaunak Sen

Sleepless in Delhi: the never-ending search for a place to rest under bridges and in shelters that are marketed for high prices, mafia-style. A science fiction-like dystopia in feverish images.

Cities of Sleep

Documentary Film
74 minutes

Credits DOK Leipzig Logo

Virender Kundu
Shaunak Sen
Ritwik De
Salim Khan, Shaunak Sen
Sreya Chatterjee, Shaunak Sen
Aman Mann, Sahil Dhingra
No charter in the world lists sleep as a human right. Least of all in Delhi, a city where it’s a precious commodity and insomnia the fate of those who can’t afford a shelter for the night. This is about survival pure and simple, for the darkness brings the mosquitoes that carry the deadly dengue fever. “Cities of Sleep” is about the restless search for a place to sleep, be it under a car, a bridge or in barracks that are crowded and unsafe. Night after night. Sleeping well has its price.

The film’s rhythm adopts the fretful delirium of the sleepless who are called “djinns” because they haunt the streets like ghosts. The camera follows them on their endless walks attended by humiliations they have to endure. The images radiate a feverish, nervous quality. People huddle everywhere; the smallest niche is used for shelter, lights flicker, bustling activity everywhere. There is no orientation; everything merges in an inferno of noise and dirt. It would seem almost like a science fiction film if this dystopia hadn’t long ago become part of contemporary life.

Cornelia Klauß