Part road movie, part spectacle, part human drama, Monsoon is a documentary exploration of chaos, creation and faith in the land of believers. The subject is monsoon, the incomparably vast seasonal weather system that permeates and unifies the immense and varied culture of India, shaping the conditions of existence for its billion-plus inhabitants.
Filmed across the Indian sub-continent and charting the huge system’s path as it surges toward and gradually engulfs every region of the country, Monsoon introduces us to a remarkable array of individuals whose lives are in different ways entwined with the phenomenon. There are the meteorologists, who seek to contain the monsoon within an explanatory net of scientific analysis and rational forecast; there is the neighborhood bookie who takes bets on the arrival of the rains; there are the farmers and fishermen, who depend on and contend with the system’s godlike, life-and-death caprices; there are the citizens of Mumbai, where the monsoon’s arrival is felt from the slums to the stock market to the dreamscapes of the Bollywood film; there are the nature conservationists who are concerned with the monsoon’s impact on the country’s endangered species; and there is the ordinary Indian family, for whom the annual deluge is part of a rhythmic cycle, at moments unfathomably cruel and joyously affirming.
A cinematic journey into the terrain where nature, science, belief and wonder converge in one of the most astonishing and breathtaking landscapes on earth, Monsoon is a film that captures the timelessness and rich human drama of our engagement with the natural world.
Monsoon was filmed over the course of the 2013 monsoon season using ultra high definition 4K Red Epic cameras, modified for extreme weather documentary shooting by Director of Photography Van Royko. Production began in south India, in the state of Kerala, where the monsoon first makes landfall. The production team, including Gunnarsson, Royko, location sound recordist Brice Picard, 'fixer' Amit Vachharanji and camera assistant Ari Gunnarsson, ‘surfed’ the monsoon from India’s southernmost point to its northeast corner in Assam, following the trajectory of the monsoon. Points in between included the Western Ghats, Goa, Mumbai, Pune, the Maharashtra drought region, Kolkata, Assam and Cherrapunji, the rainiest place on earth, in the state of Meghalaya -- ‘Place of the Clouds’. Production began in mid-May, two weeks before ‘onset’, and shot for 90 days, concluding in September, with the receding monsoon. Over 240 hours of 4K footage was captured. The film was edited in Toronto, from October, 2013 to May 2014, by legendary doc editor Nick Hector, whose credits include Alan King’s ‘Dying At Grace” and “Memory”, as well as Gunnarsson’s TIFF ‘People’s Choice Award’ winner, ‘Force of Nature’. 4K post was handled by Montreal’s Poste Moderne. The score was composed by Monsoon Dub Orchestra’s Andrew T. MacKay, based on the Malhar ragas, and featuring some of the top Indian players and vocalists in Bombay and London. Sound-design and mix were executed by Montreal’s top sound team, Sylvain Bellemare and Bernard Gariépy Strobl in June/July, 2014.