ShortList 2019: 'The Field' Director on How She Found Radical Intimacy Amid Indian Cornstalks (Video)

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

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.

The Scene at ShortList 2018: TheWrap's 7th Annual Short Film Festival (Photos)

  • TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman and awards editor Steve Pond join the filmmakers featured in the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival at AMC Century City on Thursday.

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  • Jurors Dana Gill, Jim Cummings, Irene Taylor Brodsky, Jihan Robinson and Rafael Casal at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • “Weekends” director Trevor Jimenez at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Student director Cecilia Albertini at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • “The Goodnight Show” actress Ellie Dubin and director Charlie Schwan join the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Filmmakers Cecilia Albertini and Andrea Brusa are featured in the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • The “Labor” film team joins the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Actress Ellie Dubin, who starred in “The Goodnight Show,” at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • The “Labor” film team and “Magic Alps” co-director Andrea Brusa at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Filmmakers David Fortune, Dominique Koski, Aqsa Altaf, Charlie Schwan and Cecilia Albertini.

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  • “Night Shift” team before the awards ceremony at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • “Night Shift” actor Calvin Picou at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes” producer Josh Polon joins the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival

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  • “The Goodnight Show” director Charlie Schwan joins the crowd before the awards ceremony.

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  • TheWrap team celebrates before the awards ceremony.

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  • The jurors of the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman kicks off the awards ceremony.

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  • Sharon Waxman speaks about the selection of short films featured in the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • The audience at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival awards ceremony.

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  • Guests mingle at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Filmmakers Quran Squire and David Fortune.

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  • Sharon Waxman welcomes guests to the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky speaks at the jury panel at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • “Blindspotting” co-writer and star Rafael Casal speaks during the jury panel at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Juror Jihan Robinson, VP of nonfiction programming at Topic Studios, speaks about the short film format.

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  • “Thunder Road” filmmaker and Shortlist 2016 winner Jim Cummings joined the jury at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • The “Labor” team before the awards ceremony.

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  • Guests at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Guests converse at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Eleven filmmakers sit down to talk about their projects during the panel and awards ceremony.

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  • “Z-MAN” director David Fortune speaks about his film during the filmmakers panel.

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  • “Magic Alps” co-director Andrea Brusa speaks about some of the challenges working with a goat in his film.

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  • Aqsa Altaf, director of the student short “One Small Step,” joins the filmmaker panel.

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  • Student director Aqsa Altaf speaks abut her film, “One Small Step.”

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  • Filmmakers Randall Christopher, Quran Squire and David Fortune meet up during the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • “Z-MAN” director David Fortune takes a selfie with Sharon Waxman and filmmaker Quran Squire.

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  • Sharon Waxman and filmmakers Quran Squire and Marshall Tyler converse during the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • “The Goodnight Show” director Charlie Schwan speaks at the filmmakers panel.

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  • “Night Shift” director Marshall Tyler speaks about the challenges of making his film, which is set in a bathroom.

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  • “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes” producer Josh Polon.

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  • “Night Shift” director Marshall Tyler.

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  • Program director Landon Zakheim announces the student prize winner, “The Peak.”

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  • TheWrap’s awards editor Steve Pond announces the audience prize winner, voted on by the public.

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  • Co-director Andrea Brusa accepts the audience prize for “Magic Alps.”

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  • “Magic Alps” co-director Andrea Brusa accepts the audience prize on behalf of his co-director, Marco Scotuzzi and the rest of the film’s team.

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  • “Magic Alps” co-director Andrea Brusa with Steve Pond after his win.

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  • “The Driver Is Red” director Randall Christopher accepts the industry prize, voted on by the jury.

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  • “The Driver Is Red,” directed by Randall Christopher, is the industry prize winner.

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  • “The Driver Is Red” director Randall Christopher with jurors Rafael Casal and Jim Cummings.

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  • Producer Dominique Koski holds the student prize for “The Peak.”

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  • Director Randall Christopher holds the industry prize for “The Driver Is Red.”

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  • “The Driver Is Red” director Randall Christopher with Steve Pond.

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  • Juror Irene Taylor Brodsky after the awards ceremony.

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  • Juror Jim Cummings and director Randall Christopher at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Sharon Waxman with winners Randall Christopher and Andrea Brusa.

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  • “My Dead Dad’s Porno Tapes” producer Josh Polon with guests at the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival.

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  • Sharon Waxman with winner and director of “The Driver is Red,” Randall Christopher.

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Filmmakers and filmgoers gathered at AMC Century City to celebrate this year’s slate of award-winning shorts

TheWrap founder and CEO Sharon Waxman and awards editor Steve Pond join the filmmakers featured in the seventh annual ShortList Film Festival at AMC Century City on Thursday.

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