'Kings of the Wind & Electric Queens': Film Review

Courtesy of Rooftop Films
A verité travelogue of a trip few Westerners will make.

The many diversions available at an annual Indian livestock show.

From its puzzlingly exotic title to the weird, Lynchian touches that arrive from nowhere at its end, Kings of the Wind & Electric Queens conjures the experience of being a solo traveler in a land very, very different from one's own. French filmmakers Gaspard Kuentz and Cedric Dupire, whose last doc explored the musical underground in Japan, have traveled enough to be unafraid of insular environments, and this look at an annual Indian carnival benefits from their persistence. Though definitely a specialty item, it will play well at fests with travelers whose curiosity is larger than their travel budget.

The setting is the Sonepur Cattle Fair, held every November in the northeast Indian state of Bihar. A massive livestock show whose geography (at the convergence of the Ganges and Gandak rivers) gives it spiritual significance as well, the fair is known for its trade in elephants. But Kuentz and Dupire are mostly interested in the carnival that springs up around the main event, a place where exorcisms might be conducted in the shadow of sideshow attractions.

Offering neither explanatory titles nor narration, they wander from one curious scene to another, only rarely letting a subject speak directly to the camera. We watch crews assemble a "pit of death" where, a few scenes later, motorcyclists will defy gravity with nonchalance; we sneak into the House of Glamour, a peculiar girly show where men race to be in the front row to watch fully clad (and not very enthusiastic) dancers.

Hints of the event's significance to pilgrims pop up in scenes of Ganges bathers, but the film prefers worldly sights, like garish musical displays and the outlandish use of tiny boys in a carny's spiel. The scene-snatching travelogue makes no arguments about what this ephemeral environment means and offers no history of its evolution (we can thank press notes and Wikipedia for that). But it's a sensory treat for those who would rather soak up foreign sights than try to understand them.

Production company: Studio Shaiprod, Andana Films
Directors: Gaspard Kuentz, Cedric Dupire
Producer: Jerome Aglibert
Director of photography: Cedric Dupire
Editor: Charlotte Tourres

No rating, 56 minutes

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