Private Project

Varanasi Time

Varanasi Time follows the cycle of the day according to the Hindu faith in Varanasi, a spiritual center in North India. One of the oldest cities in the world, Varanasi is a place where the sacred and the mundane coexist. Layers of ambient sounds, including communal prayers, songs, sermons, yoga practice, music, chanting, and street sounds drive the film forward. The title of the film and the names of important points in the day (according to the Hindu faith) are shown in the English and Hindi letters. From dopêhêr (Afternoon in Hindi,) to saṃdhyā (Evening,) to rāāt (Night,) to savērā (Early Morning,) the film moves back to subh (Morning.)

The city, formerly known as Banaras, is centered around the river Ganges, which draws Hindu pilgrims to perform ‘aarti,' a devotional ritual with fire offerings and religious chants. Small, quiet, personalized ritual ‘aartis,' previously held only in the evening, enabled pilgrims to connect spiritually with the Ganges. The devoted bathed in the sacred waters and floated flower encased oil lamps in the river. In 2014, the more performative morning 'aarti' was added for political purposes, and the ritual became more of a spectacle, according to Ms. Saraswati Nandini Majumdar, the Indian author of ‘Banaras: Walks Through India’s Sacred City.’ The worshippers, she writes, are overwhelmed by loud music with the melodrama of movement and light, reducing them to merely passive observers.

  • David Helfer Wells
  • David Helfer Wells
  • David Helfer Wells
  • Project Type:
    Documentary, Experimental, Short
  • Runtime:
    8 minutes 9 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    December 15, 2021
  • Production Budget:
    1,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
  • Shooting Format:
    DSLR Video
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - David Helfer Wells

Director and Producer David Helfer Wells is an award-winning visual storyteller, using various media (exhibitions, books, newspapers, magazines, and motion pictures) to explore important socio-political stories. Born in Albany, N.Y., raised and educated in Los Angeles, he earned a B.A.from Pitzer College of the Claremont Colleges. He worked as a newspaper and then a magazine photojournalist for publications such as Fortune, Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, The Sunday New York Times, and Time magazine, among others. His films have been juried into festivals worldwide, including Bangalore, Lisbon, Mumbai, New Haven, New York City, Philadelphia, Providence, Rome, and San Francisco.

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