Celebrating cinema

Celebrating cinema

Film Festival

Celebrating cinema

IFFI is actually 57 years old, since its first edition was held way back in 1952, thanks to an initiative by the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, arguably the most culturally-aware political leader India has ever had. Initially, it was not an annual affair, and there were also forced gaps due to reasons like India’s wars with Pakistan and China, which explains why it has taken 17 more years to reach its 40th edition.

As the 40th IFFI begins in Goa this Monday, like every year, it will present a medley of films from the world over, spread out into a number of sections, including the coveted Competition Section for Asian, African and Latin American films. Of particular interest this year will be a section called ‘War & Peace’ on anti-war films, which has entries like Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat from India, Danis Tanovic’s No Man’s Land from Bosnia, Bahman Ghobadi’s Turtles Can Fly from Iran, Steven Spielberg’s Schindler’s List and the iconic Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator from the United States.

Among the other attractions will be the 55 films from 45 countries in the Cinema of the World section, which includes the opening film Wheat from China, Mid-Fest highlighter and France’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar next year The Prophet by Jacques Audiard, and Spanish master Pedro Almodovar’s Penelope Cruz starrer Broken Embraces which will bring down the curtains on December 3. In the competition section, 13 films from the chosen three continents, along with two from the host nation — Marathi film Gabhricha Paus (The Damned Rain) by Satish Manwar and Bengali film Angshumaner Chhobi (A Film Made by Angshuman)” by Atanu Ghosh, both debutant directors — will vie for the top honours of Golden and Silver Peacocks.

There will also be a special retrospective of NRI filmmaker Gurinder Chaddha, an innovative package of ‘Spoof Cinema’ made in Malegaon in Maharashtra, and four NRI films as part of the Film India Worldwide — A Shine Of Rainbows (Canada/Ireland) by Vic Sarin, Seven Days in Slow Motion (India/USA) by Umakanth Thurugoti, The Firm Land (Iran/France) by Chapour Hathighat, and Bombay Summer (USA) by Joseph Mathew. Sarin, incidentally is also serving as a member of the jury headed by Brazil’s Joao Batista and comprising Jean Michel Frodon from France, Sarika from India and Kemchi Okubo from Japan.

One major highlight of the festival will be a six-film retrospective on Portuguese director, the 102-year-old Manuel de Oliveira, the oldest active filmmaker in the world. Thai filmmaker Nonzee Nimibutr is the other filmmaker who is being honoured through a retrospective of his films at the festival which this year will have a really special guest in the form of Sir Ben Kingsley who will hold a master class and also formally announce his mega project Taj, that reportedly is going to star himself and Aishwarya Rai. There will also be a ‘Continent Focus’ on Latin American cinema and ‘Country Focuses’ on Croatia; Italy, Poland, Estonia and France.

As usual, one of the most interesting programmes at the festival will be the Indian Panorama section, comprising 26 feature and 18 non-feature films. The Indian Premier Section will showcase a selection of eight films during The 40th International Film Festival of India, Goa 2009 from November 23 till December 3, 2009. Apart from this, some very fresh Indian content will be seen in the ‘Indian Premieres’ section, which has films like And Once Again (English) by Amol Palekar, Red Alert: The War Within (Hindi) by Ananth Mahadevan, God Lives in the Himalayas (English/Hindi) by Sanjay Srinivas, Shahrukh Bola Khoobsoorat Hai (Hindi) by Makrand Deshpande, Zagor (Konkani) by Sangramsinh Gaikwad and Vimukthti (Kannada) by P Sheshadri.

Brining up the rear of the festival will be ‘NFAI Classics’ comprising rare films stored at the National Film Archives of India, tributes to Asha Parekh, Sharmila Tagore and Soumitra Chatterjee for completing 50 years in the film industry (Kamal Haasan too has completed 50 years, but DFF has decided to hold a separate retrospective of him in February in Delhi), and a package to mark the Platinum Jubilee of the Assamese film industry.

Over the years, IFFI has been seen to relatively lose its way in the world fora of festivals, especially when compared to aggressively-marketed festivals like Toronto, Venice, Berlin, Cannes and Pusan. This year can be a new starting point for all this, and surely IFFI can work towards a firm and leading position in the world film festival map, something it deserves being one of the world’s oldest festivals.