International Film Festival of Kerala, commencing on December 06, promises a rich visual treat for discerning cineastes.

The 18th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) begins on December 06 in Thiruvananthapuram. This festival is a toast to the happy yet complex commingling of the local and the global, the aesthetic and the political, intensely personal and vibrantly public domains, of art and the multifarious networks of production, circulation and consumption.

Each film festival is not just an eclectic gathering of cinephiles, it is a cultural statement of what a nation/state and its people seek to highlight as their dominant concerns and how they come to understand and prioritise the private and the personal in a medium as public and political as cinema.

As every year, the IFFK offers a bouquet of films that caters to varied and variant tastes, celebrating the cinematic image which is itself an ensemble of multiplicity. What sets apart this film festival from other festivals in India and abroad is definitely an ideological investment in films from Asia, Africa, and Latin America, highlighting key areas of Third Cinema like cultural transformations and social change in developing countries and the relationship between avant-garde cinema and the masses.

It is in this context that the seven Nigerian films portraying Africa’s mythic, political and cultural landscapes encompassing folk traditions, ancient lore and contemporary social paradoxes become so important in the ‘Country Focus’ section.

The ‘New Asian Cinema’ package has movies from Singapore, China, Indonesia, Thailand and Taiwan which vouch for the spell that melodramas continue to cast on most societies in Asia and the dynamics of modernisation vis-à-vis the family, religion and community in such cultures which seem to be the focus of much of the popular concerns of cinema in Asia.

The eight films from different Latin American off beat directors in the ‘Street Film Making from Latin America’ become a signature highlight of the festival, given the kind of interest that is evinced by our own youngsters who are attempting to make new cinema on shoe string budgets.

The ‘Expressionism: The Indo-German Connection’ package is a tribute to the curious, often evanescent and ambivalent yet multifarious influences that Expressionism had over imaginative and creative bonds between Indian and German film making aesthetics and praxis. This section should offer delicious fare for film historians and serious students of cinema, with movies like Franz Osten and Himanshu Rai’s Light of Asia (1928), Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930), V.Shantaram’s Amrit Manthan (1934), Kamal Amrohi’s Mahal (1949) and Fritz Lang’s Tiger of Eschnapur (1959) on the list.

This year the Jury is headed by Mexican Director Arturo Ripstein’s whose movie No One Writes to the Colonel, which is an adaptation of a novella of the same name by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, would be a heart stealer for Malayali audiences who have always been ardent fans of both Latin American literature and cinema. The other Jury film is Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy, which is a cross platform concept illustrating the possibility of new alliances between cinema and social media by Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit, the Thai auteur.

South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, master chronicler of perversity and one of Kerala’s most favourite foreign auteurs, will grace the festival along with his latest film Moebius, an even more shocking companion piece to last year’s oedipal black drama Pieta. The film does not have any dialogue other than the gasps of pain and pleasure and illustrates the triumph of Kim Ki-duk’s formalist brilliance which zeroes down on corruption and degeneration as the most primal of forces in life.

The inaugural film is Ana Arabia which premiered at the Venice Festival this year and is directed by the renowned Israeli film maker Amos Gitai. A single shot in 81 minutes, the film offers a different perspective to the Arab-Israeli conflict and tells the story of a Holocaust survivor in Tel Aviv who converts to Islam.

The ‘Indian Cinema Now’ has seven films – Accident by Nandita Roy and Shiboprosad Mukherjee, Crossing Bridges by Sange Dorjee Thongdok, Liar’s Dice by Geethu Mohandas, Lucia by Pawan Kumar, OASS- The Dew Drop by Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, Soodhu Kavnum by Nalan Kumarasamy and The Coffin Maker by Veena Bakshi.

‘Malayalam Cinema Today‘ showcases seven movies – 5 Sundarikal, Annayum Rasoolum, Celluloid, CR No:89, English, Kanyaka Talkies and Venal Odungathe.

The Lifetime Achievement Award goes to Carlos Saura, the Spanish film director. His Flamenco Flamenco received rave reviews in the 2010 edition of IFFK and this year too there is a special package of his films.

The Aravindan Memorial Lecture will be delivered by the famed Italian director Marco Bellochio, who, with his highly collaborative modes of film making, has struggled to create alternative spaces for cinema. The screening of a few of his films will be the highlight of the festival.

The German filmmaker Harun Farocki, considered to be an expert of short experimental documentaries, is conducting an interactive session with students and cine enthusiasts to debate on the theme of where does reality end and fiction begin.

A rich and vibrant local participation along with key attractions like ‘In Conversation’ held every day between 2 – 3 p.m. at Nila, which gives the public a chance to interact with master film makers, transform this into a democratic venue that celebrates film scholarship along with popular tastes and desires, in the process undermining the elite pretensions that many festivals of this kind often aspire to.

With retrospectives on Hariharan, Prem Nazir, Jean Renoir, a ‘Homage to Rituparno Ghosh’, a glowing tribute to ‘Hundred Years of Indian Cinema’, ‘Homage to Sukumari’, a ‘Samurai’ package and a bouquet of some of the best in the ‘World Cinema’ section, this IFFK is all set to offer a rich visual treat.

What a film festival does to us is deeper and more political than we often imagine in that it reveals the power of cinema in speaking for the ‘other’ while simultaneously also making ground for film buffs, critics, state machinery, production and marketing teams, and the media to come together and form an ‘organic audience’.

Thiruvananthapuram wears an air of hushed excitement; there is a thrill in the air, the sheer joyous anticipation of traversing shared histories and cultural memories, of making meanings together, the pleasure of experiencing a ‘film style’ civic camaraderie where ultimately the spectator is the star.

VYING FOR THE TITLE

There are 14 films in the competition section this time, all vying with each other for the Golden Crow Pheasant (Suvarna Chakoram) Award. The Japanese director Ryota Nakano’s Capturing Dad is both a quirky road movie and an endearing and evocative coming-of-age film. Fernando Eimbcke’s Mexican movie Club Sandwich is the coming-of-age story of a clingy mother forced to reckon with the end of childhood innocence of her teenage son. Constructors, a movie from Kazakhstan by Adilkhan Yerzhanov, has been described as a parable on homelessness and lawlessness, chock-a-block with deadpan humour. Ivan Vescovo’s Argentinian Errata is deeply influenced by the ‘film noir’ genre and is replete not only with a crime drama plot and impossible love but also a book by Jorge Luis Borges which contributes to its brooding mystery.

Another Mexican movie Inercia, a hospital drama, offers a striking debut from Isabel Munoz Cota Callejas. Sergio Andrade’s Brazilian debut drama Jonathan’s Forest resonates with universal human anxieties set deep inside Brazil’s Amazon rainforests. Majid Barzegar’s Iranian movie Parviz reflects the tensions and mundaneness of contemporary life in Iran. The Turkish movie Story Teller by Batur Emin Akyel is a poignant tale of an actor’s last tour with a theatre which emblematises his past, present and future. Adi Adwan’s Arabani, the first feature film ever made by an Israeli Druze filmmaker, unspools the poignant tale of a religious minority community in Israel with great empathy and intimacy of knowledge. The Battle of Tabato by Joao Viana from Guinea-Bissau is a heart wrenching tale of an exile who returns to Guinea-Bissau after 30 years in Portugal. There are two films from Malayalam – 101 Chodyangal by Sidhartha Siva and Kaliyachan by Farook Abdul Rahiman. Then there is Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar’s Marathi movie Astu in the race. Kamaleswar Mukherjee’s Bengali movie Meghe Dhaka Tara is inspired by the life and creative oeuvre of Ritwik Ghatak.