The 10th Chennai International Film Festival that starts on December 13 will feature 160 films from 57 countries. SUDHISH KAMATH draws up a list of must-watch classics

If you missed the film festivals at Mumbai, Goa or Thiruvananthapuram, the films are coming to you!

Over 160 films from 57 countries will play at Woodlands, Woodlands Symphony, Inox, Sathyam, Rani Seethai Hall and Casino at the 10th Chennai International Film Festival organised by the Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation and supported by the Government of Tamil Nadu, for eight days starting December 13 when students from A.R. Rahman’s music school get the fest started. Amitabh Bachchan is expected to participate in the closing ceremony on December 20 it was announced at a recent press meet.

A dozen Tamil films will compete in the competition section this year. “We received about 21 entries. Our committee selected twelve of those films that were censored between October 16, 2011 and October 15, 2012,” said E. Thangaraj, festival director of the Chennai International Film Festival. The final 12 — Aravan, Aarohonam, Attakathi, Marina, Mounaguru, Mupozhuthum Un Karpanaigal, Naan Ee, Neerparavai, Pizza, Sattai, Sundara Pandian, Vazhakku Enn 18/9 — will be judged by a three-member jury comprising veteran actor Sivakumar, director Sargunam and cinematographer B. Vijayalakshmi,” he added.

The festival will also pay tribute to 100 years of Indian Cinema with screenings of Karnan and Chandralekha (Tamil), Mega Sandhesham (Telugu), Pather Panchali (Bengali), Guide (Hindi) and Dweepa (Kannada) among others. CIFF has lined up five films of Claude Chabrol (Bitter Reunion, Inspecteur Lavardin, Betty, Hell and The Flower of Evil) and a two-film tribute to Michael Cocoyannis (Zorba the Greek and Electra) and a country focus of films from Columbia, Australia, Hungary and Turkey.

Here’s a quick look at the best of the fest.

Amour

Director: Michael Haneke

This Palme d’Or winner at Cannes this year, that has been screened in over 50 festivals around the world including the Mumbai Film Festival and IFFI, Goa, tells the story of an old couple in their eighties, still in love... until Alzheimer’s strikes. Haneke shows us how it’s done without ever using the disability to manipulate our tear glands. This slow but engaging film should be right at the top of your list of must-watch films at the fest.

Pieta

Director: Kim Ki Duk

The Golden Lion winner from Venice is Kim Ki Duk’s return to form after his depression. At IFFI, Goa, after the film’s screening, the South Korean auteur spoke about how life is both joy and pain (the recurring theme born out of the song ‘Arirang’, which also formed the inspiration for his documentary on his depression) and Pieta was another manifestation of that paradox. This disturbing film with strains of his debut film Crocodile is the story about a loan-shark who cripples his victims to claim their insurance money until a mysterious woman claiming to be his mother shows up and showers him with love, leaving him both confused and enraged.

Rust and Bone

Director: Jacques Audiard

Adjudged Best Film at the London International Film Festival, this riveting piece of cinema is about an unlikely relationship between a bouncer and a whale-trainer who loses both her legs. Not only is Marion Cotillard fantastic (and yes, the film has gratuitous nudity and a lot of sex), you will be left spellbound at the visual effects and craft of this gem of a film.

Antiviral

Director: Brandon Cronenberg

David Cronenberg’s son makes a superb debut with this high-concept dystopian science fiction thriller about voyeurism, celebrityhood and sensationalism. An employee who smuggles live viruses from sick celebrities to obsessed fans, becomes infected with a killer disease and finds himself being exploited, even in his death bed. If you can handle scenes with blood, prepare to have your mind blown.

Holy Motors

Director: Leos Carax

One of the trippiest films you will ever see this year, this abstract surreal film is not to be interpreted literally. Almost Lynchian, it traces the journey of a certain Monsieur Oscar who seems to be playing different roles (across genres and stories) in a day. It takes a while getting used to but packs in one of the best finales ever. Don’t miss this one.

The Taste of Money

Director: Sang Soo Im

This South Korean sequel in spirit to The Housemaid is mostly brilliant if you can excuse the Bollywood ending. There are even references to the previous film that fans will instantly pick up but even if you haven’t seen The Housemaid (though we suggest you do to enjoy this more), this exploration of morality once again shows how the rich exploit the working class. Generations may have changed, the perversion apparently hasn’t.

Shameless

Director: Filip Marczewski

This Polish film is probably among the most sensitive portrayals of incest you would have ever seen. And also sensuous. But the beauty of this film lies in how the filmmaker makes you see this incestuous relationship in the context of how shameless the world around them is.

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Director: Benh Zeitlin

This crowd-pleaser of a film has everything that will make you go ‘awww!’ and a little too much of cutesy for my liking. This film has an unlikely hero in a six year girl called Hushpuppy... What? You’re already going ‘awww’?

Other strongly recommended films:

After Lucia, directed by Michel Franco (Mexico), Le Grand Soir, directed by Gustave de Kervern (France), The Gardener, directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Pleasure Boy Komola by Humayun Ahmed (Bangladesh), Departures by Yojiro Takita (Japan), Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis, Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage Beyond and Like Someone In Love by Abbas Kiarostami.

The Indian Panorama section this year features three films — Girish Kasarvalli’s Kurmavatara (Kannada), Johnu Barua’s Bandhon (Assamese) and Bhoomiyude Avakashikal (Malayalam).

The delegate pass for access to all the films is Rs. 500 for the public and Rs. 300 for students. You can register at Woodlands theatre from December 4 or online at chennaifilmfest.com

You can also participate in The Hindu CIFF documentary contest, for prizes worth Rs. 60,000. For registrations, go to www.thehindushutterbug.com/video

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