Array of Asian flavours
One had the opportunity to savour diverse cinema trends, experiments, at the Fourth Asian Film Festival held in Mumbai recently.
COMPELLING: Turtles Can Fly
Celebrating the timeless classic is an integral part of any film festival, but the project of canvassing the contemporary with equal zest was one of the USPs of `Third Eye: The Fourth Asian Film Festival 2005' (October 21 - 27).
The festival, now in its fourth edition and held in Mumbai at three different venues, screened nearly 60 films from 22 countries. Among the novelties was a package of films from Mongolia.
Organised by the Asian Film Foundation, with Prabhat Chitra Mandal and the National Film Development Corporation Ltd, the festival attracted almost 3,000 delegates, who got to savour diverse cinema trends and experiments of Asia.
The event was also held in Pune, with filmmaker Amol Palekar as the convenor.
Festival Director, Sudhir Nandgaonkar says, "Although Asian films do well at different international festivals, there is little exchange of ideas or sharing between these countries. Through this festival we try to show films that are new to our audiences. The films may be new and different yet the audiences can identify with them ."
The stories are about loneliness, addictions, dilemmas, disparities and absurdities in films like "Candle In The Wind," (Iranian), The Long Night," (Pakistani), "A Beautiful Boxer," (Thai) and "Invisible," (Israeli short film). The most compelling is definitely the inaugural film, "Turtles Can Fly" by the Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi, an Iraq-Iran joint production. It is a sensitive and disturbing depiction of war-ridden Iraq as seen through the eyes of the local children. The film has wonderful moments of innocence and humour, but these are set against an ongoing horror. The Focus on Israel showed a variety that are about human situations that common people are put through.
For example, "A Syrian Bride" is a story about the marriage of a girl belonging to the community of Druze Arabs living in a village on the Golan Heights along the Israeli-Syrian border. As per the law, once a person crosses the fenced no-man's-land, which is what she will do to marry her Syrian TV star fiancé, she is not permitted to return. Through the sort of tensions, excitements, and slip-ups that accompany any wedding, the director shows how the political situation can interfere with family life.
Award winning documentary filmmaker Anand Patwardhan attended the festival. He says, " It is a great idea... One gets to see the films from the region. There are several films I liked but the one that comes to mind is `Turtles can fly'. It is a very powerful film and had brilliant portrayal of children caught in a war situation in Iraq. It was fun to see `The Cup, and Desperado Square.' " Another major feature was the Asian Film Culture Award, which went to director Adoor Gopalakrishnan. His film, "Swayamwaram," made in 1972, was also screened.
Filmmakers Amol Palekar (whose "Paheli" is India's entry at the Oscars), Madhur Bhandarkar (whose "Page 3" received the National Award), and Girish Kasarvalli (whose "Hasina" was the closing film of the festival) were felicitated.
For the first time five women filmmakers from Iran attended the festival. Also for the first time there was a Competition section for diploma films from different film schools of Asia. The Iranian directors took part in a discussion conducted by Kalpana Sharma during which they spoke about filmmaking in Iran and the changing conditions for women.
In the Diploma Films Competition section, Israeli filmmaker Clil Nadav won the award of Rs.1 lakh for "At Anna's." A special certificate was given to "Saanjh," by Jasmine Kaur of Film and Television Institute of India. The participation in this section was enthusiastic and so was the response of the audience.
Despite the ever-troubling cash crunch, infrastructure problems and lack of man power, the `Third Eye: Fourth Asian Film Festival' caused ripples. One hopes that with time, the festival will acquaint one with the realities and dreams of a continent called Asia.
Students show celluloid creations
Amateurs, experimenters, aspirations, dreams are just some of the aspects associated with students of cinema. Reaching out to the audience, interacting with the veterans, screening their productions at fancy multiplexes and established theatres may be difficult for them. But with the Asian Film Festival organising a Competition Section for Diploma Films, the task came within the reach of several young Asian filmmakers.
Sudhir Nandgaonkar, Festival Director, says, "Till 1960 there was not a single film school in Asia. The Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) started in 1962. These film schools have produced some of the finest filmmakers. We know Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Girish Kasarvalli but few know that they come from FTII. That is why we introduced this competition section for diploma films. Through this we can hunt [for] new talent and the audiences will [also] get to know of the film schools that produce these filmmakers."
The young filmmakers agree unanimously about the important role of their respective films schools. Pankaj Purandare, from FTII, whose film "Dwija" was screened at the festival, says, "FTII completely lets you be. You can see so many films made by [the] greatest of director across the world."
Clil Nadav from Israel won the award in this section for "At Anna's." She responds on email about her experiences as a filmmaker and her film school. She says, "The thing that helped me a lot is that the school (The Beit Berl College School of Arts Film Department) as far as the artistic point of view is concerned tries not only [to] refrain from interfering with the directors' choices but also encourages and helps with the subject the students choose to deal with... " Some of the films screened makes one wonder whether the filmmakers should take such freedom. Some are very good, while watching some of the others the audience feels lost.
On the whole, however, the filmmakers explore different themes, and some experiment with the narrative form. For example, "Dwija" is based on child widows in Maharashtra who had to shave their heads and lead completely distraught lives.
Then there are different depictions of loneliness. "Saanjh," by Jasmine Kaur from FTII, that won a Special Certificate, is about the loneliness of an old man in a busy city.
The Israeli short film, "Invisible" explores the worsening of loneliness of a college student, Johar, who works as a security man in a shopping mall.
"At Anna's" is set in a bar late at night. With just about five characters, the film explores several layers of human emotions in less than half an hour.
Tripurari Sharan, Director of FTII, says participating in such festivals will help the graduates. However, the only missing aspect was perhaps interaction between the young filmmakers or between them and the veterans.
Nonetheless, with better financial and infrastructural support one can expect more from Third Eye in good time.
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