LEKHA J SHANKAR
Bangkok is abuzz with the International Music-Dance and Cinema festivals.
Bangkok, with its schedule of events this season, will keep the culture buffs busy. On the agenda is the ongoing yearly International Music-Dance Festival, which continues till October. It boasts of ballets from China and Taiwan. The former has the famed Shanghai Ballet performing ‘Romeo and Juliet’ and ‘La Sylphide,’ while the latter has the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre enacting their much-talked-about ‘Moon Water’ ballet.
Portugal’s Grammy award-winning Fado singer, Mariza, and the scintillating American all-male ballet troupe from New York, The Trocks, are the other exciting artistes lined up.
Meanwhile, India’s Kathak Kendra had the international premiere of its latest repertory production ‘Punarnava,’ recently.
The 70-minute show, had some daring choreographic patterns by the ever-creative Kumudini Lakhia , and the dazzling footwork and sizzling “takkars” of the 13 talented dancers, had the Thai audience in a spin.
Head of the Repertory group, Gitanjali Lal, said she was delighted by their response, and was looking forward to taking the production to other countries. Equally excited were her lead dancers, Eshani, Afsar, Rahul, all of whom had performed at the same festival, last year, in the spectacular ‘Sankriti’ conceived by Madhavi Mudgal.
From Bangkok, ‘Punarnava’ is scheduled to visit the neighbouring countries of Laos and Cambodia.
The calendar also lists the International Film Festival (September 24 to 30). This year’s selection has much to please the cineaste. A rich line-up comes from the top festivals of the world such as Cannes, Berlin and Venice. The Opening film, ‘Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans,’ by maverick German director Werner Herzog (starring Nicholas Cage), created waves at the Venice festival (2009).
The closing one, ‘Sawasdee Bangkok’ is an omnibus of short films, made by nine well-known Thai directors. Among the others are those that also created waves in Cannes such as Pedro Almodovar’s ‘Broken Embraces,’ Manoel de Oliveira’s ‘ Eccentricities of a Blonde Hair Girl,’ and rookie director Xavier Dolan’s ‘I killed my mother’ (which won an award at Cannes).
Festival director Yongyoot Thongkongtoon (whose ‘Best of Times’ was the Thai entry for the Oscars, this year) stated that they had cut short the number of international films, this year, so that the festival could focus more on films from the ASEAN region. The BIFF even has a special competition section (S. E. Asian) for them. Among these are ‘Aurora’ from Phillippines, ‘Here’ from Singapore and ‘The Forbidden Door’ from Indonesia.
The only Thai film in this section is indie director Pen-Ek Ratanaruang’s ghost-drama ‘Nymph,’ which premiered at Cannes, and is doing the festival-circuit (Toronto, Poland and Estonia).
A special homage to Malaysian Director Yasmin Ahmad, who died recently, is also on the cards.
There are two Indian films at the BIFF: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s ode to Chandni Chowk, ‘Delhi-6’, which was screened at the Venice festival this year, and which the New York Times, called, “A referendum on the modern Indian soul.”
The second Indian one is ‘Seven Days in Slow Motion,’ the debut film of Umakanth Thumrugoti, who has earlier worked on various Disney animated films. It’s the unique tale of a young, movie-crazy child finding a camera and trying to make a film. It made an impression at the Indian film festivals in L.A. (Los Angeles) and Stuttgart.
This time the celebrity-list is nowhere like in its inaugural years, when stars such as Michael Douglas, Jeremy Irons and Oliver Stone attended the festival. Although, it has the names of many talented directors from the ASEAN region. Among them is Brillante Mendoza from the Phillippines, who is on the Main Jury of the festival. He won the Best Director award at Cannes this year for ‘Kinatay,’ about Manila’s sordid underworld. It is to be screened at BIFF.
BIFF will institute a new NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Award this year, pointing out the importance of Asian cinema. (The founder of NETPAC Award and Delhi’s Osian-Cinefan film festival is Aruna Vasudev). The Thai section will have a Retro on their stalwart director Cherd Songsri, as well as the new award-winning documentaries such as ‘Agrarian Utopia.’