The next halt on my recent whistle-stop tour of global festivals and markets was the annual Film Bazaar in Goa, organised by the National Film Development Corporation (NFDC). Of particular interest to me was the co-production market, especially films that are not from India. These are projects that are at an early stage of their gestation period and are seeking financing, sales, distribution, and international film festival selection. Attending the filmmakers’ presentations is always exciting, as one can witness first-hand their passion for their projects.
The presentation that won hearts and minds was Netherlands-based Afghan-origin filmmaker Aboozar Amini’s The Cineaste . With a title like that, and with a roomful of filmmakers at the Bazaar, it was perhaps preaching to the converted. It is 1996 and the Taliban have banned any form of art and culture in Afghanistan, and defaulters face the death penalty. Asif runs a screening room in Bamiyan, playing films off VHS tapes. He is captured by the Taliban and is about to be killed, when Asif begs them the opportunity to screen one film before he dies. They agree and the film Asif picks at random is Sergio Leone’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966). The Taliban are captivated by the film and allow him to live, on the condition that he shows them a new film every day. Since Asif has only 10 tapes, effectively he has only 10 days to live. He fashions a narrative that includes Vittorio De Seca’s Bicycle Thieves (1948), Charlie Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940) and Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca (1942).
The enormously-talented Bangladeshi filmmaker Abu Shahed Emon, whose Jalal’s Story was Bangladesh’s entry for the Oscars last year, returns with A Foolish Man , that promises to be enormously entertaining. It follows a not very bright young man who dreams of joining the police force. Given that Mostofa Sarwar Farooki, the Godfather of Bangladeshi independent cinema, is one of the producers, this film will travel far.
Nepali filmmaker Abinash Bikram Shah’s Season of Dragonflies is another project that looks set to travel. It follows Rudraawati, a woman in her forties who has had a mastectomy. She faces a dilemma: whether to use her limited funds to repair her earthquake-ravaged house or get breast implants.
The Bengali love for the Hilsa fish is well-known. Bangladeshi filmmaker Rezwan Shahriar Sumit’s The Salt in Our Waters has a sculptor who moves to a fishing village to craft his new series. When the fish begin disappearing from the waters at an alarming rate, the local council chairman blames the sculptor and his images and denounces them as sinful. But a larger problem looms.
The Film Bazaar is a fertile breeding ground for international co-productions. Films that have benefited from being at the market include Thithi (US/India), The Lunchbox (India/France/Germany/US/Canada) and Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost (Germany/India/Netherlands/France) amongst many others. These films went on to win global acclaim.
I’m sure many of this year’s crop will also achieve similar heights.