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Celebration of Pure Cinema


SAIBAL CHATTERJEE | Issue Dated: December 16, 2012, New Delhi
Tags : Kolkata | Kerala | International Film Festival of Kerala | classic |

India’s calendar of international film festivals, which revved up this year in Mumbai (October 18-25) before moving to Kolkata (November 10-17) and Goa (November 20—30), is a crowded place. Up ahead are film festivals in Chennai (December 13-20), Bangalore (December 20-27) and Pune (January 10-17, 2013), among sundry other smaller ones that are rolled out all round the year.

Amid the increasing glut of world cinema showcases, the Kerala State Chalachithra Academy has not only held its own but has also managed to carve a clear niche for itself with its annual celebration of the medium.

 The 17th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) kicks off in the state’s capital city, Thiruvananthapuram on Friday, December 7. In the words of the event’s artistic director, Bina Paul Venugopal, IFFK 2012 will, as it always does, present “a mix of films, contemporary and new with the classic”.

She says: “For a film buff, there is the possibility of seeing the latest films from the world over as well of revisiting masters like (Akira) Kurosawa or (Alain) Resnais, or great Vietnamese films.” Eleven films by Resnais, nine by Kurosawa and five by Alfred Hitchcock will be screened during the eight-day Festival.

Neither is that all. Adds Bina Paul: “Africa, Latin America and Asia are today the happening places for cinema. With our focus on these regions, we get to see some formidable cinema at IFFK.”

IFFK has a Competition section for Asian, Latin American and African films. The 14 films vying for the Rs 15 lakh Suvarna Chakoram (Golden Crow Pheasant) Award will be judged by a five-member international jury presided over by 72-year-old Australian writer-director Paul Cox. Among the others in the jury will be Indian filmmaker and cinematographer Govind Nihalani and Burkinabe director and screenwriter S. Pierre Yameogo.
IFFK 2012 is hosting retrospectives of both Cox and Yameogo. While five films by the Australian veteran will be screened, the filmmaker from Burkina Faso will have six of his cinematic works showcased in the course of the Festival. 

India will be represented in the IFFK Competition section by a quartet of titles, two each in Malayalam and Hindi. These films are T.V. Chandran’s Bhoomiyude Avakashikal (Inheritors of the Earth), actor-turned-director Joy Mathew’s Shutter, Nitin Kakkar’s Filmistan and Kamal KM’s I.D.

The four Indian films will compete, among others, with Merzak Allouache’s The Repentant (Algeria), Francisca Silva’s Ivan’s Woman (Chile), Behmin Soylemez’s Present Tense (Turkey) and Alain Gomis’ Today (Senegal).
A selection of contemporary films from around the world has always been the principal draw at IFFK, especially for the local audiences that the Festival attracts. It is no different this year – the global cinematic tapestry on offer is as rich as ever.

The latest works of celebrated directors such as Michael Haneke (Amour), Aki Kaurismaki (Le Havre), Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone), Bernardo Bertolucci (You and Me), Walter Salles (On the Road), Ken Loach (The Angel’s Share), Volker Schlondorff (Calm at Sea), Brillante Mendoza (Captive), Leos Carax (Holy Motors), Olivier Assayas (Something in the Air),Yousry Nasrallah (After the Battle), Carlos Reygadas (Post Tenebras Lux), Lars von Trier (Melancholia) and the late Raul Ruiz (Night Across the Street) are part of the IFFK’s programming line-up this year.

Says Bina Paul: “A person from Mallapuram who makes this pilgrimage every year to IFFK is not bothered if a film has been shown in Goa or Kolkata. The philosophy of IFFK is that we are, first and foremost, catering to our own audience. We do it efficiently and with great commitment… we are not competing with anyone else… To try and be like Cannes or any other big festival is not our brief.”

It is precisely this sense of freedom from the need to ape other models that gives IFFK its unique character. It can throw its doors open to films that have done the rounds of other festivals because it is not in the business of presenting premieres. The obvious dictum here is, the more the merrier.

Says the artistic director, a National Award-winning film editor who joined IFFK ten years ago: “Film festivals are to be protected and encouraged because they are practically the last public space left for a film viewer to watch films that are not prescribed by commercial constraints. IFFK has consistently proven that good cinema from all over the world has a good audience.”

Bina Paul believes that “we require more well-organised film festivals”. In pursuit of that goal, IFFK is hosting a meeting of festival directors from all over India, as she puts it, “to see how we can collaborate”.   

IFFK 2012’s Asian spread within the World Cinema section is particularly formidable. Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love, prolific Japanese director Takeshi Kitano’s Outrage Beyond, Korean maverick Kim Ki-Duk’s Arirang and Pieta, Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Mekong Hotel and Chinese rebel filmmaker Lou Ye’s Mystery are among the Asian films that the audience in Thiruvananthapuram will have an opportunity to savour.

Of special sub-continental interest are the India premiere of Deepa Mehta’s much-awaited screen adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s controversial but career-defining Midnight’s Children and acclaimed Sri Lankan director Prasanna Vithanage’s cinematic reworking of a Fyodor Dostoevsky’s short story, With You, Without You.
The last named, a Sinhala-Tamil film about a marriage that runs into grave trouble due to ethnic conflict, fetched the National School of Drama-trained Anjali Patil (Delhi in a Day, Chakravyuh) the Best Actress prize at the recently concluded 43rd International Film Festival of India in Goa.

IFFK also has a diverse selection of Indian films in three broad categories – Malayalam Cinema Today, Indian Cinema Now and Top Angle – Indian Cinema (which is a new category added to its Focus section). In each of these sections, the festival will screen seven films, making it a substantial total of 21.

The seven Malayalam films will provide an overview of current trends in the state. These are K, Gopinathan’s Ithramaathram, Madhupal’s Ozhimuri (A Document of Separation), Manoj Kana’s Chayilliam, Dr. Biju’s Akashathinte Niram (Colour of Sky), Lijin Jose’s Friday, Arun Kumar Aravind’s Ee Adutha Kaalathu (In Recent Times), and Ranjith Balakrishnan’s Indian Rupee.

Two other Malayalam films – G. Aravindan’s Kanchana Sita (1977) and Jayaraj’s Kaliyattam (1997) – will be screened as part of a package of “theatre films”. Also in this package are Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet (1996), Elia Kazan’s A Stre etcar Named Desire (1951), Sidney Lumet’s Equus (1977) and Franco Zeffirelli’s Romeo and Juliet (1996). 

'Indian Cinema Now' will showcase Rituparno Ghosh’s Chitrangada, Kaushik Ganguly’s Shabdo (Sound), Amitabh Chakraborty’s Cosmic Sex, Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar’s Samhita (The Script), Sarfaraz Alam’s Nandigramer Chokher Paani (Tears of Nandigram), M Adeyapartha Rajan’s Cheekha (The Crier) and Jahnu Barua’s Baandhon (Waves of Silence).

The 'Top Angle – Indian Cinema' section includes Girish Kasaravalli’s Koormavatara (Tortoise, A Reincarnation), Ajita Suchitra Veera’s Ballad of Rustom, Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni’s Deool (The Temple) and Arvind Iyer’s Drapchi.

IFFK derives a part of its purity and power from the distance that it keeps from the mainstream Mumbai movie industry, which has of late been increasingly infiltrating the festival space around the country. Kerala’s annual film festival remains a bastion that Bollywood has failed to make inroads into.

Interestingly, the Kerala State Chalachithra Academy, which hosts IFFK, is headed by film producer and director Priyadarshan, who is generally regarded as a high priest of commercial Malayalam and Hindi moviemaking although he now has a Best Film National Award (for the beautifully crafted Kanchivaram) behind him.

In recent times, there has been a growing demand upon IFFK to develop a film market within its fold. Says Bina Paul: “Lots of people want to see a market evolve but I don’t yet see the wherewithal to do it. A commercial space in a Festival is a different ball game. A modest well-run festival is what IFFK should remain.” She, however, does admit that the Festival “needs to step up technical standards”.

“We have a fantastic audience but I think consumption of films at a festival is not enough; a greater intellectual engagement has to be encouraged. The job of the filmmaker is to make the film but the job of the viewer is to appreciate and evaluate. I want to see IFFK evolve into such a space,” adds Bina Paul.
The International Film Festival of Kerala is well on the way. The coming week is set to mark another step forward in that direction.

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017