IFFI 2016: Annual Filmigrage of a film-buff -- Siraj Syed

IFFI 2016: Annual Filmigrage of a film-buff -- Siraj Syed
It was in 1967, at the age of 15, that I saw a Japanese film called Red Beard, starring Toshiro Mifune, at the Apsara cinema, Bombay, in a morning show. Though I was a not a member of the film society that had organised the show, the Secretary (in a remarkable co-incidence, nick-named Red Beard for all his life) was kind enough to issue me a guest card. Succumbing to my persistent excitement, he even allowed me to come for a screening of Rashomon, by the same director, Akira Kurosawa, at Tarabai Hall, a couple of days later. Two Japanese black and while marvels marked tryst with destiny. I watched dumb-founded. That was it. I was hooked.

Destiny further ordained that I become an Executive Committee member of the Bombay University Film Society in 1973, and take over a moribund Cine Circle the next year, affiliated to the Federation of Film Societies of India (FFSI), helmed by names like Satyajit Ray and Chidanada Dasgupta. 

Another Chairmanship followed, this time for a film society that I established myself, called Film Circle. But the most significant development was the holding of Filmotsav in Bombay, in 1976. Filmostav was the biennial precursor of the present-day annual International Film Festival of India (IFFI), organised by the Directorate of Film Festivals in the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India.

As a Committee-Member of FFSI (headed by personalities like Basu Bhattacharya and Basu Chatterji), I was part of the Selection Jury and the Organising Committee. Filmostav metamorphosed into IFFI, and, over a period of 28 years, travelled across India, to New Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Thiruvananthapuram. I went with it, everywhere. 

In 2004, for reasons that largely defy logic, GoI decided that Panaji should be the permanent venue for IFFI. It also kept chipping and changing, altering and changing, almost everything about the festival; and very little of this exercise had anything to do with progress or evolution. IFFI 2016 marked the 40th year of my association with the only official international film festival of the country. 

What should have been a culmination of the experience and knowledge of 64 years (the first IFFI was held in 1952), IFFI 2016 was, instead, marred by incompetence, bungling and mismanagement of epic proportions. So what does one do in such a situation? Grin and bear it! Just try and focus on the film screening as well as the other incidentals, like seminars, master classes and forums. 

My diary of IFFI 2016, officially held on November 20-28, was created before the festival, and the last page, page 16, was written after the festival. In film terminology, this trifurcation is called pre-production, production and post-production. In common parlance, it tells you what happended before, during and after.

 
IFFI diary, Page 1: 1,000 entries from 100 countries
 
Ten days to go for the commencement of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), and there is no confirmation for media accreditation as yet. This being the 47th IFFI and my 47th year in film journalism, I am sure the concern is unfounded, though. Also being missed is the customary press conference, which is held well before the event. Meanwhile, here are some of the major attractions expected in Panaji, during November 20-28.
*A staggering 1,000 films will be screened, from around 100 countries. Great news, if film-buffs can chop themselves into 1,000 pieces and be omni-present, at all 1,000 shows.
*The Festival authorities have announced that they are proud to introduce the Centenary Award for best Debut Feature, a special competitive section for debut films of young and aspiring directors from all continents, carrying substantial prize money for the winning team!
*IFFI, in association with International Council for Film, Television and Audio-visual Communication (ICFT)-UNESCO, will launch the ICFT-Gandhi Award competitive section this year, which will feature films that promote peace and non-violence. The film that best reflects the Gandhi ideals of peace, tolerance and non-violence, will be awarded a prestigious Gandhi Medal and Certificate.

 
India’s entry in this section is nine times national award winning director T.S. Nagabharana’s Kannada language musical-drama-historical venture, Allama. The film is about the 12th century meta-physician and poet, Yogi Allama (pronounced All’ma and not Allama; not to be confused with the Urdu-Arabic word for scholar, usually associated with poet Iqbal, though the term is relevant), a son of a temple dancer, who embarks on a quest for knowledge and answers, to his four core sentiments and quests, yearning, and obsession, failures and self-realisation.
 
When he evolves and becomes ‘Prabhu’, a master of monotheistic and non-dualistic philosopher, he begins to question many core values in his ideal world where he can foresee violence and advises people to find solace and departs on his final journey to become one with nature and a true spirit. Dhananjaya plays Allama Prabhu, from the time he was a teenager till he was much older. The film also stars Meghana Raj and Sanchari Vijay.
Other films that will vie for the honour are A Real Vermeer, Beluga, Cold of Kalandar, Exiled, Harmonia, The Apology and The Family: Dementia.
 
IFFI diary, Page 2: 12 Cannes Film Festival award-winners 
A dozen Cannesy films are found in the selection for the 46th International Film Festival of India, 2016. Six months after Cannes and one month after the Mumbai Film Festival, those Indians who missed them there have another chance to make good their losses. I have seen only one of the pretty dozen, and though it was a treat for the eyes and ears, it was still anything but a pretty picture.
 
1. I, Daniel Blake (UK) (Crowd magnet at the Mumbai Film Festival last month)
Winner of the Palm d’Or (Golden Palm) and the Palm DogManitarian award
Directed by Ken Loach, the film won the Palm d’Or, the top prize awarded at Cannes. It was the second Palm d’Or for Loach who won it for The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006). I, Daniel Blake revolves around the life of a middle aged carpenter and a single mother, who find themselves stuck in similar situations. This film will be screened in the Masterstrokes category at IFFI.

2. It’s Only the End of the World (Canada)
Winner of the Grand Prix and the Ecumenical Jury Prize
Director Xavier Dolan was just 25 when he stunned the world with Mommy (2014, Jury Prize at Cannes). His latest film is about Louis, a terminally ill writer who returns home after a long absence, only to bring some unpleasant news to his family. This film too will be screened in the Masterstrokes category at IFFI.

3.  Graduation (Romania) (another MFF blockbuster)
Winner of Best Director award
After he made it big on the world stage with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (which was the opening film at IFFI in 2007; recall chatting with the director then), Romanian film maker Cristian Mungiu has established himself as a director to be watched. Graduation revolves around the life of a doctor and the challenges he has to face as a parent. This film, again, will be a part of the Masterstrokes category at IFFI. 

4. The Salesman (Iran) (MFF superhit carry-over)
Winner of the Best Actor and Best Screenplay award
Asghar Farhadi--the name itself is good enough to send world cinema lovers in a tizzy. Academy Award winner for A Separation (2011), Farhadi’s latest, The Salesman, is an Iranian-French film that he has directed and scripted. The story is a about a couple who play the lead roles in the local version of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The male lead was played by Shahab Hosseini, for which he won the Best Actor, and Farhadi took the honours for Best Screenplay. The film is Iran’s entry at the 2017 Oscars.

5. Ma’ Rosa (Philippines)
Winner of the Best Actress award
This film from the nation of countless islands is directed by Brilliante Mendoza, who has made award-winning films like Summer Heat (2006) and Thy Womb (2012). Shot with portable, inexpensive digital equipment, on location in the Philippines’ capital Manila’s poorest neighbourhoods, the film revolves around the life of Rosa, portrayed by Jacklyn Jose. Ma’ Rosa is another Masterstroke. It is the official submission of the Philippines for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category of the 89th Academy Awards, in 2017.

6.  American Honey (USA)
Winner of the Prix du Jury (Jury Prize)
American Honey is a British-American, directed by Andrea Arnold who has films like Red Road (2006) and the much appreciated Fish Tank (2009) to his name. The film is about the adventures of a teenage girl, who joins a travelling magazine sales crew, and stars Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf. This movie will be screened in the Cinema of the World category at IFFI.

7. The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Finland)
Winner of the ‘Un Certain Regard’ Award
This Finnish film, directed by Juho Kuosmanen, is a real life story about a famous Finnish boxer, Olli Mäki, who was in contention for the 1962 World Featherweight title. Shot in Black and White, the film is also the official submission of Finland for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film’ category of the 89th Academy Awards.

8. The Stopover (France)
Winner of the Un Certain Regard for Best Screenplay Award
The Stopover is a French film directed by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin. The story revolves around two young French soldiers who go to Cyprus on a three-day leave. This film will be screened in the Cinema of the World Category at IFFI.

9.  Wolf and Sheep (Afghanistan)
Winner of the Art Cinema Award
Wolf and Sheep is directed by Shahrbanoo Sadat. The film is about an anthropologist who observes isolated shepherd communities in Afghanistan, where wolves and sheep share equal importance. The film will compete for the Centenary Award: Best Debut Feature category at IFFI.
 
10.  The Neon Demon (Denmark) (MFF hot fare that is a neon-starter).
Winner of the Cannes Soundtrack Award
The Neon Demon is a psychological horror film, starring Elle Fanning, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves, and is directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, who won the Best Director at Cannes for Drive (2011). It is about Jesse, an aspiring model, who moves to Los Angeles to pursue her dream. The music is composed by Cliff Martinez, and this Demon will be screened in the Masterstrokes (?) category at IFFI.
 
11. The Student (Russia)
Winner of the François Chalais Award
The Student is a Russian film directed by Kirill Serebrennikov. This film is based on a high school student who believes that the world has been lost to evil. Variety called it “a film that never stops to think; it thinks (and speaks, and shouts) while prodigiously on the move.” The film will feature in the International Competition at IFFI.
 
12. Tramontane (Lebanon)
Winner of the Grand Golden Rail Award

 
Tramontane is directed by Vatche Boulghorijan, who makes his debut with this feature. The story revolves around Rabih, a young blind man who is in search of his true identity. This film will be a part of the Centenary Award: Best Debut Feature category at IFFI.
 
IFFI diary, Page 3: Thrillers from South Korea
Five South Korean thrillers of various sub-genres were part of the Country Focus at IFFI 2016. They included two films that were shown at Cannes. Culled from latest releases, the selection has been titled Memoirs of Fear.
 
Now a household name across the world thanks to Gangnam Style, a K-orea)-Pop song that shook the world in 2012, Gangnam-gu, in Seoul, is actually a large district where wealthy residential areas sit alongside high-end art facilities and Korea’s busiest fashion streets.
 
The country has a population of 51.33 million (as of the 2013 census) and, is a free democracy, operating under the Presidential system. The Korean film industry is quite unique, in the sense that domestic admissions for Korean and foreign films are split almost 50-50, with a mandate that 40% of all films released have to be local productions. In the past 10 years, Korean films have raced past foreign films in box office revenue and ticket sales. In 2012 alone, domestic films earned $44 million, whereas foreign films brought in $35 million.
 
Alone, 2015, directed by Park Hong-Min, 91 min.
While preparing his documentary about an old town in Seoul, Soo-min accidentally films a crime scene, in which a woman is killed by a group of masked men. He runs away with his camera, but soon gets caught, and is smashed on the head with a hammer by the men. Not long after, he wakes up naked, but without a wound, in the alley, and believes that he had a nightmare. Every time he tries to escape from the alley, he is brought back to the same alley.
 
Alone is the second film from Park Hong-min (A Fish, 2011). Dealing with gentrification and modern masculinity, in a confused urban landscape. Park follows his lead actor with an eerie, gliding camera, and the result is infectious and unsettling.
 
Horror Stories III, 2016, directed by Kim Sun, Kim Gok, Min Kyu-dong and Baek Seung-Bin, 94 min. 

 
This is the third outing for the franchise, based on three horror stories, each set in the past, present and future respectively. Dwelling into a bit of science fiction, the plot revolves around a girl who makes a near escape from Space War.
 
Producer, director, screenwriter Min Kyu-dong made an impressive debut as a co-director of Memento Mori (1999). Min’s second film All for Love (2005), revealed where his interests lie. All for Love had much more commercial sensibility than his debut film. It shows many couples and their love stories, and this style of filmmaking, resembling the popular Love Actually, brought him commercial success. Min’s third film, The Antique Bakery (2008), which was based on a well-known Japanese cartoon, was another showcase of the director’s wide-ranging interests, by deftly mixing up various subject matters that are difficult to deal with in a movie, such as homosexuality, childhood trauma, and a patriarchal family system. 
 
His 2011 film The Last Blossom, which was based on an original piece by a famous TV drama writer, introduced, just as in his previous works, several leading cast-members at once, to unfold its storyline. 2012 was a busy year for Min, as he released the enormously popular romantic comedy All About My Wife. He was also one of the directors on the second instalment on the omnibus Horror series, before helming the erotic, period drama-thriller, The Treacherous. 2016 saw him return for a third helping of Horror Stories.
 
Inside Men, 2015, directed by Woo Min-ho, 130 min.
Lee Kang-hee, an editor at an influential conservative newspaper, raises congressman Jang Pil-woo to the position of a leading candidate for President, using the power of the press. Behind this, there was his secret deal with the paper’s biggest sponsor. Ahn Sang-goo, a political henchman who supported Lee and Jang, gets his hand cut when he is caught pocketing the record of the sponsor’s slush fund. Woo Jang-hoon, an ambitious prosecutor, starts to investigate the relationship with Jang and the sponsor believing it is the only chance he can make it to the top. While getting down to the grass roots on the case, Woo meets Ahn, who has been deliberately planning his revenge. Now, the triangular conflict between one blind for power, one hell bent for vengeance and one eager for success starts.

 
Woo Min-ho is a director-screenwriter who released Man of Vendetta, a successful revenge thriller about a minister who goes searching for his kidnapped daughter. Woo followed that up in 2012 with the action-comedy-thriller The Spies, about a North Korean spy, stationed in Seoul, who has been making illegal money on the side, as he waits for orders from the North. When those finally arrive, he teams up with other agents. Spies did not work and was panned. Three years later, Woo came-up with his next film, the thriller, Inside Men, about corporate corruption, political fixing and media manipulation.
 
Office, 2015, directed by Hong Wan-Chan, 111 min.(Poster above)
To move up to a permanent job, intern Mirae’s been working hard for five months. One day, her gentle supervisor, Byung-guk, slaughters his entire family, and sneaks back to the office. While investigating, Detective Jong-hun senses that Byung-guk’s colleagues, unlike their testimonies, do not trust one another. What in the office really made Byung-guk go mad? Is he still in the building?
 
Office is the year’s biggest commercial surprises of 2015.
 
Hong Won-chan (director, script editor) entered the mainstream film industry as a scriptwriter, specialising in high-end thrillers. It all began with his iconic debut, a genre-bending thriller, The Chaser (2008), which catapulted the lead pair to stardom, after attracting over five million viewers to theatres, and earning critical acclaim at home and abroad, including a selection at the Cannes Film Festival. Hong next worked on the stock market heist film The Scam, in 2009. The gritty revenge thriller The Yellow Sea (2010) followed. Another critical hit, the film was also invited to Cannes, and screened widely, around the world. One more revenge thriller followed for Hong in 2012, when he co-wrote Confession of Murder.
 
The Wailing, 2016, directed by Na Hong-jin, 156 min.
An old stranger appears in a peaceful rural village, but no one knows when or why. As mysterious rumours begin to spread about this man, the villagers drop dead one by one. They grotesquely kill each other, for inexplicable reasons. The village is swept by turmoil and the stranger is subjected to suspicion. . A policeman is drawn into the incident and is forced to solve the mystery in order to save his daughter. The Wailing featured in the Out of Competition section, at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
 
Director, screenwriter Na Hong-jin scored box office success in Korea with The Chaser (2008). It was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and sold to about 40 countries. His last film, The Yellow Sea (2010), a movie about a Korean Chinese professional hit man, was funded by 20th Century Fox. Although The Yellow Sea was not as commercially successful in Korea as his first film, the film was invited to the Un Certain Regard section of the 64th Cannes International Film Festival, where it was recognised for its artistic achievement. 
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 4: Andrzej Wajda’s lingering Afterimage
 
Six of Poland’s much raved and long-revered director Andrzej Wajda’s films were on display at IFFI 2016. In a fitting tribute to the international master, who died on 9 October this year, of pulmonary failure, his last film, Afterimage, was the inaugural film here. Afterimage was completed just before his death, and he had even made a draft of the trailer and sent it to his editor, before dying, at age 90. A team that included his producer, costume designer and editor were at IFFI to witness the screening and share memories of the making of the film. Although Afterimage is anti-Stalin and anti-socialism, it is seen as more of a historic chronicle about a severely handicapped artist than a commentary.
 
Besides, five other films, lauded all over the world, were here as a retrospective. They included the representative from the ‘Man of…’ trilogy, Man of Iron, and covered a 50-year span, from 1958 to 2007. Wajda made his first film in 1954. He had made a war trilogy in the 50s. A supporter of the capitalist regime and a member of Lech Walesa's Solidarity Advisory Council, 1981-89, he was targeted by the communist government. Besides the stunningly visual Afterimage, the films were:
 
1. Ashes and Diamonds, 1958
 
On the last day of World War II in a small town somewhere in Poland, Polish exiles of war and the occupying Soviet forces confront the beginning of a new day, and a new Poland. In this incendiary environment, we find soldier Maciek Chelmicki, who has been ordered to assassinate a Russian commissar. But a mistake stalls his progress, and leads him to Krystyna, a beautiful barmaid who gives him a glimpse of what his life could be.
 
2. Katyn, 2007
 
In 1939-40, at the beginning of World War II, Soviet soldiers conduct a mass execution of captured Polish officers. With Hitler’s German forces rapidly advancing into Eastern Europe, a surviving Polish officer, Lt. Jerzy, at great risk to his own life, chooses to stay behind with his wife, Ann. The film is an assemblage of a novel by Andrzej Mularczyk, and real life accounts.

3. Man of Iron, 1981
 
The historic moment of Solidarity (the mass movement that dislodged Poland’s communist regime) is viewed through the eyes of Winkel, a weak-willed TV reporter, sent to Gdansk, to dig-up dirt on the ship-yard strikers, particularly on Maciek Tomczyk, an articulate worker and a strike-leader. At first posing as sympathetic reporter, and then caught up in the historic moment, Winkel is reborn a new man, just as his Polish homeland is reborn, with a new political system. Man of Iron won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival.
 
(In 1977, censors from Poland’s Script Commission, the propaganda department of the Central Committee, released Man of Marble, to the Polish audience. The film was hugely popular, as it truthfully told of the Stalinist era of the 1950s, and the 'soft-core' communism of the 1970s.22 years after Man of Iron, Wajda made a biopic, Walesa: Man of Hope, the final chapter in his Solidarity trilogy. It was a portrait of the life of Nobel Peace Prize winner and founder of Poland's Solidarity movement, Lech Walesa, as events in the 1970s lead to a revolution).
 
4. The Maids of Wilko, 1979
 
Wiktor, a veteran of World War I, finds himself sad and disaffected in the city, after the death of a close friend. After 15 years of being away from the city, Wiktor returns to Wilko. He comes to realise that he has had a considerable impact on the town and its people. His presence, in turn, forces the young girls of Wilko to evaluate their complicated lives and personal failures.

5. The Promised Land, 1975
 
Quite a rage at Filmostav Bombay1976 (an early version of IFFI; Mumbai was earlier known as Bombay), Andrzej Wajda’s viscerally vivid adaptation of Nobel Prize-winner Wladyslaw Reymont’s late-19th-century novel is a ruthlessly clear-eyed anatomising of the industrial revolution from the perspective of three young entrepreneurs vying to be the most ruthless.

Wajda, on his family
 
“My father was an officer, a junior lieutenant in the Polish Army. My mother was a teacher; she graduated from a teaching college and worked at a Ukrainian school. So they were a typical intelligentsia marriage. My father was promoted very quickly and he was moved to Suwalki, to the 41st Infantry Regiment garrison. And that's where I was born. Officers were constantly transferred from one garrison to another, so my father soon moved to Radom.
 
Professions such as a teacher or a military officer are directed towards other people. A teacher teaches children, an officer also educates, in a sense, disciplining the soldiers in his care. So, both are people who work for others, not only for themselves. I think this quality was very distinct among the Polish intelligentsia in those times and I didn't know that a person could behave otherwise. You live for others, not for yourself.
 
And suddenly, in 1939, everything collapsed. My father was lost; he went to war and never came back. My mother could not stay at home, she had to go to work, we became workers. Our intelligentsia family found itself in completely different surroundings. I was 13 when the war broke out, so the only things I retained were the things that my home, school and the church had given me until that age.
 
My father, Jakub Wajda, lived only to the age of 40 and died at Katyn.”
 
Wajda on “the director’s two eyes”
 
The good Lord provided the director with two eyes - one to look into the camera, the other to observe intently everything that is going on around him. It is a skill which you should develop and endlessly improve, until you stop making movies (in the case of those trying to make political films this might happen at any moment, so time is running out!) For example: when the camera starts running, the director should watch and see simultaneously:
 
How the actors are playing;
 
what the crew members are doing: are they watching the take so that later they will be able to draw conclusions who's responsible for what?
 
whether the lights haven't been moved: do they illumine the actors as agreed? (basically this is the operator's job, but it is worth taking note of) the sky: can the take be completed before the clouds obscure the sun? that actor walking over the rails; is he going to brush his sleeve against a priceless Chinese vase? the microphone, already dangerously low; is it going to get into the frame? and many, many other things, happening on location.
 
Many years ago, at the start of my career as a director, I used to ask my assistants to take note for me of some things during a take. This inevitably led to misunderstandings, and the evaluated material usually turned out to be disastrous. Unfortunately, this is a job the director cannot share. The members of the crew must know that at any given moment he is in control and has an eye on absolutely everything; only then will they accept his wishes and work really effectively.
 
(Excerpted from "Podwojne spojrzenie", Warsaw 1998)
 
IFFI diary, Page 5: Abbasolutely wonderful cinema of Kiarostami
 
*On a snowy morning/I run out/hatless and coatless/as happy as a child--a brief poem by Abbas Kiarostami.
*I believe the films of Kiarostami are extraordinary--Akira Kurosawa.
 
Every year, the International Film Festival of India pays a special tribute to film-makers who have moved on to their heavenly abodes. One such genius was Abbas Kiarostami, the Iranian legend, who passed away on July 4 this year, aged 76, in Paris, where he had been living for many years. In an eventful and rewarding career, he directed/wrote some 40 features and shorts.
 
Born in Tehran in 1940, into a large family, Abbas Kiarostami was a student of fine art. Education was free in Iran, and had it not been so, his siblings would not have been all able to pursue higher studies. In 1969, he created the cinema department at the Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, where the Iranian New Wave was born. We in India did not see much of it, as international film festivals in India were not so frequent then, or varied in content, as they became after 1976.
 
It was there that he produced most of his films until 1992, including his first short, The Bread and Alley (1970), and his first feature The Traveller (1974). His early foray, The Report (1977), was banned, following the cultural revolution in Iran. Like many a master, he too is known for a trilogy, the Koker films, comprising: Where is the Friend’s Home? (1987, which was India’s real awakening to the magic of Kiarostami), Life and Nothing More… (1992), and Through the Olive Trees (1994). Koker is the location in Iran that they are all set in. The highest level of pan-continental recognition came with Taste of Cherry, which won the Golden Palm at the Festival de Cannes. Accolades grew with The Wind Will Carry Us bagging the jury prize at Venice in 1999.
 
He returned to Cannes in competition, with Ten (2002), Certified Copy (2010) – for which French actress Juliette Binoche won the best actress glory, and Like Someone in Love (2012).
 
Kiarostami’s photography and video installations, including the acclaimed Trees Without Leaves, are exhibited all over the world, and his collections of poems have been translated into a many languages. He directed his first play, Tazieh, in 2003. Ta'ziyeh (or Ta'ziyé, or Ta'ziyah) is a Shia passion play, and has over 200 separate texts in the current repertoire, but all focus on one event: the murder of Imam Hussein, son of Khalifa+Imam Ali, and grandson of the prophet Mohammed, in 680AD, under the orders of tyrant king Yazeed. It is also performed in many parts of India during the month of Moharram. It was staged at the Teatro di Roma/Teatro India, a former soap factory in the crumbling industrial wastelands that line the Tiber, south of Ponte Testaccio. The Teatro India was born in 1999, to offer a second location at the Teatro di Roma, after the historic Teatro Argentina. Artistic Director of the Teatro Argentina, the actor and director Mario Martine, personally chose the name of the new building: India.
 
Some other honours conferred upon Kiarostami:
 
The Prix Roberto Rossellini (named after the Italian great), at the Cannes Film Festival (1992)
 
UNESCO’s Fellini (who can forget Frederico Fellini, also from Italy) Gold Medal (1997)
 
The Konrad Wolf (East German film director and long-standing President of the East German Akademie der Künst) Preis, of the Academy of the Arts, Berlin (2003).
 
These seven films of Abbas Kiarostami were chosen for at IFFI:
 
Like Someone in Love, 2012, France-Japan
 
In Tokyo, an elderly man and a student/escort girl take on different roles over the course of their unusual relationship. The young sex worker develops an unexpected connection with the widower, over a period of two days.
#Competed for the Palme d’Or at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival.
 
#Abbas Kiarostami’s final feature film.

Shirin, 2008
114 famous Iranian theatre and cinema actresses, and a French star (Juliette Binoche) are mute spectators at a theatrical representation of Khosrow and Shirin, a Persian poem from the twelfth century, put on stage by Kiarostami. The whole story is told by the faces of the women watching the show.
 
#First screened at the 65th Venice International Film Festival.
 
The story (of Shirin) was not important to me. I mean, I had not pinned my hopes on the story. I just thought they were watching a melodrama film. But I was uncertain about which film. During the course of production, I came across things which I found congenial.
 
Nezami—who lived almost eight centuries ago—was not only able to make drama. When it came to dramatic features, his works are believed to be as good as Shakespeare’s--but also, he had a perfect understanding of women. The image he created of women was very positive; he portrayed women as being capable and self-reliant. Such personalities are rarely seen even today.
 
Although Shirin maintains all the feminine, intricate features of women, it proves quite strong. Nezami has created a great picture of a love triangle for us. A triangle one side of which features a king, and another an architect and mathematician, a statue maker, or an able-bodied person capable of conveying confidence to women. I believe they were both ideal for women.”
Take Me Home, 2016, B&W, Short
Abbas Kiarostami takes his camera to south of Italy, and shows us a beautiful and playful video, of alleys and stairs there.
 
#Kiarostami’s final work.

Taste of Cherry, 1997
A dark drama, about a desperate man on the verge of suicide, who seeks someone willing to bury him, discreetly.

Ten, 2002, Docu-drama/Docu-fiction
 
Ten different sequences examine the emotional lives of women at significant junctures, including the main protagonist’s.
 
#Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

The Wind Will Carry Us, 1999
A trio of journalists from the city arrive in a little village, with a very unusual mission. They pretend to be communications engineers, but they are awaiting the death of woman who is over 100. Among other things, the film explores cultural differences between a man from the city and from a village.
 
#Nominated for the Golden Lion at the 1999 Venice Film Festival.
#Won the Grand Special Jury Prize (Silver Lion), the FIPRESCI Prize
#Won the CinemAvvenire at the 1999 Venice Film Festival.

Through The Olive Trees, 1994
 
The movie is set in earthquake-ravaged Northern Iran, and explores the relationship between the movie director, and the actors. The local actors play a couple who got married right after the earthquake. In reality, the actor is trying to persuade the actress that they should get married.
 
#Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 1994 Cannes Film Festival.
 
Besides these seven films being screened at IFFI  2016, a documentary on Abbas Kiarostami, was screened under the category, ‘Documenting the Legends.’ The documentary is titled ‘76 Minutes and 15 Seconds with Abbas Kiarostami’, sharing 76 minutes and 15 seconds of undiscovered moments of Abbas Kiarostami’s life and work, in commemoration of his 76 years and 15 days of creative journey. The shots of this documentary are selected out of hundreds of hours of footage, filmed during 25 years of friendship, inside and outside Iran, on various occasions: film festivals, photo exhibitions, photography sessions, artistic events, workshops and some unique moments of his daily life. Seifollah Samadian, his friend and long-time collaborator, is the maker. Samadian, who did the cinematography on ABC Africa, organises Iran’s annual photography festival.
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 6: BRICS by bricks
A film festival, with a competition section, was held in September, in New Delhi, preceding the Brazil, India China, Russia and South Africa (BRICS) summit, to which  played host last month. 20 films (4 each from member countries) were screened. Awards were given in five categories: (i) Best Film- Thithi (India); (ii) Best Actor Male- Thabo Rametsi (South Africa); (iii) Best Actor Female- Yulia Pereslid (Russia); (iv) Best Director- Hua Jianqi (China); and (v) Jury Award- Phillilpe Barcinski (Brazil).
 
The acronym ‘BRIC’ was first used in 2001 by Goldman Sachs in their Global Economics Paper, "The World Needs Better Economic BRICs" on the basis of econometric analyses projecting that the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China would individually and collectively occupy far greater economic space and would be amongst the world’s largest economies, in the next 50 years or so. As a formal grouping, BRIC started after in 2006. South Africa joined the group in 2011.
 
Five award winning films formed the BRICS package at IFFI, including the much talked-about and much awarded Indian
Kannada language film, Thithi (India | Raam Reddy | 123 min). India was represented on the jury by director T.S. Nagabharana. Since a lot has been written about Thithi already, let us see what the other four films were about.

14+, Russia | Andrei Zaitsev/Zaytsev | 102 min
 
A modern day Romeo and Juliet, there are 22 songs in this film and one of the songs is composed by a band from India. Alex has been smitten ever since he saw Vika, but she is beyond his reach, as her school and block of flats are enemy territory. Alex, nonetheless, sneaks into her school disco, and plucks up the courage to ask her to dance. Incensed by the intruder, the other boys beat Alex. A turbulent, moving tale of first love, set in a vast suburban conglomeration of tower blocks. The story might recall. Kirill Razlogov, a well-known film Russian film personality, was on the festival’s jury, representing Russia. Interestingly the screenings coincided with a national holiday, Russia Day, which is celebrated on September 3.

Between Valleys, Brazil (co-produced with Uruguay and Germany) | Philippe Barcinski | 80 min
Made in 2012, Between Valleys is about two identical men (double role by the lead actor) who lead very different lives. The two men, Vincente and Antonio, have lives that intersect at a garbage dump. While the first man is a successful business consultant, the latter lives by scavenging. Are they separated twins? Soon, calamity strikes, when dump-trucks stop bringing fresh garbage to this site.

Kalushi, South Africa | Mandla Dube | 110 min
This bio-pic is about a character from Kalushi- The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, which is the story about the real Political hero, Solomon Mahlangu. A nineteen year-old hawker from Mamelodi township, selling vegetables to help support his family. Born in Pretoria in 1956, his father left him in 1962, and from then on only saw him infrequently. His mother was a domestic worker and took sole responsibility for his upbringing. He was tried during 1977-78, during the apartheid era, and subsequently executed. Kalushi was first performed as a play.
 
Xuan Zang/Xuanzang/Xuan Zhang, China (co-produced with India) | Jianqi Huo | 90 min
 
Released in China in April, this film is yet to be shown in India. Mumbai, 2016. A student in Mumbai University’s library asks for a copy of the 1870 book, The Ancient Geography of India, by Alexander Cunningham (Jonathan Kos-Read), and reads how his excavations were aided by the writings of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang. In AD 627, Xuanzang (Huang Xiaoming), feeling a calling to travel to the Indian subcontinent and bring back copies of original Buddhist scriptures, sets out on a solo journey westwards. Foreign travel is banned, because the country is at war with neighbours, but Xuanzang convinces Li Daliang (Xu Zheng), the governor of Liangzhou, to let him cross the border, despite the dangers ahead.
 
The prestigious project is the first official China-India co-production under the agreement signed in 2014. Some familiar Indian faces will greet you on screen, including Ram Gopal Bajaj (Shilabhadra, Nalanda head priest), Sonu Sood (Harsha, king), Mandana Karimi (Harsha’s sister), Neha Sharma (Kumari, Jayaram’s wife), Ali Fazal (Jayaram), Rajesh Khera (Simharsami), Prithvi Zutshi (Juewu, senior Buddhist priest), Sanjay Gurbaxani (Mingxian, senior Buddhist priest), Karim Hajee (Haihui, senior Buddhist priest).
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 7: And the Oscar for restoring classics goes to…AMPAS!
American body Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is best known for presenting the annual awards, which are characterised by a figurine called the Oscar. Though that is the face of the academy, it does much more service to the cause of both American and international cinema than most people would imagine, including holding an annual student Oscars.
At the Black Box of Panaji’s Kala Academy, AMPAS’s inventory film archivist/short film preservationist Tessa Idlewine, who holds a degree in film archiving and restoration, revealed the extraordinary effort that the academy puts into film storage and restoration, and the pain-staking 20 years it took to restore Indian idol Satayjit Ray’s work. “It’s an on-going exercise that began with the shocking realisation that the academy did not have clips of serviceable quality to go with the audio-visual which was to precede the conferment of the Oscar on Ray, while he would address the gathering via video-link from his hospital bed in Kolkata. The results include the amazing restoration of almost all of his films, the most decorated of which, Pather Panchali, is being shown on Friday at IFFI  2016,” she said.
 
AMPAS is among the three major film preservation and restoration centres in the USA, the National Archive and the Library of Congress being the other two . During the 1890s-1950s nitrate base was used to make film, and nitrate burns even without oxygen, so many of the titles perished. Even later, after acetate (vinegar-base) came in, the negatives corroded, mainly due to the vinegar (spilled acidic liquid) effect. So, only 20% of films could make it through, from the period 1910-20, and 50% from 1921-1950. Polyester, in use after 1990, is much more durable. Digital is the current rage, but we do not know how long-lasting it will be,” she added. Incidentally, Tessa’s range of duties spans film handling, film identification, preservation, conservation, cataloguing, film archiving ethics, curating, customer service skills, copy- editing, materials management, transcription, typing (70 WPM), and word processing.
 
Besides the Ray collection, to the restoration of which laboratory Cineteca, in Bologna, Italy, made the most significant contribution, AMPAS already has 5,500 titles, weighing 1mn lbs/450,000 kg of film, in 8 mm, Super 8 mm, 9.5 mm (who knew about this?), 16 mm, 28 mm (rare indeed!) and the obvious gauge of 35 mm and 70 mm, stored in ideal conditions. Besides, 124 interviews have been recorded, including one with Sharmila Tagore, the yester-years’ Hindi and Bengali film-star, and former Chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). Informal archiving has been going on since the first Oscars, 1928-29 (audio) and formal work started in 1948-49 (audio-visual). Over the years, they have restored films like WestSide Story, Miracle on 34th Street, Oliver and Heaven Can Wait.
 
Archival Revival--25 Years of The Academy Film Archive, was launched last year, in July, and ran through September, with the Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins-directed classic, West Side Story, flagging it off. And if subsequent programs are anywhere near the quality of the 70MM and 6-track stereo sound restored film print, shown at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theatre,
 
Miracle was first shown in its restored version on Thursday, December 11, 2015, at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, in Beverly Hills. The 35mm print was from the collection of the Academy Film Archive, courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox, and was presented as part of the Academy’s Gold Standard screening series.
 
Made in 1947, the film was written and directed by George Seaton, and stars Maureen O’Hara as the cynical Macy’s executive whose equally sceptical eight-year-old daughter (Natalie Wood) is intrigued by the store’s seasonal Santa Claus, who may or may not be the real thing.
 
Miracle on 34th Street won Academy Awards for Actor in a Supporting Role (Edmund Gwenn), Writing--Motion Picture Story (Valentine Davies) and Writing--Screenplay (Seaton) and earned a nomination for Best Motion Picture (20th Century-Fox). Its lead actress, Maureen O’Hara died in October last year.
 
Shivendra Dungarpur, who is the Founder-Director of the Film Heritage Foundation (Mumbai) and who made a rivetting documentary on P.K. Nair, the late Director of the National Film Archive of India (Pune), introduced Idlewine and conducted the Q&A session afterwards. He recalled Ray’s legendary cameraman Subroto Mitra wondering whether future generations would be able to appreciate his work with Ray, given the sorry quality of existing prints and VHS tapes that were being used to copy films, those days. “He should have been alive today to see the remarkable restoration made possible by the resources and perseverance of a dedicated few,” wished Dungarpur.
 
He has collaborated on two world-class restoration projects with Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Foundation: Uday Shankar’s classic film ‘Kalpana’ and eminent Sri Lankan filmmaker Dr. Lester James Peries film ‘Nidhanaya’ that premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012 and Venice Film Festival 2013 respectively. He was a donor for the restoration of Hitchcock’s silent film ‘The Lodger’ that was done by the British Film Institute. Shivendra travels the world to meet and extensively interview great masters of cinema for his personal.
 
Present in audience was Mr. Sid Ganis, Former President of Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and American Motion Picture Executive and Producer. Mr. Sid Ganis had a distinguished career in Hollywood as an executive at major studios, including Sony Pictures, Lucasfilm, Warner Bros. and Paramount, and produced films such as Big Daddy, Deuce Bigalow, Mr. Deeds, The Master of Disguise and Akeelah and the Bee. He is a long-time member of the Academy of AMPAS, for which he served four consecutive year-long terms as president, from 2004-2009. At 77, he has had a long and illustrious career.
 
At a press conference held later, Ganis said that the Academy has been developing a very close relationship with the Indian film-makers, and with , through the International Film Festival of India. In the past few years, the Academy is getting to know Indian celebrities and film-makers and wanting to enhance and expand their relationship with Indian Film Industry. He further added that the Academy is not just an Academy for America or Hollywood alone, but about film-makers and artists across the world. At the 47th IFFI, Mr. Ganis conducted a special workshop on 'Foreign Language Film Selection for Oscar Awards by AMPAS’.
 
At the same, joint conference, Idlewine described about the criteria, how a film is being selected for preserving, saying that, firstly, preference is given to the Oscar-nominated films, but that is not all. Apart from the Oscar nominated films, the ones, which are unique, important, and decaying, are also preserved. Out of the 37 films under the project, 21 have been restored successfully. Commenting over the preservation of the work of Satyajit Ray, Tessa said that the AMPAS is working continuously to save the artistic works of the maestro.
 
India’s Top 10 Lost Films – Compiled by late P.K. Nair, the Director and the moving force behind National Film Archive of India (NFAI). (Thanks to Shivendra Dungarpur for the information)
 
Bhakta Vidur (Alternate Title: Dharma Vijay), 1921, 89 mins
Adopting the perspective of Vidur- the chief advisor to the Kauravas, who, for ethical reasons, sided with the Pandavas prior to the great war of Kurukshetra- the film ‘Bhakta Vidur’ sought to hold a moral lens to the struggle between British colonialists and the Indian resistance.

Bilet pherat (Alternate title: England returned),1921, 68mins
One of the earliest examples of broad, deliberate satire made in the mould of the Hollywood slapstick comedies of the time, ‘Bilet Pherat’ (1921) lampoons the trend of Indians travelling abroad (in those days, usually to Britain) for higher education.

Savkari Pash (The Indian Shylock), 1925, 80 mins
A milestone film by Baburao Painter, ‘Savkari Pash’ is notable not just for its courage in going against the grain but also for its technical finesse and poignant treatment of its subject matter. At a time when mythological films were de rigueur, Baburao Painter staked almost everything to make India’s first social realist film.

Balidan (Sacrifice), 1927, 108 mins
‘An excellent and truly Indian film’- The Indian Cinematograph Committee, 1927.
 
‘Balidan’ was a persuasive effort at bringing about social reform with its story of a conflict between a progressive, rational king and an orthodox, ritual-bound priest.
 
Alam Ara (1931) Hindi/ Urdu, 124 mins
‘Alam Ara’ occupies its position in Indian film history as the first film to have employed sound and possess a diegetic soundtrack, complete with songs. A swashbuckling tale of warring queens, palace intrigue, jealousy and romance, the film was heavily drawn from Parsee theatre.

Sairandhri, 1933, 148 mins
The first Indian film to have been made in colour, (though not indigenously since it was processed and printed in Babelsburg, Germany using the Agfacolor process), ‘Sairandhri’ is a remake of Baburao Painter’s silent classic from 1920, of the same name

Mill (Mazdoor), 1934, 142 mins
This is the only film written by the acclaimed writer Munshi Premchand in which he also played a cameo. The film courted controversy owing to its story of a prodigal son of a benevolent mill worker who inherits the mill and proceeds to treat its workers with disdain.

Seeta (1934), 119 mins
A mythological film with a stellar cast featuring Prithviraj Kapoor as Ram and Durga Khote as Seeta along with some of the most high-profile actors of the time, the film broke new ground by becoming the first Indian film to gain international exposure: it was screened at the 1934 Venice Film Festival where Debaki Bose won an award, the first Indian filmmaker to do so on an international platform.

Zindagi (Life), 1940, 120 mins
One of the highest grossing films of the 1940s, the music for the film was composed by Pankaj Mullick. The film saw P.C. Barua coming together once again with K.L. Saigal along with the actress Jamuna. It was a film that not only challenged social mores but also explored the complexities and consequent disillusionment of an unusual platonic relationship between an unmarried couple living together.

Khoon ka Khoon (Hamlet), 1935, 122 mins
This was the first adaptation of a Shakespearan drama in Indian cinema. Largely a filmed version of a stage performance of the play, the film contains a towering performance by Sohrab Modi in the central role of Hamlet, and is an astute adaptation of the original Shakespeare play. The film marked the feature debut of Naseem Banu, as Ophelia.
 
Meanwhile, AMPAS is at it all the time, with four l-posts: Conservation, Preservation, Restoration, Access. Primarily of American Oscar-winners, and, more significantly for world cinema, any film it finds significant worthy of restoring.
 
We were treated to some mind-boggling and heart-tugging restored clips. Since you were not there, do the next best thing. Don’t miss these restored classics at their screenings, wherever  and whenever you get a chance!
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 8: Life after Ghatak, and breaking mindsets
Federation of Film Societies of India continues to champion the cause of film culture and appreciation by not only running film societies all over India, but organising the Open Forum at IFFI every year, in collaboration with DFF. At IFFI 2016, it got to share hosting of the six-day platform with the Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA), the first three days being allotted to FFSI. I missed the inaugural day’s proceedings, but in the second edition, the mid-day meetings of minds focussed on ‘The Scope and challenges for independent film-maker today’.
 
Six speakers attended the event, which was preceded by the release of a book by Nabarupa Bhattacharjee, the grand-daughter of one of India’s most lauded and posthumously acknowledged directors, Ritwick Ghatak, at the hands of the festival director, Mr. C. Senthil Rajan. Titled ‘Life After Ritwick Ghatak’, it is a collection of memories of Nabarupa’s grand-mother, Surama, who had to bear the brunt of her husband’s misfortunes and illnesses, and ultimately, separation. Asked whether the book was confined to the period after Ghataks’s death (in 1976, aged 50), she revealed that through the eyes of 90 year-old Surama, we will relive the earlier years too.
 
-based lecturer and theatre veteran Rajeev Shinde confessed that he was a die-hard optimist, having been able to make K Sera Sera (Konkani, included in the Indian Panorama, and the last official screening on the last day of the festival) in 15 days, with a crew that almost entirely consisted of his students. “Don’t worry about the challenges too much; consider the scope that technology offers today, to make better-planned films, in lower budgets.”
 
Pierre Filmon (now that’s an apt name), of France, is a documentary film-maker, who is here, “…to learn, and not to teach.” Pierre Filmon made his first short film, ‘Blue of China’, in 1996. They were followed by ‘Espousals’ (1999) by Chekhov, and ‘Silence, First’ (2002) with Rüdiger Vogler. His three short films covered fifty festivals in France and abroad and won several prizes. In 2016, he released his first documentary-feature film, ‘Close Encounters with Vilmos Zsigmond’, which brought him to IFFI 2016. Circumstances are pretty much the same in France, he confided, but emphasised the need to connect with your audience base through social media very quickly, for completing a film is just the beginning of your journey.
 
“Breaking the mind-set that ‘anything that is not main-stream, is not to be touched’ is the biggest hurdle for an independent film-maker” opined indie film-maker Madhu Mahankali, from Hyderabad, who managed a 14-screen release of his Telugu film Parampara (2014). “Netflix offers some hope. Incidentally, in my part of the country, auditoria with seating 100 capacities, tickets priced at Rs. 50-100 ($1-1.5) are springing up. I am sure this will give a great fillip to the screening opportunities of independent film-makers,” he averred. 
Rama, Meena, Senthil, Navarupa and Pierre
 
Dr. Meena Longjam from Manipur, (“virgin North East India she called it”), who’s short Auto-Driver has won an award, lamented the ethnic hill and valley divide in the region. “An independent film-maker is like a bachelor or a spinster, not answerable to anyone. But funds are always short for him/her. Doc Edge in Kolkata is one source of funds. We need many more,” she exhorted.
 
Actress and IFFI 2016 selection Jury member, actress Rama Vij has produced three projects too. “Challenges for the independent film-maker have always been there, are there, will be there. My motto is ‘plunge into it; just do it.”
 
Re-iterating the government of India’s policy of encouraging independent film makers, Rajan shared, “IFFI 2016 has a large number of indies in its package.” On the issue of screening platforms, and low screen density in India, he hopes he recalled, “I recently met a person who organises short film festivals in beer bars. Maybe Goa could replicate this idea!”
 
On behalf of FFSI, the proceedings were conducted and moderated by Bh.S. S. Prakash Reddy (Regional Secretary, Southern Region) and G.K. Shyam (Secretary)
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 9: Open Forum III: Skill-building through master classes

 
An essential feature of every international film festival around the globe, mater classes abound at IFFI too. FFSI, in collaboration with DFF, chose to highlight their benefits in skill-building at the third Open Forum. An open-air affair, it did not attract too many attendees. Firstly, the location was remote and secondly the timing that has been a permanent slot for Open Forum at IFFI is from 1.30 pm to 2.30-3 pm, exactly when the audiences take their lunch and head into the scheduled third screening of the day. Moreover, the occasional benevolence of offering tea/snacks to those present has become a rarity, so most enthusiast choose partaking a meal  over skipping a meal.
 
On the panel were A. K. Bir (Chairman of the Technical and Theatre committee at IFFI; famed director-cinematographer); Ketan Mehta of Qube Cinema (not the namesake film director); another Mehta, Hardik (film-maker, whose film Famous in Amdavad was being shown at IFFI  2016); Astri Ghosh (actress of mixed Norwegian-Indian parentage who grew up in Delhi); Tapan Acharya (who played a lead role in the Konkani film Aleesha, shown at IFFI 2004); Judy Gladstone (casting director and executive producer from Toronto, Canada) and Aseem Chhabra  (Director of the New York Indian Film Festival).
 
Hardik made a strong case for attending master classes. “The best lessons I learnt were from a master Class by the German genius, Werner Herzog, which I attended in Locarno. Believe me, it’s the best learning experience for a beginner. You can still catch it online. Why, right here at IFFI  2016, there was an enlightening master class on costume design by Rosalie Varda of France, who told us how she turned to museums to recreate period costumes from paintings.” Tapan predicted that, in the age of online communication, there might soon come a time when IFFI films would be viewed in real-time screenings on TVs, computers and phones across India, just by obtaining a password.
                                                   
Amazingly gifted, Astri speaks English, Norwegian, Bengali and Hindi. She has translated the plays of renowned Norwegian playwright Ibsen and Bengali/Indian legend, Rabindranath Tagore and acted in two feature films, Life Goes On and Baarish. “It was while attending master classes at film festivals that my desire to take to acting as a profession was spurred on,” she revealed. Judy reminisced about her experiences in Toronto, which has a film festival every week!
 
“With the advent of Barco’s laser projectors, the era of Xenon lamp projectors is about to end. Also, films that used to be sent to festivals on DCP format are making way for online transfer,” prophesied Ketan. An attendee asked Aseem Chhabra whether the ‘talk-clips-Q&A’ style of master classes could be changed to a much more interactive approach, he replied, “What you are suggesting is that master classes should be more like workshops. A master class is usually conducted in the present manner only.”
 
Bir shared with the audience that the silver screen and laser technology was in use at IFFI, and it greatly helped in projecting 3D images from two projectors. “A semi-conductor chip, 1/5th the breadth of human hair, houses innumerable mirrors, on hinges, that move to adjust to the demands of the picture’s luminance. Considering we still do not have a state-of-the-art festival complex (expected in 2019), we are doing quite well, technically.” Commenting on master classes, he had words of wisdom to share, “Any interaction with a master will stimulate a cognitive mind. But, in the end, we will need these three qualities for any creative process to be meaningful: Bounty, restraint and compassion.”
 
This was to be the last Open Forum at Kala Academy, also the last to be organised by then Federation of Film Societies of India. The baton would be passed on to the India Documentary Producers’ association for the next day, where confusion would prevail. What the confusion would be was an Open guess.
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 10, Open Forum IV: Courses for horses or horses for courses?
Both, really. We are in the age of customised platforms for film viewing finding best-match, multiple-matches and staggered exhibition alternatives for films. A magnum opus like Bahubali (Indian mythological blockbuster franchise) needs a massive, four-digit spanning simultaneous, theatrical release while a Lunch Box (the mouse that roared a couple of years ago), though critically raved, would be have to be content with a two-cinema first-run. And online digital is the only way forward, in an era when hundreds of films do not see a theatrical release at all.
 
This was the centre-point of the fourth Open Forum at the International Film festival of India (IFFI) 2016. Organisers changed too, with the Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA) taking over from the Federation of Film Societies of India (FFSI), in a 50%-50%/3-3 split of the six allotted days.
 
Six persons were seated on dais: Piiyush Singh (Country Head, Muvizz.com), Sid Bhargava (Managing Partner, Indian Content Mart/Sharar Technologies), Apoorva Bakshi (Head, Original Productions and Partnerships, Filmkaravan), Naman Ramchandran (author, journalist) and Sanjay Ram & Vivek Kajaria (co-founders, Basil Content). Another five represented IDPA: Usha Deshpande (Vice President), Ratnakar Tardalkar (Treasurer), Lygia Mathews (EC member), Veena Bakshi (EC member) and Satinder Mohan (EC member).
 
Some interesting insights emerged from the conversations:
 
1. Sensible cinema, like entertaining blockbusters, should not be available for free.
2. No film is bad. Even so-called bad films can make some money, if they are made within tighter budgets and exploited across avenues.
3. Rank newcomers may not be able to garner much interest from financers or digital distributors, but if your first or second film has been appreciated, you are quite likely to generate traction.
3. Reliance’s Jio and Eros Now are already emerging as huge providers of film and video content, and could outpace Netflix and Amazon Prime as the key players in the Indian mainstream, as well as indie film, digital distribution domain. Eros Now claims to have signed-up 55m subscribers already.
4. Selling your film to a company who gives you a higher price but takes away more rights and territories is a trap makers should avoid. Some of these buyers then exploit the titles piece-meal and make much more money than the producer imagined, and he regrets being short-changed. Incidentally, Netflix pays less for limited rights, but, in general, they buy Indian titles for a decent $90,000-$1,35,000.
5. Video-on-Demand (VOD) was a concept that few Indian producers understood till 2-3 years ago. Most of them equated it with piracy! Now, they are canvassing aggressively for selling their VOD rights.
6. Narrow-casting and market segregation mean that regional language (vernacular) films, as well as films in Indian dialects (Haryanvi, Maithili, Konkani, etc.) are likely to reach more eyeballs than one would have imagined, with pockets of ethnic groups in many urban centres across India.
7. Producers/directors should not treat their vision as sacred and untouchable. Rather than sticking to a Director’s Cut, they should be flexible enough to shoot, say, two endings for a film, one for the domestic market, in which the “kid lives in the end” and another for countries like Korea and Japan , where it is fine if he dies.
 
 
Abhayanand Singh, Manoj Bajpayee and Piiyush Singh
 
Muvizz.com
Abhayanand Singh, an investment banker and a movie buff based in Singapore, and Piiyush Singh, a producer of TV serials and documentaries, run this platform, which is registered in Singapore. Their upcoming feature film is titled ‘Bhonsle’ . Written and directed by Devashish Makhija, it will have Manoj Bajpayee playing the title role of ‘Bhonsle’. Singh, Bajpayee and Makhija have earlier worked together on a short film, ‘Taandav’ which earned rave reviews earlier.
 
Naman Ramachandran
Writer of Brahman Naman, the first Asian Netflix original, Naman completed a Master’s degree in Journalism from the Asian College of Journalism. After stints as a film critic, he took another Master’s degree, in Media Management, and then worked with the British Film Institute, managing their ImagineAsia project. He is the UK and Ireland correspondent for Cineuropa, writes for Variety and Sight & Sound, and has authored two books: Rajnikanth: The Definitive Biography, and Lights Camera Masala: Making Movies in Mumbai.

Indian Content Mart
Indian Content Market is a Delhi-based company “working hard to launch a new site that’s going to revolutionise the way you buy and sell films, TV series and other entertainment content from India.” It is in a nascent stage and claims to have 1,000+ titles, 50+ sellers, 1,000+ rights

 
Basil Content
Basil Content Media is founded by National award winning producer Vivek Kajaria (Fandry, Marathi). The company is led by former festival programmer and Marketing/Production Executive, Sanjay Ram, along with former Festival advisor and programmer Rajat Goswami. The agency has picked up Pulkit’s ‘Maroon’, Ananya Kasaravalli's ‘Chronicles of Hari’, Dnyanesh Zoting’s ‘Drishyam’ and Sundance Lab selection ‘Raakshas’ for sales, and Samit Kakkad’s ‘Half Ticket’ for representation.
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 11: Open Forum V: “We need more Amitabh Bachchans to help reduce global warming”
 
 (Left to right: Naresh Sharma, Mike Pandey, Neil Sadwelkar and Vivek Singhania)   
                                
In its second Open Forum at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2016, Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA) sounded an urgent warning about the spreading carbon footprint and discussed steps to curb/neutralise its deleterious effect, especially among the film fraternity. Mike Pandey, President of IDPA and world-renowned environment-awareness film-maker, was the moderator. On the panel were Senthil Rajan, Director DFF (who joined in at the fag end), and Arvind Ranade, of Vigyan Prasar (‘Science Communication’), Dept. of Science and Technology. Lygia Matthews, Executive Committee member of IDPA, conducted the proceedings.
 
Pandey reminded us that the carbon--and even more dangerously, the 20% more hazardous methane--footprints are spreading like wildfire across the globe, and India is among the highest generators, perhaps a corollary to rapid industrialisation, and a direct result of indiscriminate mining and tree-felling. Luckily, technology has helped reduce the dependence on pollutant light sources for film-making, he enthused. “Just a few days ago, I was shown a camera in London, which captured images without any light whatsoever, and I could still see through it objects in pitch darkness that I could not even see through my naked eyes!”
 
(Sony’s A7S II records in near pitch darkness, on 4k without any additional gear. Canon’s ME20F-SH camera can take full-colour shots in near-total darkness, maximum ISO in excess of 4 million (+75dB), delivering high quality professional grade Full HD footage).
 
Talking about Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF)’s contributions to the cause, Senthil mentioned the annual national award for the best film on environment, and the package of Swachh Bharat (Clean India) films at IFFI 2016. On Pandey’s initiative to make IFFI a carbon-free festival, Senthil assured him that he would initiate steps towards this l. Arvind stressed the need of some kinds of incentives to encourage film-makers to give due consideration to the environment while making their films, taking advantage of science and technology. Workshops could be an effective way of bringing this about, he believed.
 
Adding a touch of urgency to global issue, Pandey averred, “ (venue for IFFI 2016) is a great place for any type of location-shooting, with its stunning forests, villages and heritage buildings. But we must realise that it is home to hundreds of unique species and also a fortress against earth warming. The eco-system just has to be protected. In fact, if not checked, climate change could submerge some of our cities, suffering the same fate as the doomed cities of Dwarka and Atlantis. Believe it or not, even Mumbai could end-up under 30 m. of water!”
 
 
Matthews cautioned against the large scale damage caused by the Rs. 100 crore (1 billion) film club, “Almost always, the bigger the budget, the higher the damage to the environment. Our films are a long way off from becoming carbon neutral.” (An average Indian film produces a carbon footprint of around 100 tons. Last year, Biswajeet Bora's Aisa Yeh Jahaan/Such is this World became India's first full-length Hindi feature film to be carbon-neutral. Its carbon footprint was mapped, and was offset by a tree-plantation drive. The final carbon footprint for pre-production, production and post-production was 78.477 tons of CO2 e--carbon dioxide equivalent). To neutralise this effect, 560 saplings were planted in Mumbai).
 
Commending superstar Amitabh Bachchan for joining the movement to reduce use of non-essential vehicles and air-conditioning during film shootings, Pandey hoped that other eminent film personalities would follow suit.
 
In response to proposals from this writer, both Pandey and Rajan agreed that holding a competitive Environment Film Festival to co-incide with World Environment Day, and to screen the award-winning films at IFFI, were very good ideas, and would be duly considered. They also welcomed a suggestion that, just as films have to display a mandatory declaration about not having harmed animals during shooting, they should also be audited for environment harm. Industry standards should be defined, all agreed.
 
                                                     
IFFI 2016 diary X, Page 12: Finding your way across 2K, 4K, 6K, 8K  or 18K
A digital technician who has built theatres (Lightbox in Mumbai, for one)-Neil Sadwelkar, Na Tum Jaano Na Hum producer Vivek Singhania, and Indian Documentary Producers’ Association (IDPA) President Mike Pandey, participated in the last Open Forum of International Film Festival of India 2016, organised by IDPA, at old GMC building, Panaji, , on 27 November. The moderator was film-maker Naresh Sharma, Curator of the Indian Film Festival in Stuttgart, and a cinematographer-cum-still photographer.
 
Indian films are still made in 2K resolution formats, but international clients are demanding 4K, in most cases. 2K cameras and projectors can be upgraded quite easily, but the progressive upgrading might cost a bit, and the details are sketchy at the moment, we learnt. “Yes, foreign buyers want 4K, even 6K, but history was not shot in 4K. A lot of my footage is not even in HD, yet they buy it for its value. For example, a few minutes of footage I shot of vultures in Ranthambore on primeval equipment is priceless today, because 99.9% of the species is extinct,” were the consoling words of Pandey, to those who wonder whether all the footage they shot over the last 50 years is turning out to be a total loss.
 
Neil reminded us that Indian TV content is still almost entirely SD, not even HD, and 4K projectors are just a handful, though their number is growing. “Platforms like Netflix and Amazon demand HDR 4K, but that should not be an issue, because up-sampling and down-sampling is happening all the time. Shooting specifications can be reduced to match projecting limitations. 35 mm celluloid film was in use for about 50 years as the pivot, but even during that era there were multiple formats in use.”
 
“Though cost is unimportant to big banners like Farhan Akhtar and Karan Johar, even low budget films are shot in 4K these days, and all the editing, post production, etc, is done in the format that suits the production best”, said Singhania, representing the producers’ interests. To encourage better technically quality film products, the government should reduce the duty on import of 4k, 6k and 8k cameras. Meanwhile, the industry bodies, like Film Federation of India (FFI), Films Division (FD), IDPA  need to come together to help producers, opined Pandey. He also urged producers not to sell comprehensive rights, as he had himself been able to negotiate good prices for his nature documentaries with Western TV channels, on a per screening basis, retaining all rights.
 
Celluloid film is still the best medium for archiving content, insisted Sadwelkar. “If you don’t access your hard drives for 2-3 years, you might find them blank when you finally do, and all your content will be erased forever. My advice is that you should have back-ups in all possible places: original film, cloud, and Netflix or any other platforms. Sell them even at a low price, so that at least they are preserved,” he concluded.
 
Picks of the pix
HD is usually 1920 x 1080, which could be called 1.92K, or 2K.
 
2K digital cinema projection is similar to HDTV projection, in terms of resolution.
 
UHD-1, or ultra-high-definition television (UHDTV), is the 4K standard for television. UHD-1 is also called 2160p, since it has twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 1080p. It has a resolution of 3840 x 2160 (16:9, or approximately a 1.78:1 aspect ratio).
 
Generally 35mm negative should be scanned at 4K (4096 across for Super-35).
 
HDCAM, by the way, is 1440 x 1080 pixels. HDCAM-SR is 1920 x 1080.
 
Ben Hur was shot in 65mm anamorphic, to get a 2.7:1 aspect ratio
 
1080 and 2K really mean nearly the same thing.
 
In projection of print terms, 35mm is sub 4k, and dependent upon actual print and projector circumstances, sub-HD. A typical cinema projection of a distribution film print will offer no better resolution than an HD digital projection, probably less.
 
IMAX uses dual digital projectors, each with 2K resolution. They claim that this is equivalent to 4K resolution but it really is not. It is still 2K, but twice as bright. 4K digital movie theatres are wide screen theatres, more rectangular than IMAX. IMAX movies are also finished in a 1.9:1 aspect ratio, rather than the regular 2.40:1, which means that the screens in IMAX theatres are taller to support the projected image.
 
4K was all the rage at NAB 2014, but that's hardly the ceiling for resolution, even in the near future. Even at NAB 2014, you could see 8K acquisition in the Astrodesign and NHK booths, and you may have been wondering, then, how far resolution can really be pushed. For a hint, CMOS sensor design specialist, Forza Silicon, is introducing a new, customisable video-camera platform that can reach "resolutions approaching 200 megapixels," at 60fps.
 
Video professionals don't generally talk about images in megapixel units, which measure the number of pixels in an image (1 megapixel is either 1 million or 1,048,576 pixels, depending on who's counting). But, to put that in perspective, HD resolution is about two megapixels (1920 pixels horizontally multiplied by 1080 pixels vertically, gives you 2,073,600 pixels). 4K is a little less than nine megapixels. Even Red Dragon's vaunted 6K resolution equals only a little more than 19 megapixels. You'd need numbers like 18K--18,000 horizontal pixels-- in order for a 16×9 image to approach 200 megapixels, total.
 
4K means an incredible level of detail. A 4K picture projected on a cinema screen contains 4096 × 2160 pixels (or tiny dots). That’s over 8 megapixels (million pixels)…or four times the number of pixels on your Full HD TV at home (1920 x 1080 pixels).
 
And you won’t need to worry about pixelation – even if you’re sitting in the front row at your local multiplex, you won’t see a single pixel. 4K TV pictures have a resolution of 3840 x 2160, slightly lower than the cinematic version.
 
Marvel Studios' upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be the first feature film to be shot using 8K cameras, director James Gunn has confirmed.
 
The sequel to 2014's surprise hit superhero caper, Guardians of the Galaxy, is being shot on the RED 8K WEAPON Vista Vision camera, introduced in April 2015, with the new RED Dragon 8K sensor. The high-spec, high-price camera---they start at $20,000 (£13,700)--is capable of recording full 8K footage (8192 x 4320) at 75 frames per second, in 2.40:1 widescreen. It is, in cinematography terms, a beast. "Very excited to announce Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be the first film to shoot using the RED Weapon 8k," announced director James Gunn, on Twitter.
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 13: Virtual Reality: Think in 360

 
 
Clyde DeSouza found an elderly couple dancing in a bar-restaurant. He captured the image and added perspective, giving it a 360° viewing experience, and projected it at Maquinez Palace I, Panaji, as part of his Master Class at the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2016. Even as the audience uttered wows, he clipped, “Imagine the same scene with a younger, more dynamic couple!” Welcome to Virtual Reality!
 
Science-fiction writer and Virtual Reality (VR) developer Clyde DeSouza is the man who has authored a short VR Graphic Novel, ‘Dirrogate’, based on his near-future science fiction novel, Memories with Maya. ‘Dirrogate’, the novel’s film adaptation, is an early example of VR Cinema, a 2015 stereoscopic 3D production, aimed at VR headsets, like Oculus Rift or Gear VR. ‘Dirrogates’ are digital surrogate, real-time 3D stereoscopic incarnations of persons, driven by real movements and body/face language. He made this film at a time when "no 360° cameras were available, neither did we have 2D 360° editing facilities."
 
“Besides being invaluable for its ability to detect audience engagement in ads, like: whether the audience is really looking at the product name or logo in this shot, and creating dynamic, changing billboards, VR has come to the feature film world too. Ridley Scott’s The Martian and James Wan’s The Conjuring 2 used VR. Cinematic hybrid worlds are the new thing. Video games and story-telling are possible in the same film. Just get the game deviser on the set. If you are making a blend of 3D stereoscopic and VR content, make sure that the cameras are in sync,” he shared.
 
There were four major international platforms for VR content until now--YouTube 360, Samsung VR, Oculus Store and Vrideo. “Unfortunately, Vrideo has shut shop just last week,” lamented DeSouza. China and Japan are way ahead of the West when it comes to VR. In India, Netflix and Hulu offer VR platforms. Hotstar and Voot are in talks too.” Dwelling on basics, DeSouza identified two set-up brands with cinematic VR cameras locked for 360 live action: one in the 16 configuration and the other in 24, capable of being upgraded to 32, but  “both are priced prohibitively, even after recent cuts,” he regretted.
 
(Nokia’s Ozo is one such camera. It was selling at US$45,000 in July 2016, compared to US$60,000 when it was first announced, back in December 2015. Each of the Ozo’s eight lenses has a 195° field of view, with a fixed aperture of f/2.4. Behind every lens is a 2K x 2K sensor. There is considerable overlap from one lens to another, which gives the user much more control at the stitching stage. It shoots at 30 frames per second, which is the live video standard, rather than 24 frames you usually see while watching a film).
 
In an illustration of what VR could achieve, Clyde showed the audience a short film made by an airline about its VR aero-plane at a trade exhibition. Seated in a model aircraft, ‘passengers’ were taken through a journey that promoted all the airlines’ services, and ended on a San Francisco beach. “When they came out, they were greeted by the same crew-member who had served them ‘on-board’, and you can see how excited they were.”
 
Some of the tips he gave to aspiring game-devisers and other VR hopefuls were:
 
Build for interaction
 
Show, don’t tell
 
Scale is relative, but build to room scale--you cannot cheat with scale.
 
Clyde DeSouza
Besides being a VR film-maker and advisor to technical bodies, Clyde DeSouza is the author of two books: "Think in 3D", for directors and 3D film-makers. The book has been seen on Hollywood sets of tent-pole productions, and Maya.
"Maya" is his debut novel in hard science fiction which has been received with critical acclaim from science personalities and reviewers.
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 14: Award-winners of Golden and Silver Peacocks
In the curtailed International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which has shrunk from 15 to 9 days over the last 30 years, the closing ceremony was held on the 28th of November. Partly due to the fact that I have come to be less patient with speeches and formalities and partly in protest at the non-receipt of an invitation to the closing film screening, I decided to skip the ceremony, like I had skipped the opening fixture. Nevertheless, I was happy that a film a liked a lot won the main prize. 
 
The International Competition section had a total of 15 entrants, of which two were from India. Judging them was an International Jury, headed by Czech writer-director Ivan Passer and comprised Larry Smith (UK), Lordan Zafranovic (Croatia), Leila Kilani (Morocco) and Nagesh Kukunoor (India). In addition, eight other movies competed with each other for the ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Award.
 
Here are the carpetbaggers;
 
*Best Film: Iranian film Daughter, directed by Reza Mirkarimi. Peacock statuette and a cash prize of Rs. 40 lakh (4 million) were awarded to the winner. (It’s a good film, not great, but still good enough. Wonder what the competition was like. I was exposed to just Mellow Mud, which was too mellow to keep me glued.)
 
*Best Director(s): Soner Caner and Baris Kaya forTurkish Film Rauf. Co-directors Soner Caner and Baris Kaya shared the Best Director award for this film. The award includes Rs 15 lakh, a citation and Silver Peacock Trophy.
 
*Best Actor (Male) Award: Farhad Aslani for Iranian film Daughter. Prize money of Rs.10 lakh was given to the awardee, along with the Silver Peacock Trophy.
 
*Best Actor (Female) Award: Elina Vaska for Latvian film Mellow Mud. She too received the Silver Peacock and Rs.10 Lakhs as the award.
 
*Special Jury Award: South Korean movie The Throne by Lee Joon-Ik. A special citation, a Silver Peacock, and a cash prize of Rs.15 lakh.
 
*The ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Award: Mustafa Kara, for Turkish film, Cold of Kalandar, a Turkish-Hungarian film.
 
* The ICFT UNESCO Special Mention Award: Tiffany Hsiung, for The Apology. The multi-lingual film The Apology, by Canadian filmmaker Tiffany Hsiung, received a Special Mention in the ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Medal Competition. The medal bears a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, etched alongside his message ‘in the midst of darkness light prevails.
 
*Centenary Award for the Best Debut Film of a Director: Pepa San Martin for the Spanish film Ra Ra.

 
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 15: IM Kwon-taek’s 102 films and SPB’s 40,000 songs
South Korean film-maker IM Kwon-taek was conferred with the Lifetime Achievement Award and Indian singer S.P. Balasubrahmanyam was felicitated with the Centenary Award for Indian Film Personality of the Year at the International Film festival of India, 2016. The 80 year-old, famed director talked briefly, even owning up to some of his work that wasn’t well-received. Regarded as the father of Korean cinema for his long and prolific career and his work on typically Korean themes and subjects, IM Kwon Taek was feted at the hands of noted Indian director, Ramesh Sippy, who made the all-time favourite dacoit drama, Sholay.
 
Born in a town that had no cinemas, he began as a studio director, in 1962, with Farewell Duman River. 1976’s Wang Sib Ri/My Hometown, that he began to approach film as a more artistic medium. From then on, he gained acclaim making a series of dramas focused on various aspects of Korean cultural facets, from shamanism (The Divine Bow, 1979) and Buddhism (Mandala, 1981) to womanhood (The Surrogate Womb, 1987) and politics (The Tae Baek Mountains, 1994). 
 
In a more commercial mould in the early 90s, IM made The General’s Son (1990-92, period gangster trilogy, the first two of which were the top-grossing films of 1990 and 1991. In 1993, IM made what is arguably the film he is most famous for, the pansori (ancient songs of unrequited love) road drama Seopyeonje (spelling varies), which was also the first Korean film to sell a million tickets in Seoul alone.
 
His 2000 pansori adaptation Chunhyang, was screened in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and his next work, Chihwaseon, earned the Best Director award in the same competition in 2002. The Surrogate Womb winning Best Actress for current Busan International Film Festival director KANG Soo-yeon at the Venice International Film Festival in 1987 and his 1993 classic Seopyeonje often featuring near the top of best of Korean cinema lists. In 2005, he was conferred an honorary Golden Bear from the Berlin International Film Festival. Following a few films that were less well-received, IM returned with his 102nd film Revivre, in 2014, which debuted at Venice, and was broadly screened at international events.
 
Besides IFFI, he received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Asian Film Awards, too, in 2015. After Goa Governor Mridula Sinha gave him the prize at the opening ceremony, IM made some brief remarks, alluding to how he felt he had made immature films at the beginning of his career. Earlier, at a press conference, the octogenarian filmmaker stated that he believed he had yet to make a full-fledged masterpiece.
IM also reserved some kind works for Indian cinema, when he mentioned his appreciation for the works of actor Shah Rukh Khan (did he get the name wrong or what? ShahRukh did not work in 3 Idiots, Aamir Khan did), including 3 Idiots (2009), and the India-set Danny Boyle’s Academy Award winner Slumdog Millionaire (2008, starring Dev Patel, and based on a novel that was inspired by a popular TV game show).
 
Legendary singer, actor and music director S.P. Balasubrahmanyam (with the shawl) was felicitated for his contribution to Indian Cinema at the hands of India’s Central

 
Government Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Venkaiah Naidu and actor Mukesh Khanna (on the extreme right). Although he is cited as the personality of the Year, this is SPB’s 50th year in films and he has completed 70 years of age last June. A few months before his 69th birthday, SP Balasubrahmanyam had the rare distinction of singing the maximum number of songs on a single day. He recorded 21 songs in Kannada, for composer Upendra Kumar, from 9 am to 9 pm, on February 8, 1981. IN addition, he has also sung 19 songs in Tamil and 16 songs in Hindi in a day.
 
SPB was born in a part of the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state, which is now revamped, and his birth home falls in TamilNadu. Having made his debut in 1966 in a Telugu film, Sri Sri Sri Maryaada Raamanna, he has rendered his voice to tens of thousands of songs in 15 languages, and holds a Guinness Record for having recorded the highest number of songs, which has led him to confess, “I regretted not watching my kids grow up due to my busy schedules.” And he is even a trained singer.
 
IFFI 2016 diary, Page 16: Catching what you can!
If you really want to notch up six films a day, you can. All you need is luck, in terms of show slots and seats, an insatiable appetite for cinema of all forms from all countries, no appetite for food of the eating and drinking kind, an alarm clock body that can turn off on demand and turn on at will, and no commitments or engagements that you cannot skip or postpone during the festival period. Well, I might score high in terms of appetite for cinema, or soul curry, but on all other counts, my rank would be rock-bottom.
 
With no commitments, I can make it up to five; with one brief commitment a day, four. Once I had agreed to cover 11 events over eight days for the Festival’s official Daily Bulletin, Peacock, it immediately brought the projected tally down to four a day. Wait a minute! Attending takes away one slot, writing about the event costs another. So, I was sadly down to three films a day. I tried getting up early (8 a.m.) or sleeping late (3 a.m.), for ‘daylight saving’, but neither option worked more than once. No, not just two films! Heck, why did I go all the way to Panaji to watch two films a day? Wiser and regretful, I will hope NOT to write for the daily bulletin next year onwards, and concentrate on films, Films and more FILMS. At the International Film Festival of India, gimme a 5 every day, at least!
 
There were six screenings a day on many days at most venues, and managing to watch two films a day was still worth the while. Of course, you realise you would have missed 36 films by the end of the festival. But, by perverse logic, you end up feeling not so guilty, because the festival has been curtailed this year to 8 active days, from the routine 10. Had that been the case, my loss would have been 42 films!!
 
This is what I saw.
 
1.      Afterimage/Andzrej Wajda/Poland/Opening film
Brilliant imagery, mature direction (what else can one expect of the Master’s last film?), apt selection to flag off the festival. Strongly political, yet able to entrance on its own brilliance.
Rating: *** ½
2.      Tamara/Elia K. Schneider/Venezuela/Mid-Fest film
Sexuality and bi-sexuality are the themes of this amazingly bold film, where a star plays a real-life inspired character, involving explicit nudity. Ambitious, but does not quite get where it set out to go.
Rating: ***
3.      Daughter/Raza Mirkarimi/Iran
I thought it fell slightly below the mark, in terms of Iranian excellence benchmarks, when it comes to treatment of familial sensitivity. Fantastic performances helped it bag the Golden Peacock.
Rating: *** ½
4.      Mellow Mud/Renars Vimba/Latvia
Slow, dull, dragging films have been the bane of film festivals since 1976, at least. Not too long into the narrative, I found the film getting stuck in the mud, mellow or not did not matter. I did not sit through this one, so no ratings. 
5.      Scarred Hearts/Rado Jude/Romania-Germany
Set in 1937, the film is about a sanatorium and the patients who keep dying there. Jude proves that there can be genuine humour, love and compassion in the most morbid of circumstances. At 141 minutes, it is grim viewing, but good cinema.
Rating: ***
6.      Bench Cinema/Mohammad Ramanian/Iran
You’ve got to give it to them, and give it to them in this case, surely. Where do they dream up such realistic subjects from? ‘If foreign films are banned, as they were in Iran during the Cultural Revolution, try memorising the lines and render them before an audience, as a form of para-dubbing’. How’s that for a premise? A tad too long though.
Rating: ***
7.      Like Cotton Twines/Leila Djansi/Ghana
Noblesse of cause is just not enough. Harsh reality does not, in itself, make for engaging cinema. ‘Slaves to the gods’ (read priests) is a condemnable practice of sexual slavery thrust upon some girls entering puberty that still exists in parts of Ghana, and a lot of Western do-gooders are working hard to eradicate it. NGO stuff, mainly.
Rating: ** ½
8.      Malaria/Parviz Shahbazi/Iran
When an Iranian film is named Malaria, rest assured it will have nothing to do with the mosquito borne disease. A girl runs away from home and ends up with a street band called...ok, you got it....Malaria. Usual Iranian ambience, plus some unusually un-Iranian scenes.
Rating: ***
9.      We Are the Flesh/Emiliano Rocha Minter/Mexico
Indeed. Genitals are flesh, aren’t day? A surreal nightmare, there is very little to redeem the film, which is full of sex overdrive, grotesque images and dystopian nonsense. I saw it more than halfway through, before getting totally disgusted, hence the rating.
Rating: ½ *
10.  Godless/Ralitza Petrova/Bulgaria-France-Denmark
Godless and listless. A nurse looking after the old and infirm steals their id cards to make money on the side, to meet her morphine addiction. Drudgery, both on and off the screen. I escaped early, so the film goes ratingless.

11.  Death in Sarajevo/Denis Tanovic/France-Bosnia-Herzegovina
Layered and full of historical references, Denis Tanovic’s latest outing is not quite in the same league as the classic No Man’s Land. It is one of the most ‘moving’ films in recent history, with the word ‘moving’ translating as ‘endless walking’ within a hotel’s premises. If you can see more than I did, add half a star more.
Rating: ***
12.  Graduation/Cristian Mungiu/Romania-Belgium-France-UK
Very Iranian in terms of subject and socio-moral conflict, Mungiu, who wowed IFFI seven years ago with 4 Weeks 3 Months and 2 Days (Golden Palm and Best Director winner at Cannes, the first ever Romanian to win this big) serves us a reflective story of parental dilemmas and corruption as means of attaining goals, not out of greed, though.
Rating: ***
13.  I, Daniel Blake/Ken Loach/Belgium-France-UK
Old-fashioned is not dead. Straight, polished, compelling story-telling of the Kenneth Charles Loach (now 80) kind was a treat at IFFI, and, for me, the pick of the lot. The Wind that Shakes the Barley also fuels the never-say-die spirit of the lead character. Beating the system might be a pipe dream for a billion laymen, but they will all find their spirits soaring as they watch Daniel Blake confront British high-handed, uncaring bureaucracy. Why did it not win the Golden peacock? It wasn’t competing!
Rating: ****
 
14.  The Salesman/Asghar Farhadi/Iran-France
You cannot help expecting anything but a masterpiece from Asghar Farhadi, and you cannot then help being just a wee bit short-changed, even if a film is as good as The Salesman (Best Screenplay at Cannes). The man who gave us A Separation (Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director at IFFI) is still in great form, though. Must see.
Rating: *** ½

15.  Paterson/Jim Jarmusch/USA-Germany-France
Paterson is about an American small-town bus-driver, who is madly in love with his Iranian wife, and is also a poet of considerable merit. Adam Driver (eponymous role?) and Golshifteh Farhani work magic. James Roberto ‘Jim’ Jarmusch is of German, Irish and Czech descent, and at 63, he captures the sensitivities and sensibilities of a minor universe. Call it art-house, call it Indie, just let it grow up to its 115 minutes, and you will cherish the ride.
Rating: *** ½
16.  Tunnel/Kim Seong-hun/Republic of Korea
Quite simply, this is what an honest natural disaster movie should look like. A strong commentary on capitalism, undying faith in human spirit, resilience, and, above all, the politico-media spectacle that that side-steps the core issues while lives are being lost. Tunnel is a Korean film bereft of any Big Brother Hollywood trappings.
Rating: ***

17.  Office/Hong Wan-chan/ South Korea
What if an office executive is unscrupulously victimised, targeted and sacked? In Office, he kills his family and commits suicide. That’s the prologue. Now begins a series of gory and unexplained deaths, with a touch of the super-natural. Amazingly slick and full of twists, this thriller leaves a few knots unravelled. Or, did I not watch it with requisite attention and missed the revelations?
 
Telugu movie Sankarabharanam and 1981 Hindi hit Ek Duje Ke Liye (he sang for the on-screen Kamalahasan, a pairing that was repeated in R.D. Burman and Ramesh Sippy’s Saagar) are films that became the turning points of his career. He later acquired fame in Hindi films as the playback voice that was best identified with the rising superstar, Salman Khan, mainly with the film Maine Pyar Kiya.
 
It was a dream come true for him when he was invited by no less a legend than the Emperor of film music, Naushad, to sing for Teri Payal Mere Geet. The film flopped, but Naushad received the Miyan Tansen (the unrivalled singer at Emperor Akbar’s court) award for the best classical composition in a Hindi film, while he bagged the best classical singer award. Relative newcomers but superstars of their time, the composer duo Nadeem-Shravan had great adulation for him. Nadeem often said that he was the best singer in of his time. SPB regards Mohammed Rafi as his ‘all time favourite’ singer and inspiration, and said he learnt from Rafi (died 1980), more than anyone else.
 
Controversy had raged all through the70s, when giants like Lata Mangeshkar and Mohammed Rafi were trying to prove that one, not the other, had sung more than 28,000 songs. It was settled for good now, but not between them. Rafi died in 1980, Lata is close to 90. A third claimant emerged, and won: the six times winner of National Film Awards for Best Male Playback Singer, Sripathi Panditaradhyula Balasubrahmanyam has sung more than 40,000 songs so far, reckons the (Guinness) Book of World Records, taking him to the top of their countdown!
 
Lastly, this is my 47th year in journalism, and it was the 47th IFFI, in 64 years. The festival had a few misses, was bi-ennial for some years, and I missed out on some occasions too. To many colleagues and superiors, a 17-day trip to New Delhi, in the mid 90s and early 2000s, where all one would do was watch films and mingle with stars and directors, at cocktail parties, breakfast parties, lunch parties and PRO get-togethers, was a sheer waste of time and money. Now that I am a free-lancer, and a senior citizen, I realise that considerable has to be money is spent, a reasonable big investment is made towards a cause. And time, of course, is relative. Come November 2017, however, my bags will be packed. 

Siraj Syed Siraj is the Consulting Editor of nrizone.com. See profile

 
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