Mr. Mohan Siroya, veteran journalist sent me his views and review on IFFI 2009.
A detailed, analytical report of the festival and films (IFFI)
From Mohan Siroya
- SMOOTH AND DIGNIFIED TAKE OFF with cultural dance fiesta .
- Usual Mismanagement galore from Entertainment Society of GOA (ESG)
- TIICK 20 – A Massive Flop
- Comparatively below standard selection of films by DFF, except for Indian Panorama.
- Opening film “Wheat “ was poor but closing film “Broken Embraces” was brilliant and a saving grace of the fest.
- Impressive show by Films division with “Moments with Maestros”
- Grand finale function with reknowned actor Mammooty as the Chief guest , and endearing “Naad Swar” performances by classical maestro percussionists from different parts of India , followed by ace closing film “Broken Embraces”
- Record no of 6500 delegates and 400 media persons
The Inaugural Function
Inaugural event was dignified and befitting to the rich cultural heritage of India. Veteran ,talented and elegant actress Waheeda Rehman was the Chief Guest , while actress Asin added a touch of glamour by assisting the Chief Guest in Lamp lighting.. Another plus point was flawless compering by the actors, stalwart Kabir Bedi and beauteous Divya Dutta. The inaugural speeches by the Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting Ambica Soni and the host Chief Minister of Goa Digambar Kamat were brief and informative . The highlight of the function ,of course was the most impressive cultural dance fiesta presented by “Kalakshetra” , representing all forms of Indian classical and folk dances.
There was a splash of celebrity faces including stars and maestros who graced the fest either on inaugural day or in between . Stars, besides those mentioned above were Nagarjuna, Amla , Biswajit , Rituparna Ghosh, Meeta Vasistha , Prem Chopra ; music maestros Ravi and Anandji ,Vikram Gokhle, Smt. Nirmala Devi (Wife of late Pt. Husnlal ); Sarod maestro Pt. Shivkumar Sharma . In between the fest, stars spotted/ met by media were Asha Parekh, Soumitra Chatterjee, Sharmila Tagore , Rahul Bose, Nandita Das, Sunil Shetty , Aftab Shivdasani, Madhhur Bhandarkar, Sonali Kulkarni and Jackie Shroff (in closing function). Poet Gulzar with buddy film maker /music director Vishal Bhardwaj too had registered their presence. Actor Om Puri had come but only to get his biography released written by his journalist wife Nandita Puri, who was eulogized by him for writing his intimate and private account in subtle language. Makrand Deshpande, Amol Palekar,Rituparno Sengupta, Rajat Kapoor and Anant Mhadeven came only for their screened movies.
However, the big disappointment of the day was the Chinese opening film
“Wheat” which was out of synch, slow and boring.
UNIQUE, MEMORABLE NOSTALGIA
Aptly titled “Moments with the Maestros” the Films Divison and festival organizers kept a seven day thrilling nostalgia at the black box Kala Academi for the connoisseurs of Hindustani, Carnatic and Film Music classics.
39 films of biographical nature on doyens of above film genre were screened
for he first time in IFFI.. It presented all the late or living stalwarts of Hindustani and Carnatic music starting from Saint Thyagaraja to Pandit Shivkumar Sharma and film music heritage from Husnalal Bhagatram to Mubarak Begum. But the film on Mohammad Rafi made by Kuldeep Sinha was the icing on the cake. Most of these films were award winning films made by the eminent film makers like Gulzar, Shyam Benegal, Mani Kaul, Jabbar Patel , Bhimsain and Kuldeep Sinha after a lot of painstaking research and collecting vintage frame remnants of the doyens .
This was also short and sweet ,with compering by another celebrity duo Rohit Roy( TV actor) and Miss India Sayali Bhagat. Juries were in limelight since they declared the award winning films(unanimous verdict) and read out the citations . Can it be a mere co-incident that all the three award winning films dealt with the children story? Winners were :-
BEST FILM : I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU (Taiwan)
Golden Peacock , a certificate and cash prize of Rs. 20 lakhs was given to the director Leon Dai . A certificate and cash prize of Rs. 20 lakh was also given to the producer Chen, Wen-Pin.
BEST DIRECTOR : MS. Ounie Lecomte for her film “A BRAND NEW LIFE”
(South Korea/France). She was awarded the Silver Peacock, a certificate and cash prize of Rs 15 lakhs.
SPECIAL JURY AWARD — consisting of Silver Peacock, a certificate and cash prize of Rs. 15 lakhs was conferred on George Ovashvili for the film “The Other Bank” (Georgia/Kazakhstan)
However, the sheer joy of the day was the closing film “Broken Embraces” made by the Internationally acclaimed award winning
Spanish director Pedro Almodover .
MANAGEMENT / PROGRAMMING LAPSES/CAVALIER ATTITUDE
Although it was displayed in bold that children below 18 years will not be allowed;they were found in abundance not only for the opening /closing functions but also in movie screenings. The screening schedule was haphazard and many films dovetailed into each other ,thus partly to be missed . The press conferences , open forums and other events were only informed on the morning of the day either thru’ bulletin ( IFFI Daily) or by notices on media board . The movie tickets were booked in advance , thus if one wishes to see a movie, the press conferences were missed or the vice versa. The festival catalogue this year had no proper names , even indexing or page no.of the films were missing and country names were given wrongly.( Film from Spain was given as Brazil, in the synopses) To find out the synopses or credits of a film was a very time consuming exercise . The editing left much to be desired.
In view of he security threats , the strict frisking or checking was necessary and we all welcome. But in the name of security, a ridiculous rule was followed which amounted to harassment and even inhuman act for the senior and sick citizens when carrying of a water bottle was debarred. This was especially so at Kala Academy . When asked what security threat a water bottle can pose, a flimsy reply was given that the audience may throw the bottle on stage. On whom? The blank screen ? Although electronic equipments, hand bags and mobiles were “Prohibited” in the auditoriums as security reason ; all those were jolly well allowed. If thrown at any dignitary/person, those can pose more security risk than a mere small water bottle.After we repeatedly took up this issue with ESG, the security relaxed this for elders .
In the inaugural function, the volunteers of ESG were found seating on RESERVED seats while the film celebrities who arrived late were accommodated somewhere in obscure places like music maestro Anandji , actor Vikram Gokhale .
Unlike past years the media/press was relegated to the last five rows of the auditorium whereas even citizen invitees were allotted seats in front.
But the height of discrimination came when the Panorama Opening film maker Laxmikant Shetgaonkar and his crew were not given RED CARPET welcome when his internationally acclaimed Konkani film “ PALTODACHO MUNIS”(Man Beyond the Bridge) was screend.All other commercial and premier film makers were given this honour. When this lapse was pointed out ; ESG hurriedly announced a red carpet event third day which was politely ( and Justifiably so) declined by the Goan film maker .
Criminal waste on a Totally inane event “T20 of Indian Cinema”
With crescendo hype and costly publicity, both Chief Minister of Goa and the CEO of ESG had arranged this event and the so-called “Awards Night” after announcing the results of selected 20 best films of India during last 96 years . Touted to be the brain child of ESG CEO, this was a complete fiasco . The press release claimed that about 1.9 million votes were recorded online for the nomination of films by the public. The awards ceremony was reduced a mere cheap fashion show extravaganza at considerable cost and two wannabe’s who voted on net to the nearest results of Top 20 Indian films were rewarded. The final selection was made by an ESG appointed committee names of whom were not disclosed even to the media. The films named as the best 20 films of the century are highly debatable and no selection criteria/norms/ parameters were made known , thus paving the way of RIGGING the poll.
There may not be two opinions about the bests in “Meghe Dhake Tara”, “Pather Panchali” “Charulata” , “Do Bigha Zameen”, “Garam Hawa”, “Sholay” , “Pyasa” “Mughl- E- Azam”, “Mother India” ,”Guide” and “Anand” But the glaring omissions of a few Internationally acclaimed and award winning films like V Shantaram’s “Do Aankhen Barah Haath” ,Gurudutt and Abrar Alvi’s “Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam”, Rajkapoor”s “Jagte Raho” , Chetan Anand’s “Neecha Nagar” and BR Chopra’s “Naya Daur” were noticed in the selected list.
Such arbitrary selection of best 20 Indian films thru’ the history so far, merly based on alleged on line voting is injustice to the status of Indian Film Industry. Was any auditing/ watch dog body was there? Not so far to the media or public knowledge.
Review of Best/Good Films
This is an onerous task to select the best good films for review out of the two hundred odd films screened and about 50 films watched by this critic .As stated earlier ,overall quality of films screened was not up to the mark . But whatever good was found , it is herein below:-
BROKEN EMBRACES (SPAIN)
This is perhaps the best film of the lot, which was screened as the befitting finale of the fest . The master film maker (writer –director- actor))and Internationally acclaimed award winning Pedro Almodovar is now a famous Spanish name after Luis Bunuel. He first triumphed with his films with the Hollywood sex bomb Penelope Cruz ( still his muse) with “Live Flesh”, “Volver” and now with this latest film ,winning world wide laurels.
“Broken Embraces”, the noir-infused dark comedy revolves around an aging screenwriter (Luis Homar) who was blinded in a car accident with the love of his life (Cruz) dead; 14 years earlier. The story of this ill-fated love triangle with Cruz and her older, jealous lover unfolds over flashbacks as events in his life bring back memories of the past. The character writer-film maker uses two names: Harry Caine, a playful pseudonym with which he signs his literary works, film scripts etc. and as Mateo Blanco , his real name. After being blinded he mastered the brail for reading and writing ; faithfully aided guided and assisted by his former lover turned secretary Judit Garcia, and her young son Diego( Who in fact was sired by Mateo himself but he was not made aware of it till end). In between , unfolded is an interesting passion love story of Cruz as Lena who was a secretary cum concubine of a filthy rich old man for his sexual pleasures and fantasies. The story, in a spell binding way reveals all that hate, jealousy, treachery , guilt complex and passion play eventually leading to that ghastly accident .The films dishes out a real impacting climax of a film Mateo was making ,but after the death of the rich man .
From first to the last shot , electrifying treatment of the subject by director Almodovar keep the audiences on their edges. Actors Penelope Cruz as Lena and Luis Homar as his tormented lover have given brilliant performances . Cinematography by Rodrigo Prieto was one of his bests in camera movement and passion play.
I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT YOU ( Taiwan)
This film was adjudged as the best film of the competition by the learned jury conferring the top award as described above.
The film’s story is based on real life characters and incidents. Li , is a poor Hakka Chinese in south Taiwan. Seven years ago he and his girlfriend Chang had a daughter Mei; but during her birth she died. Li, had to raise Mei single handedly along with his regular job. At age seven Mei joined a primary school but the police said Li will have to register his household first. During investigation the police came to know that when Chang gave birth to Mei , she was already married to another man and thus the original husband of Chang only can be a legal guardian Mei as per law. Thus legally, Li was not supposed to register Mei as his daughter. Bounced back and forth between offices and bureaucrats, Li becomes desperate. Terrified by the thought that Mei will be taken away from him ,Li climbs the top of the bridge and threatens to jump.
Director-co script writer- editor Leon Dai has excelled in his departments. He was also able to extract the best performance ( expressions/emotions) from Li ( Chen) as the traumatic loving biological father of baby Mei .The jury citation described the film as “Poetic, realistic , sensitively and beautifully designed Movie; and addressed both the intense and persistent relationship between father and daughter. All technical departments brilliant for the story’s outstanding interpretation”.
A BRAND NEW LIFE (South Korea / France )
The film won the best director prize for Ms. Ounie Lecomte , who also wrote the screenplay.
Nine year old girl child Jinhee , in a small town of South Korea sets off on a journey. She did not know where she was going as she was just obeying the order/rule of an orphanage run by Catholic nuns , who send the sheltered girls ( Jinhee’s father had left her there) for adoption abroad. She could not believe that the father who loved her so much had abandoned her . She initially resisted , tried to even run away but eventually gave up ; as waiting for her father proved futile. In the sheltered period she met a girl 3 years senior to her who taught her carefree games and tricks, another 17 year, who was handicapped and deformed , whom no family liked to adopt . They were not lucky enough to find a family for adoption but Jinhee was.
The film had earlier won laurels at International festivals like Cannes, Toronto, Pusan, and Tokyo . Innocence of a seven year old lovelorn girl child Jinhee was awesome displayed by child actor Kim Saeron. Direction, no doubt was superb . The Jury citation was “The director conveys a very delicate and relevant vision of an emotionally tragic situation with the remarkable sense of essentials gathered from director’s won experience as a child into collective feelings”
THE OTHER BANK (Georgia /Kazakhstan)
This film is a debut feature film of the director George Ovashvili and was honored with the special Jury award . Film movingly depicts a story of 12 year Georgian boy embarking on a dangerous mission to find his father behind enemy lines in the breakaway Republic of Abkhazia in Georgia . During the process , the director Ovashvili wisely invests in unobtrusive naturalism and powerful but unsentimental story telling. The boy Tedo as played by Tedio Bekhaur was simply brilliant in emoting fine nuances.
The citation by Jury said “ Special jury award is given to this film for its ability to translate a personal and local drama into a strong and universal statement about childhood facing the impossibility to escape the madness of war. Jury appreciated the accuracy of the director , especially with the child lead actor”. However, the end looked abrupt and confusing.
This film earlier had also participated in International fests at Karlovy Vary, Belgrade, Moscow, Pusan etc.
Other Good films in Competition section
GABHRICHA PAUS ( Marathi –India)
This critic feels sorry that this gem of a film made by an Indian debutant director Satish Manwar from Pune ,who also wrote the story and script could not get any award. Based on the present tragic reality of the farmers committing suicides in Vidarbha region of Maharashtra , who are deep in debt of banks or private money lenders topped by the lop sided Government policies , lack of system support and the draught /heavy or uneven rains for those farmers who are still dependent on the favours of rain God. In spite of many suicide cases in his village, Kisna (Girsh Kulkarni) , a farmer is trying to get a good crop out of the draught stricken state . Kisna’s wife Alka ( Sonali Kulkarni) ,however, is harbouring the belief from his confused state of mind that Kisna is thinking of committing suicide. Her six year old son was asked to keep a constant eye on him/his behavior , if becomes irregular or alarming. A sudden spell of heavy rain washed away whatever he tilted with his Herculean efforts and repeated sowings. He finds himself in a real state of turmoil for the future of his family. Then he sees the Government money ( A CQ) being handed over as “Compensation” to the family of a friend who had earlier committed suicide . A ray of hope kindles in him and in the dead of the night , he electrocutes himself in the field.
The film also comes as a satirical and powerful indictment of the government policies , which provide them cash as compensation instead of the free supply of food and farming equipment to the heavily debted ,suffering farmers. Indirectly thus, the policy becomes one of the incentives for encouraging the suicides by the farmer to provide for the family, may be temporarily.
Although, Writer- Director Satish Manwar has made his celluloid debut with this film, his direction is flawless. The tempo of the film, the local “Varhadi” Marathi dialect ,accent and words have been skillfully maintained. Sensitive and natural but restrained performances come from Sonali Kulkarni and Girish Kulkarni as Alka and Kisna.
ANGSHUMANER CHHOBI ( Bengali — India)
Another good Indian entry in the competition with histrionic performances from the legendary actors Soumitra Chatterjee and Indrani Haldar. After writing and directing many tele-films and documentaries, this is first feature film of the writer director Atanu Ghosh . A creditable job and already appreciated by discerning critics and also a part of this year’s National film awards .
After studying cinema from Italy, young Angshuman ( Indraneil Sengupta)returns India to make his first film, on an unusual script without any compromises. 73 year old thespian Pradyut Da ( Soumitra) is now almost retired from the mainstream films and world too. But Angshu ,after great convincing and efforts, is successful in signing him for the pivotal role of an old Painter suffering from dementia. His Ayah’s role is essayed by the National award winning actress Madhura who is now reduced to playing roles as Jatra artist ( Indrani Haldar) .In between lessons of method acting and human emotions and desires for lonely humans appear.Thrown is a character of Gigalo ,who eventually dies from AIDS, but after explaining his involvement with actress Madhura being confined only at “Emotional Level” because of her loneliness..
Indeeed was a thought provoking film . Both Soumitra Chatterjee and Indrani Haldar have given excellent and moving performances.
Two more competition films are also notable for their conceptual novelty and message . “GRANAZ” , an Iranian entry is directed by Abbas Rafei . The film , besides being a part of other International fests this year, weaves a simple ,but significant act of an otherwise mischievous/pranky school child to escort an old lady to her son’s place .In the process, getting delayed for the school , inviting disciplinary action from the school and parents. Nobody believed an humanitarian act done by him . It was taken as a mere excuse and imagery .But his own class teacher who always disbelieved him, gets convinced as was described by the escorted old lady who happened to be his mother. Unfortunately, the film ends here abruptly without others knowing and eulogizing this humanitarian act done by the child , to make a lesson for rowdy students or even his nagging /blaming parents.
“The Sky We were Born Under” was another good entry from Brazil scripted and directed by Marcos Jorge—Fernando Severo duo. The film dealt with a prolific Astronomer who, marked by an event in the past struggling between the human insignificancy and the immenseness of space, had to face the biggest mystery of all viz; his feelings for a girl who is very comfortable with her role in the universe. This film too had an abrupt climax leaving viewers clueless about his love and the girl who was left out with a stranger on the way. However, the film was engaging all throughout .
A few Other Notably Good Films—India & World Cinema
TWO PLYERS FROM THE BENCH ( Crotia )
This Internationally acclaimed film ( Part of many festivals)is scripted and directed by Dejan Sorak .
He interestingly depicts how eveen the genocide perpetrated during war by a particular country and indicted by the International Court at Hague can be manipulated in favour of the guilty country.
The film pertains to a period of war between Serebia and Crotia . Just Ante, being a Croat and Dusko , being a Serb were supposed to be on opposite side but both played volley ball as two dream players. Now, they are leading ordinary lives—one lives in a small village ,the other in a town separately. But once again the fate ( as a part of manipulative machinations by the agents of the country indicted by the International Court) brings them together with strange coincidences on one platform ; that being the witnesses at the re-opened case proceedings at the International Court, both being courted on the same side together. The entire film has interesting flashbacks, made up things which convinces the court and also their own wild enjoyable extravaganzas for lure of easy money.
Actors Goran Navojec played their roles to perfection . Sound track and Cinematography was superb..
A SPAN OF HEAVEN (Iran)
A message oriented film about the human grid and ultimate triumph of good over evil ; thru’ thee hands of innocent children one can enjoy this movie as a satirical allegory. Scripted and directed by Ali Vaziran as an effective communication tool; the film unfolds a story of young, innocent Mohsen who earns a living for his poor family by selling flowers in the street. On night while speaking to God at night for the sufferings of he poor people like him ; he sees an angel, tells him that he longs for a little piece of heaven where he can take his poor family and friends, to have a comfortable life. By God’s command, the angel grants that little piece of heaven. At first nobody believes him but when people see the magical heaven by their own eyes, the grid for making money by selling a piece of land in this span of heaven gathers momentum by any foul means and cheating ; the veil forces ultimately gets destryoyed by the nature’s wrath
The film parts so many lessons to preserve the sanity and beauty of our mother earth ; rich caring for the poor.
AT WORLD’S END (Denmark)
The film has fast tempo and built in action, violence and suspense. Spell binding but fictional screenplay is written by Anders Thomas Jensen and deftly directed by Tomas Villum Jensen.
Criminal psychologist Adrian is sent to Indonesia to examine the mental state of Severin Gertsen , a Dane who claims to be 129 years old. It is because of a carnivorus flower plant, which he claimed has immortalizing qualities. Severin was sentenced to death for murdering entire crew of cameramen who wee caught stealing his plant. Due to some misunderstanding Adrian too ends in the same prison where Severin was kept. Both manage to escape the jail custody. With the help of Adrian’s secretary , they emark on a frantic chase thru’ the jungles in pursuit of that precious plant – just one step ahead of the Indonesian army and a gang of American mobsters. Ultimately , all becomes well and Adrian returns to his country Denmark to save his ailing mother.
SCHEMES OF AFFECTION ( Italy)
This film is also a well written and directed message oriented film made by Dodo Fiori . Parents should learn to respect the wishes and likings of the siblings and should not try to impose their own whims and ambitions on them. Piolo, a 50 year old Architect in Rome, does not feel himself or his ambition ( Of an architect) in his young son Matteo. Finding no othr effective way to communicate , he ends up imposing his ambitions and values on his son Matteo. Needy of his affluent father’s attention , Matteo goes along with his father’s schemes; but at a heavy price for both of them.
The film hd also won laurels and awards in this years various International festivals ;including official competition films of US, Europe and China .
GIULIA DOES NOT DATE AT NIGHT ( Italy)
This is another good film from Italy scripted and directed by Giuseppe Piccioni. Married Guido is a successful writer whose latest book has been selected as one of the five finalists for a prestigious literary prize . In the midst of his busy schedules, he starts taking swimming lessons to be an expert swim., something he wanted to do since long .At the pool, his coach is an extremely attractive woman Giulia ; especially when she is in her element viz; pool water. Guido and Giulia begin a relationship and he wants to her to meet at nights for dinner. But she can not. Soon, an obscure past fact reveals that Giulia is hiding a secret ,that she is serving her jail term, but because of her good behaviour, she has been allowed to work during the day b ut must return to her jail cell in the night , unless a special permission is given. Giulia’s secret past was cut mysteriously . For climax, watch the film your self .
Director – writer of the film Piccioni has been praised all over in many International festivals for his unique handling of this interesting tale.
A few other notable /watchable films of IFFI 2009
“ MOLLYCAM” (Denmark) About the sexual fantasies of a teenager
directed by Aage Rais–Nordentoft
“BLEEEDING HEART” ( Iran)—About donation of heart of a person who is
to be executed for murder .Written and
directed by Mohammad Reza Rahmani
“ HEAVEN, HELL…..EARTH” (Slovakia ) Allegorical three phases of life
of a dreamer ballerina which she passes thru’
within a short span. Writer-director Laura
“SAMCHUK” (THAILAND) : About the new reformatory approach to win
away the school kids from drug addiction
Directed by Thanit Jitnukul.
“ I AM ALIVE” ( Italy) : An interesting mystery thriller without dramatic
overtones .Writer- Director duo Dino Gentili ,
“PASSSENGERS” ( Peru ): About two Peruvian youngsters dreaming to
Plan a journey to Chicago to start a new life
to join their friend Adolfo who is there.
Director- Writer—Andr’es Cotler.
“ THE CLASS” ( France): About the individual cass teachers’ approach to
discipline the students in a school at Paris in their
own way. Director – Laurent Cantet.
“ AND ONCE AGAIN” ( India) : Indian Premiere film about the turmoil
faced by a couple, who got married when
the man’s first wife was believed to be
dead, but one day she reappears.
Beautiful photography . Director Amol
“THE ROOM” , “24/7 The Passion Life”, “Angels with Dirty Wings”
( Germany)- These three films were in the Tribute section for the ace ,
Internationally acclaimed German Playwright- script writer-director Roland
“ TURTLES CAN FLY” ( Iran –Iraq) 2005 award winning film directed
and written by Bahman Ghobadi made in the times
of Iran-Iraq war shown once again in IFFI
“The White Elephant” (Hindi) directed by Aijaz Khan; “Haat – The weekly bazaar” (Hindi) directed by Seema Kapoor; “ Achamundu Achamundu—I am Scared” (Tamil) directed by Arun Vaidyanathan ,”Paltadacho Munis—The man beyond the bridge” (Directed by Laxmikant Shetgaonkar ). All these issue based movies were part of The Indian Panorama, the last one was the opening film .
Lastly , a mention must be made for a spoofy and hilarious Docu-film made on DVD—by Faiza Ahmad Khan – ‘ SUPERMEN OF MALEGAON” .
( Mohan Siroya )