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Festival Reports

The 25th Kolkata International Film Festival

System Administrator Thursday December 5, 2019

The opening of the 25th edition of the Kolkata International Film Festival, proudly hosted by the Department of Information and Cultural Affairs of the Government of West Bengal, was a night to remember. A staggering 366 movies at 17 venues were cheered by a group of local supporters and international celebrities, all delighted to be participating in what has become an incredibly exciting festival event. I believe much of the growth and the vibrancy of KIFF may be attributed to the Chief Minister, Madame Mamata Banerjee, so loved by the people of Kolkata for her overwhelming support of the arts.

I used to attend KIFF regularly, and have the warmest memories of the very welcoming  team of  Ansu Sur and Sanjoy Ghosh. At that time, the festival was non-competitive and centered primarily around the Nandan complex. The audiences were diligent, passionately supportive, and absolutely inclusive in their love for cinema – shorts, documentaries, feature films, both Indian and international. Today, KIFF, guided by the remarkable team of Director, Mitra Chatterjee, and Chairman, Raj Chakraborty, is unrecognizable to a person who has not attended it for many years.

I was invited to attend this 25th edition as a member of the NETPAC Jury, and I was delighted  to witness its remarkable growth not only in the quality of the programming and the numbers of films presented, but, more importantly, in the number of  substantive competitive sections with awards. The programme was expansive, and included a fascinating array of sub-sections, including -  Great Master: Bernardo Bertolucci; Indian Master: Basu Chatterjee; Regional Focus: Kannada Cinema; Bengali Panorama; Cinema International; and a German Focus which included German Classics, New German Cinema, Documentaries, Animation, and a retrospective of the work of Alexander Kluge.

What was touching and reminiscent of the Kolkata Festival of the past, were the generous and open-hearted Homage and Centenary Tribute streams. Programmes of Homage were presented honouring Mrinal Sen, Vidya Sinha, and Chinmoy Roy, among others. Centenary Tributes were offered to great artistes such as Gillo Pontecorvo, Jahar Roy, Aurobindo Mukherjee, and Manna Dey. As it was KIFF’s 25 year - the Silver Anniversary -  many special events were held to ensure there was an event or film stream for everyone:

  • Master Classes by US Actress, Andie McDowell, and German Director Volker Schlondorff.
  • Retrospective programme honouring Czech Director, Dusan Hanak, Chair of the International Jury
  • Exhibition of photos, posters, memorabilia, detailing the 25-year journey of the Kolkata International Film Festival.
  • Workshop by Mr. Sridhar Gopalam (Prasad Corporation), on the restoration of old films.
  • The prestigious Satyajit Ray Memorial Lecture, delivered by Film Historian, Kumar Shahani. 
  • “Actors Speak”, featuring a group of Bengali theatre and cinematic thespians discussing their work.
  • Exhibition of photos, posters, and memorabilia of German Director, Ranier Werner Fassbinder.
  • Unheard India: Rare Language Indian Film Series, attended by KIFF Chief Advisor, Aroop Biswas, Minister of Public Works, Youth Services and Sports.

The NETPAC section comprised eight films, selected in accordance with the NETPAC directive of focusing on new filmmakers and primarily their first or second films. These included:

Hava, Maryam, Ayesha: Director: Sahraa Karima. Afghanistan
Jibo Azadiye (The End Will Be Spectacular): Director: Ersin Celik.  Syria
Chandrabati Kotha (The Tales of Chandrabati): Director: N. Rashed Chowdhruy. Bangladesh
Mystic Memoir: Director: Aparajita Ghosh. India
Gitarista (The Guitarist): Director: Jason Orfalaro. Philippines
Sraboner Dhara (Between Raindrops) : Directors: Abhijit Guha, Sudeshna Roy. India
Devi aur Hero (The Goddess and the Hero): Director: Aditya Kirpalani. India
Jo Kuluk (Running to the Sky): Director: Mirlan Abdykalykov. Kyrgyzstan

The NETPAC award was presented to Chitrangada Satarupa, lead actress in the superb film, Devi aur Hero by director/novelist Aditya Kirpalani. Devi aur Hero is actually Kirpalani’s third film, and a truly memorable and highly accomplished work, filled with depth, compassion and laser sharp insight into the human condition.

 

Still from Devi Aur Hero
Still from Devi Aur Hero

Although NETPAC does not allow citations of ‘Special Mention’ some of the Jury members were extremely taken with, and supportive of, Jibo Azadiye (The End Will be Spectacular) because of the personal risks taken by the Kurdish actors and filmmakers in honouring their colleagues and fellow Kurds who withstood one hundred days of siege by the Turkish army. The film, shot after the liberation of Kobane, is a heartrending reminder that the siege against the Kurds is happening once again, and in fact, today.  We do not seem to learn, and political expediency has once again won over reason and basic humanity.

Today, the Kolkata International Film Festival is a delight. There were the usual problems such as technical glitches that haunt many established festivals, but overall, the event appeared to be seamless – it is certainly a festival that filmmakers the world over should investigate for the presentation of their films. The prize monies are extremely attractive, but the most compelling aspect is the warmth and vibrancy of the audiences and the organizers - a rare commodity indeed. Of special note: unlike countless other festivals the world over, KIFF does not pander to the allure of Hollywood or the colour/noise/action of Bollywood. Instead, great care and attention are paid to the true icons of cinema through the many respectful retrospective programmes and homage sections. The emotional, social, philosophical and spiritual bedrock of the state of Bengal seem to be carefully maintained.

-- by Hannah Fisher, Canada (Chairperson), NETPAC Jury
-- Edited by Latika Padgaonkar

Review of the 35th Warsaw Film Festival

System Administrator Monday November 11, 2019
The films tend to be mediocre most of all the time – or quite simply bad; there is seldom space for a brilliant work, one that would bring something new to the table. And there is nothing wrong with it – after all, these filmmakers are mainly newcomers and, sadly, those who weren’t accepted to bigger events such as Venice, Cannes, Rotterdam, Toronto.
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Still Humble After All These Years

System Administrator Thursday October 17, 2019
Asiaticamediale’s own 20-year journey has been a bittersweet one. The festival has remained faithful to its deep and wide interest of Asian cultures and society, showing a considered respect for all the many issues. But while it has held on to its intellectual idealism, it also reveals a deep chasm between that generation’s social values and the current millennials who are following other media platforms.
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Pacific Meridian Film Festival in Vladivostok 2019: The Strength of Russian Cinema

System Administrator Friday October 11, 2019
Of the six films that the NETPAC (dream) team had to choose from in Vladivostok, Great Poetry was by far the most powerful for its brutal depiction of modern social issues concerning post-war trauma and friendship, and sustained by an astonishing performance and daring and poetic direction.
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El Gouna, 2019

System Administrator Friday October 11, 2019
It is incredible to see the number of female Arab directors present in El Gouna this year. Algerian film Papicha directed by Mounia Meddour takes us back to Algeria’s bloody black decade in the 1990s – a time when extremism and terrorism reigned. It received the award for the Best Arab Film.
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The 15th Cinemalaya Philippine Independent Film Festival 2019

System Administrator Wednesday August 28, 2019
The growth in audience participation, comprising all ages, but mainly the youth, was astounding. The Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) the official venue of Cinemalaya was jam packed with people  who braved intense showers for the entire duration of the festival. In fact Cinemalaya is associated with heavy rain.
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23rd Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival

System Administrator Sunday July 28, 2019
Recognized as a major international showcase for genre films, BIFAN showcased 284 films from 49 countries (166 features and 118 shorts) in its 23rd edition. They included 64 World Premieres, 38 International Premieres and 79 Asian Premieres. Korean superstar Jung Woo-sung attended BIFAN 23's star-studded opening ceremony on June 27 at the Bucheon Gynmasium, where the festival's new director (and veteran film producer) Shin Chul declared BIFAN's determination to take part in the advancement of the next 100 years of Korean cinema
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Report On The XV Eurasia Film Festival

System Administrator Monday July 22, 2019
The festival screened award winning films from major international film festivals, including Parasite by Bong Joon Ho (South Korea) that won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival this year, along with some lesser known films by young directors, many of them making their debut.
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The Future is Now: Dispatches from the 20th Jeonju International Film Festival

System Administrator Saturday May 25, 2019
The lovely spring weather is perfect not only for indulging in the wide array of movies (whose tickets have sold out fast) but also for trying the nearby restaurants that offer some of the finest Korean cuisine — art and culture coming together in one of the world’s most vibrant cinema cities.
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41st Moscow International Festival

System Administrator Monday May 6, 2019
As a film juror from Pakistan, representing NETPAC, I was supposed to watch a pre-scheduled line-up of films — a mix of features and documentaries — from different Asian countries including India, Japan, China, Turkey, and even Yakutia, a sparsely populated but geographically large district in the north-eastern part of the Russian Federation.
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Obituary

Sun Shaoyi (1961 - 13th Aug. 2019) Shaoyi Photo It is with great sadness that we inform you of the demise of our senior NETPAC member, Prof SUN Shaoyi (孙绍谊) on 13th Aug 2019. Born in 1961, Prof. SUN Shaoyi did a Masters and a Ph.D from the University of Southern California (USC). He was Professor of Film and Media Studies at Shanghai Theater Academy (STA), taught Chinese film and literature at USC, University of California at Irvine, National Chung Hsing University (Taiwan), Shanghai University and New York University in Shanghai. Read More...