COLOMBO: AN EXCITING ASIAN FILM EVENT
In the mushrooming scene of film festivals in Asia, Sri Lanka proves it is also able to hold an international film festival as good as any, not so far from its huge neighbor, India. The second International Film Festival of Colombo (IFFC) , in association with the Okinawa film festival in Japan, and powered by the National Film Corporation, took place from November 6 to 11 2015, in various cinemas of the Sri Lankan capital (mostly through the Ceylon Theaters Association), which were often packed by movie goers and fans - unlike some other film festivals which sometimes lack a real audience.
The main showcase was the Asian competition, with ten films from various Asian countries, and a good level of interest and quality, except may be for one or two films. One of the main themes was definitely itineraries on road or water, as three titles hinted it: River, by Southar Gayal (Tibet), The Road ( a rather experimental film by female director Rana Salem, from Lebanon), and above all, River Road, by young director LI Ruijun, from China, an initiatic travel of two brothers riding camels through Xinjiang, in search of their father. The film, brilliantly directed, deservedly won the Grand Prize/ Best film award.
Amid some good entries mostly dealing with young people in search of their own identity or love (Under Heaven, by Dalmira Tilepbergenova, Kyrgyzstan), Ten, by Kenshebek Shaikakov Kazakhstan, or the beautifully shot moral fable from Rajahstan, The honor keeper, by Pushpendra Singh), another revelation was the Iranian film Risk of acid rain, by Behtash Saheeha, a pregnant story about the random encounter of a few marginal people in a Tehran hotel, which won the Jury Prize.
The other main competition was a program of six Sri Lankan films of diverse inspirations and styles. The Netpac jury chose Motor bicycle, by Shameera Rangana Naotunna, as its best film award. There was also a short film competition, a Panorama of World Cinema , composed of films never shown in Sri Lanka, and a program of "Japanese cinematic flavor" presented by the Okinawa movie festival, showing four Japanese films.
The closing of the festival (Nov.11), at the historical Regal movie theater, was also marked by special awards of Life time achievement presented to two recipients: Aruna Vasudev ( aka "Mother India") the legendary founder of Netpac, Cinemaya magazine, and the late Cinefan film festival in Delhi, and to famed Kerala director Adoor Gopalakrishnan, five of his main films being shown to packed movie houses. A modest but authentic triumph for those two personalities of Asian cinema.
On the whole, this second edition of the IFFC was an exciting and pleasant experience, thanks to his organizers (mainly the festival director Asoka Handagama, and the programmers, like Ashley Ratnavibushana, Udithe Lekmal Kahandawaarachchi, Meenakshi Shedde, and Philip Cheah) and the precious help of dozens of volunteers, who did their very best to help and guide the foreign guests and juries.
Colombo may be a "baby festival" on the bustling Asian scene, and some improvements in the organization are probably to be made, but it's already alive and kicking. Let's hope it will safely reach adolescence and adulthood, for the benefit of Sri Lankan cinema and film fans. Long live IFFC!
- Max Tessier