Who knows what the right decision is?
We all know that the strange year of 2020 and the mysterious virus had the greatest impact on culture and art, especially cinema and film festivals. Many festivals around the world have been cancelled or postponed. We all thought that the outbreak of the virus would be short, but not everything went as we expected. Many festivals waited for a while to make the right decision. Should the festival be held socially-distanced in accordance with health protocols or is it safer to hold a virtual one? Who knows?
This year, for the first time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 21st Asiatica Film Festival which is directed by Italo Spinelli and his collaborators in Rome, was held online from December 18 to 22.
Asiatica - encounters with Asian cinema - was created in 2000, to establish an original channel of communication between Italy and Asia. This festival is one of the most important Asian festivals in Europe, which has always shown different films from Asia. The three jury members of NETPAC, Therese Hayes (USA), Tsengel Davaasambuu (Mongolia) and Marziyeh Riahi (Iran) watched 10 Asian films including eight feature films and two documentaries, in competition. All the films had a successful festival presence and were among the best in Asia. At the same time, the films were very different in terms of genre and cinematic form.
It was very impressive for me to see two films in this program. A Boarding School by Shalahuddin Siregar (Indonesia) and No Choice by Reza Dormishian (Iran). In A Boarding School, Shalahuddin Siregar as documentary maker was able to get very close to the characters, his camera did not feel present at all and the characters live their lives regardless of the camera. Unlike usual types of documentaries, the documentary filmmaker does not conduct any interviews or narration throughout the film. Yet the film has many bright moments of singing Muslim women in hijab and a girl reciting the Quran like a beautiful song. Also No Choice, by Reza Dormishian, shows human relationships openly and bitterly to the audience. The film simultaneously tells the story of three women living in three different circumstances in Iran; a homeless girl, a human rights lawyer, and a gynecologist. This film shows that we each think we are making the right decision in the face of a social problem. But who really knows what the right decision is?
This year, the festival had its first online experience. The judges of different sections and the audience saw all the films online. In addition to the judges, the audience also introduced their favorite film. This is a point of hope for all of us who are involved in cinema. Despite all the restrictions, quarantine, virus pandemic, etc., the cinema is still alive! With the same hope for the future of the world and cinema, the NETPAC award went to No Choice by Reza Dormishian from Iran “for showing the deep human relationships and paying attention to the problems and difficulties of a part of society that receives less attention everywhere in the world”.
-- Marziyeh Riahi (Iran) – NETPAC Jury
-- Edited by Philip Cheah