It is incredible that the amazing Asian film Parasite - directed by Bong Joon Ho - won Best Picture and other awards at the 2020 Academy Awards. Forty years ago this would never have happened had Aruna Vasudev and other founding members not created NETPAC. A lot of credit goes to the hard work of NETPAC members that helped introduce Asian/Pacific films to the Western world. I am so very appreciative and proud of NETPAC’s work and of having been a member since the beginning.
The 26th Kolkata Film Festival was a virtual event for the juries because of the Covid pandemic. It was well organized in getting the films (with synopses) out to the jury virtually, and watching the films was a pleasure..
Fire of Teak Flame of Chinar (2020) directed by Kumar Chowdhury (India), was a beautiful film about “two people from different countries but they come close through love and friendship.”
Drowsy City (2019) directed by Dung Luong Dinh (Vietnam), was a film about Tao who has to slaughter chickens for a living. He gets involved with some gangsters who treat him horribly. He figures out a plan to outsmart them.
Between the Shore and Several Others (2019) directed by Sreekrishnan KP (India) is about Salman, a fisherman who has an imaginary friend, Kayyavi. The film “treads on the precarious shore that separates the real from the unreal, like a visual poem.”
One Night in Kathmandu (2020), directed by Moham Rai (Nepal), is about a man and a girl who meet when they take an injured stranger to a hospital. The girl is about to leave Kathmandu, after years of struggle in that city. She has given up her room and now has no place to stay for the night. She wanders the streets with her new friend, a tour guide from India. By morning, “the girl realizes that she has become a different person.”
Not Today (2020) directed by Aditya Kripalani (India), is an intriguing film about a young woman from a traditional Muslim family who secretly becomes a suicide prevention counselor. On her first day at work she encounters a 53 year-old man who is about to jump off a high-rise. She talks to him all night and in the morning, “she ends up healing not just her own heart, but also the heart of the man who has himself been a Suicide Prevention Counselor for 15 years.”
The Salt in Our Waters (2020), directed by Rezwan Shahriar Sumit (Bangladesh) is a beautifully shot film about an educated, city sculptor who moves to a remote fishing village on the Ganges Delta. At first, he is warmly greeted by the villagers - until he opens his huge container with all of his work and art supplies. The villagers see his work of sculptures and think they are idols. The village women, except for Tuni, his landlordʻs spirited daughter, wonʻt speak to him. The children, though, are enchanted when he makes them flying fish. The villagers depend on their daily fishing haul, but when fish is scarce, the self-serving village Chairman who keeps the men indebted to him, says the artist has cursed them. The artist tries to explain global warming and rising sea levels but no one understands what he says. A tragic event and a cyclone bring events to a head. This film deals with several issues that affect not only village but the world too: tradition vs. modernity, science vs. religion, politics vs. the will of the common man. The Salt in Our Waters is beautifully shot, and the costumes of women set against the background of the sea and village are truly exquisite. The acting, too, is remarkable, with top Bangladesh star, Fazlur Rahman Babul playing the Chairman. This is up-and-coming director Rezwan Shalhriar Sumitʻs first feature.
All the films were of high quality and most enjoyable, but it was The Salt in Our Waters that was chosen for the NETPAC Award for the reasons mentioned above.
-- Patricia Elser Gillespie, NETPAC - Chairperson.
-- Edited by Latika Padgaonkar