The 25th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), India, organised by the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy on behalf of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Government of Kerala was held last month, 10-14 February in Trivandrum. This year’s silver jubilee edition, under the creative direction of Artistic Director, VP Chairperson and NETPAC Board VP, Bina Paul, also travelled to three other cities in Kerala (Kochi, Palakkad and Thalassery) until 5th March in order to engage more audiences due to COVID-19 pandemic social distancing restrictions. All juries were online and virtual due to pandemic international travel restrictions. I remember so fondly my time in Kerala on the international jury. In Kerala, there are always long queues for tickets. It is a beautiful thing to witness. A wide range of cinema books on masters can be found here and are read by the Malayalam people. The first film society was established and held in Kerala in 1965 by Adoor Gopalkrishnan (writer/director/producer) who presented this year’s NETPAC award to the winner.
This time round, I had the pleasure of being on the NETPAC Jury and helping choose Best Asian Film and Best Malayalam Film. I relish any opportunity to watch regional Indian cinema. My fellow jury members were Russian film critic/expert on the native cinema of Russian regions, Sergey Anashkin and Indian critic/Artistic Director of the 13th Bengaluru International Film Festival, Vidyashankar N. Jois. We had the pleasure of conversing via email over several weeks until ultimately unanimously deciding our winners.
The NETPAC competition included several established filmmakers amongst newer debut and sophomore voices. It was a pleasure to watch seasoned Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof’s episodic morality piece There is No Evil and Indian Lijo Jose Pellissery’s abstract horror fantasy Churuli. Of note was Hilal Baydarov’s metaphysical road movie of a young man who brings death wherever he goes in, In Between Dying (Azerbaijan, Mexico, USA). A beautiful piece of restrained cinema was Bahman Tavoosi’s debut The Names of The Flowers (Bolivia, Qatar, Canada, USA).
The NETPAC award for Best Asian Film went to Marathi filmmaker Akshay Indikar for his sophomore feature Sthalpuran (Chronicle of Space) which had its Asian premiere in Kerala screening to a full house with a Q&A afterward. Indikar was very happy to be selected again in IFFK having been invited with his short film in 2013-14. Indikar also picked up the Best Debut Director Award. He wrote on his FB page when selected “Where does the person who does cinema in India get the highest respect, then he is in Kerala. Went to many film festivals around the world but my favourite festival was from Kerala. Indikar comments “Eminent Marathi writer Bhalchandra Nemade said instead of taking a highway, you should take a walkway which means it is always better to take small steps rather than taking a bigger one. This, I believe is the reason for my success.” Sthalpuran (Chronicle of Space) was shown at sixteen venues in four cities: Trivandrum, Kochi, Palakkad and Thalassery. This film had also previously won last year’s Asia Pacific Screen Awards - Young Cinema Award presented by NETPAC and Griffith University (Australia).
The Malayalam competition this year dealt primarily with middle class concerns. The award for Best Malayalam Film went to Vipin Atley for Musical Chair “For the director’s philosophical musings on this mortal coil, life’s purpose, fear of death and the limited time we are entitled to hold this space.” Atley wrote, directed, created the music and starred in this independent film.
You can catch up with all online discussions including a conversation with Jean Luc Godard who received the Lifetime Achievement Award on the IFFK YouTube channel. Here is Jean Luc Godard’s acceptance speech:
I congratulate all at IFFK for their silver jubilee.
-- Maxine Williamson