9th Delhi CineFan
India, July 20 - July 29 2007
Nine years ago, Aruna Vasudev started the Cinefan Festival in New Delhi as a small event, just to show some of the films on which she published criticism in Cinemaya, the 1988-established English-language magazine on Asian cinema (which gathered, and still gathers, the best critics writing, in a variety of countries, on Asian cinema — required reading for everybody seriously interested in the cinemas of the continent).
A festival on Asian cinema? It may sound like a crazy idea, but it worked. Over the years, Cinefan became bigger and changed to bigger venues for a larger public. In 2004, the festival was taken over by Osian’s, a Bombay-based publishing house (mainly for books on art), founded in 2000 and headed by Neville Tuli. He took the organizational burden (of both Cinemaya and Cinefan) from Aruna Vasudev’s shoulders and made it possible for her to focus, as head and heart of magazine and festival, on films, their selection, presentation, and discussion.
The festival always had an interest in Arab films, and this year it changed its title to “Festival of Asian & Arab Cinema” — a fruitful extension and confrontation. In its 9th edition, it worked as a wonderful showcase of both cinemas, welcomed by an open-minded local public and attended by numerous foreign guests, filmmakers, and critics. The main competition was dedicated to Asian and Arab films; other competitions took care of first features and of recent Indian films. A special series presented contemporary Japanese films.
The screenings were accompanied by a series of panels and conferences, among others on the origins of cinema in Asia. For young filmmakers from the region, a “Talent Campus” was organized (supported by the Berlinale Talent Campus). These additional activities underlined Aruna Vasudev’s conception that it is not enough to show films, but that it is necessary to talk about cinema and to recreate an atmosphere of discussion. Cinefan #9 was not only a showcase, it was a meeting point of a variety of cinemas, conceptions, and ideas.
Not forgetting film history. Festivals normally don’t care much about it (with the exception of, maybe, a retrospective). Cinefan does. A tribute to Kenji Mizoguchi was offered, enabling a young generation of filmgoers to see some of his films on a big screen (and the screenings were well attended). And what a pleasure it was to discover, or re-discover, Youssef Chahine’s Cairo Station (Bab El Hadid, Egypt), Amit and Sombhu Mitra’s A Night in the City (Jagte Raho, India), both from 1958, or The Letter with Feathers (Ji mao xin, by Hui Shi, China, 1954) – all of them winners of the festivals of Cannes, Venice, Karlovy Vary, and Locarno of the 1950s.
If you need proof of how attractive Asian and Arab cinemas can be, attend Osian’s-Cinefan.(k.e.)