Asian Cinema at the 7th Delhi Film Festival By Hubert Niogret

in 7th Delhi CineFan

by Hubert Niogret

Recently bought by the company Osian, the now 7th Festival of Asian Cinema in Dehli, or Osian’s Cine Fan 2005, is still programmed by Aruna Vasudev and managed by the group of the well known magazine Cinemaya, now Osian’s Cinemaya, of which Aruna Vasudev is still the founder-editor.

Designed to expand its activities in the next few years, the festival has succeeded already this year in increasing its audience, so much they have been obliged to leave some people at the door of the three main theatres of the Siri Fort. A large public was willing to attend not only all Indian films screenings, but also the ones of the 26 others Asian countries. A young public in a huge crowd was even willing to look at restored prints in US of some of the Satyajit Ray films, which was a kind of ‘premiere’ for features mainly considered in the past by only Bengalis and Europeans. The theatre was crowded for the screening of a feature directed by the son of Satyajit Ray, Sandip Ray. In a classic tradition, with a subject borrowed somewhere to Luis Bunuel, After the Night. Dawn (Nishijapon) is a very moving feature, very well written (sometimes with a witty humour), with marvellous actors, beautiful photography, and very delicate use of mise-en-scène.

All kinds of films and genres were screened during the nine days of the Festival; from World or Asian Premieres, local productions from six different languages, co-productions through Europe and Asia (films from the sales company Fortissimo specialised in Asian films), films co-financed by the French institution Fonds Sud, tributes to Hou Hsiao-hsien, and Martial Arts films.

Productions in video DV or high definition screened alongside films in 16mm or 35mm. A large majority of features included some documentaries, and some features were rather experimental while others were over-academic. Some were confused in their overtly personal approach of subject matter, while other films distanced themselves from characters or groups.

Some features shown were by very experienced directors – Johnnie To, Im Kwon-taek, Wong Kar-wai – seen in previous festivals. However, the programme also included the last two features of Bengali Buddhadeb Dasgupta, and Laurice Guillen of the Philippines . Three Japanese directors – Yoichi Sai, Yoichi Higashi, Yoji Yamada – and well known Iranian director Dariush Mehrjui were represented, as was more recent fare from the likes of Garin Nugroho from Indonesia, Im Sang-soo of South Korea, Bahman Ghobadi, Abdellatif Kechiche, and Elia Suleiman. First-time directors represented included Vimukthi Jayasundarao of Sri-lanka, Gu Changwei of China , and Deepak Kumaran Menon of Malaysia .

The films awarded by the different juries (Asian and Indian Competition, Netpack and FIPRESCI), included Of Love and Eggs (Rindu Kami Padamu) by Garin Nugroho – a very strange description of Muslims in Indonesia caught between hopes, dreams, and reality. This was a feature shaped in a very free form, which is not always reaching its point but always surprising. The Peacock (Kong que) (directed by Gu Changwei already awarded in the last Berlinale) was awarded for the young actress; The Forsaken Land (Sulanga Enu Pinisa) for the sound (by Vimukthi Jayasundara who received the Camera d’Or in Cannes). For his defence of tolerance and his strong cinematographic qualities, the three members of FIPRESCI jury awarded the Iranian film of The Tear of the Cold (Ashk-E Sarma) by Azizollah Hamidnezhad, having had to choose between 15 features from 11 countries of a very good average quality.

The Tear of the Cold was not the only film showing professional and cinematic qualities and a clever use of nature and elements (here snow in the Kurdistan country where Iranians fight). Others features such as The Hunter (Anshi) by the Kazakh Seik Aprymov, or Season of the Horse (Ji feng zhong de ma) by Chinese Ning Cai also dealt with problems of nature but in a more economic perspective (the decline of the tradition and the rural world disappearing behind the modern world of cities) and a more conventional way threatened by some seductive exoticism.

Just as in The Tear of the Cold, some others features, both Iranian, ( Gilaneh by Rakhshan Bani-Etemad and Mohsen Abdolvahhab, and Turtles Can Fly (Lakposhtha Ham Parvaz Mikonand) by Bahman Ghobadi were confronting themselves with their own war. Also, Iraq is already producing features, for example, the documentary Underexposure (Gheir Saleh) by Oday Rasheed, though this film fails to handle the complexity of the war by his own darkness. Barbed Wire (Kantakar) by Bengali Bappadita Bandopadhyay is also willing to describe illegal immigrants as consequences of conflicts, but fails by script problems, and an absence of rhythm in its production.

At least Barbed Wire tries to a have a serious and honest perspective while some features as in Kal: Yesterday and Tomorrow by first time Hindi director Ruchi Narain is trapped in his attempt of showing politics and economics corruptions. Much more interesting for the day-to-day reality of religion in the Philippines (going with manipulation, obscurantism) and the sideways (under-development, criminality) is Santa, Santita (Magdelena, The Unholy Saint) by Laurice Guillen, which also proves that the Filipino cinema is perhaps in the way of moving again to better horizons. Finally, in Malaysia, Gravel Road (Chemman Chalai) by Deepak Kumaran Menon, about the Tamil ethnic group, proves that there are in this rather badly renowned country, signs of true artists with social involvement.