In 1994, I went to India from Japan as a reporter of The Mainichi newspaper. It was my first experience of India. Mr. Kei Kumai, who was a well known film director in Japan, was shooting Deep River (Fukai Kawa) in India I was called by the director. I wanted go to Varanasi, known as a holy river side of The Ganga. Deep River was being shot there. Just then, unfortunately, plague infected India. I hesitated. And thought whether I should go or not. But eventually I reached Varanasi. Mr. Kumai welcomed me with enthusiasm. Deep River was successfully shown in Japan. Next year, the Montreal Film Festival invited Deep River into competition. It gained the Ecumenical Prize. During my stay in India, I visited such big cities Delhi, Varanasi, and Mumbai. I felt those cities were jammed, congested and often filthy.
Back to nowadays, I was recommended from Japan Film Pen Club as a jury member for the 18th Kerala International Film Festival and landed in India again. Actually, I did not know Kerala but I remembered the great Indian film director Aravindan who lived there. About 15 years ago. I saw a few of his films at the Asia Focus Fukuoka Film Festival. Especially the impressive Kummaty.
In Aravindan’s films, He shows restful scenery in Kerala. Then I recognized the Kerala region may be different from other big cities in India. It has the best education and lowest homicide region in India. But traffic jams too. And in the night, I could not walk alone because the roads were bumpy everywhere and cars, bikes, buses and auto-rickshaws seemed to rush towards me.
The festival’s opening ceremony was held outdoors. It was magical and gorgeous. Spanish film director Carlos Saura was on stage and received Lifetime Achievement Award. Next day, we went to the first screening of the competition. There are no seats for jury members at all. The audience had rushed in and occupied our seats. We gave up. Such a thing never happened in Japan. Afterwards, we entered the second screening. Fortunately we could take our seats. But people rushed in again. Cramming the aisles too. I like Indian audiences. They applaud and clamour constantly. Their passion and enthusiasm is amazing .However we should keep safe. So our hosts prepared screenings elsewhere.
I enjoyed the films very much so we discussed hard. Our winner was Errata coming from Argentina. The director is Ivan Vescovo who is only 25.Camera works and editing are brilliant. I thought it a very stylish film.
The other films made it a good fight. Capturing Dad is a Japanese film directed by Ryota Nakano. This has comedy and drama in it, and I liked it very much. Including Errata, there are 4 black and white films. The others are The Battle of Tabato, Constructors. The Battle of Tabato is Portuguese and won a special mention from the jury in Berlin. Shot in Guinea-Bissau by Joao Viana, the film has fine camera work. The long distance image is beautiful. Constructors is from Kazakhstan. Young brothers lose their house because they could not pay the rent. And want to build their own house. I could not understand why black and white was used in this picture. Megha Dhaka Thara is a Bengali film by Kamaleshwar Mukherjee. It is ambitious but complicated, with some superbly powerful images.
Edited by Derek Malcolm
© FIPRESCI 2013