Overview of IFFK 2004

in 9th International Film Festival of Kerala

by Shaheen Kabir

Kerala, with her long tradition of film culture and appreciation of world cinema, once again hosted an exciting and successful film festival which took place from December 10th-17th 2004 at the IFFK 2004. The 9 th IFFK showcased a wide variety of good films from over 60 countries, including India. It started with the gorgeous traditional Kerala dance and song ensemble Gods Own Rhythm at Trivandrum. Inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Kerala, the ceremony had Shyam Benegal, the noted Indian film-maker as its chief guest. The opening film of the festival was 2046 , directed by Wong Kar Wai, one of Hong Kong ‘s most innovative directors.

The competition section of the festival was made up of films from Asia, Africa and Latin America. There were several debut feature films like Shen Wensheng’s Endless Way (China), Josue Mendez’ Dias de Santiago (Peru), Mark Meiley’s Crying Ladies (Philippines) as well as some directorial debuts like Kenichi Fujiwara’s [is A.] (Japan) and Sandeep Sawant’s Shwash (India, Marathi). There were also fine entries from Bhutan India, Iran, Israel, Lebanon, Congo, Morocco, Tunisia and Chile. The world cinema section presented a cross section of films representing the contemporary state of cine art. including internationally acclaimed film makers like Abbas Kiarostami, who was present at the festival, Makhmalbaf, Lars Von Trier, Margarette Van Trotta, Alexander Sukurov, Carlos Saura and Sofia Coppola and others.

This year the IFFK featured a Retrospective of the German master Werner Herzog and presented six of his films which included Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, Fitzcarraldo and Cobra Verde, all with his favorite actor Klaus Kinski; and three of his documentaries. There was a package of seven films by Tsai Ming Liang, the Taiwanese filmmaker that helped to familiarise the film-literate audience of Kerala with the works of one of contemporary cinema’s more remarkable artists.

IFFFK 2004 also paid tribute to Christopher Doyle, one of the most remarkable cinematographers of contemporary times, a great artist in “translating ideas into images” by offering a Chris Doyle package of five of his films. Doyle was present at the festival and conducted a workshop. Film-lovers, cine-workers, journalists, and film students from all over India , who came as delegates, were delighted to have had the opportunity to meet and talk to such great names as Kiarostami and Tsai Ming-Liang, who came all the way to join the IFFK 2004. The Festival also paid homage to the Malayalam filmmaker P. Padmarajan, and the French ethnographer-documentarist Jean Rouche, as well as the prominent Italian Actor Vittorio Gassman.

The Festival provided a platform for interaction not only among the audience and the filmmakers but also among filmmakers, critics, film activists, old friends and new acquaintances from India and abroad. To name but a few who also attended the festival were Simon Field, Paul Leduc (who chaired the main jury), Adoor Gopalkrishna, Shyam Benegal, Ashley Ratnavibhushana (who chaired the NETPAC jury), Joan Dupont (who chaired the FIPRESCI jury), Madhu Jain, Mama Keita (who came with his film The River and was on the main jury), Yves Thoraval and K.N.T. Sastry.

A unique feature of the IFFK 2004 had also been its “Country Focus” on films from Mexico, France and South Africa. It also introduced India’s own cinema with some milestone movies and contemporary films in various languages – Marathi, Telegu, Malayalam, Hindi, Bangla and Asamese.

The films from the World Section and India were introduced by the filmmakers themselves. After having been familiar with Iranian and Korean films for quite some time, the cine-lovers of Kerala and other parts of India were excited about the prospect of seeing films from China , Taiwan and the Philippines . The festival’s focus on East Asian cinema this year got the coverage and attention from the audience and the media that it deserved. The films were screened in six different movie theatres, all close to each other. From the beginning- right through to the end of the festival – what had been most striking was the swelling crowd gathering at all these theatres for each screening. What had attracted such a huge number of exciting audiences at the IFFK 2004 was the number of very interesting packages it offered.

The IFFK 2004, gave the following awards: The Golden Crow Pheasant Award for the Best Feature Film, to be shared equally by the director and the producer of the film, went to the Peruvian film Dias de Santiago directed by Josue Mendez and produced by Enid Campus and Tito Bonichelli. The Silver Crow Pheasant Award went to the Best Director went to the Philippino Director Mark Maily for his film Crying Ladies. The Best Debut Film Award went to the Lebanese-French co-production film Ring Of Fire (Zenner El Nar), directed by Bahij Hojeij. The Audience Prize went to the Iranian film Album directed by Reza Hydarnejad. The Chinese film Endless Way directed by Shen Wensheng won the award for the second most popular film. The IFFK 2004 National Jury gave special mention to The Syrian Bride (Israel, France, Germany) directed by Eran Riklis. The FIPRESCI Prize for the Best Film went to the Lebanese-French co-production Ring Of Fire, directed by Bahij Hojeij. There were also two new awards this year: The NETPEC Award for the Best Asian Film, which went to the Philippines film Crying Ladies by Mark Meily, and the Nerolac Award for Technical Excellence, which went to Atul Kulkarni for his performance in Sacred Grove (Devrai) from India. The film was directed by Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar.

Dias de Santiago was screened after the award ceremony and the International Film Festival of Kerala 2004 officially came to a colourful end on 17th December 2004 with an enthralling cultural show steeped in Kerala’s cultural ethos which followed the award ceremony.

Shaheen M. Kabir