The Devoted Film Culture of India

in 14th International Film Festival of Kerala

by H.N. Narahari Rao

IFFK has come to occupy an important place in the Indian film diary. This is a festival that brings large number of delegates in their thousands from all corners of Kerala State, lining up at theatres anxiously waiting to find entry to see the films. This is because of the strong film society movement that has established firm roots even in rural areas. It is quite amazing to see the audience occupying every inch of space in the auditoriums even on floors, aisles, and steps to see the films. It is always a real experience to attend and enjoy this festival. This year the number of delegates participating in the event crossed the mark of 8,000, including the Media and other invitees. Around 160 films are screened in nine cinema halls located in different parts of this city.                

The festival has different sections for awards. The main competition section awards the Golden Crow to the best film covering films from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Fipresci awards two prizes – one given to the best film in the competition section and the other for the best Malayalam film. In addition, Netpac award for the Best Asian film and the Hassan Kutty award for the best debut director are also instituted. Furthermore, the festival presented the retrospectives of Mrinal Sen, who was also bestowed with the lifetime achievement award. The other retrospectives included the films of Jacques Tati (France), Mikio Naruse (Japan), Arturo Ripstein (Mexico), Francesco Rosi (Italy), Lohitadas (India), and of the contemporary masters Raul Peck and Penek Ratanaruang.                

Another important section in the festival was the celebration of fifty years of French New Wave cinema – captioned as From Film Criticism in Cahiers du Cinema to French New Wave and the screening of French New Wave films, followed by discussions, were the highlights.            

The competition section has 14 films from different countries. True to its tradition of providing pleasant surprises, the Iranian cinema through its entry About Elly by Asghar Farhadi became the focus of discussion among the delegates. Capturing the images on the beach of a stormy sea, Asghar Farhadi treats us with an almost live experience of the trauma that encompasses the members of a family, who are on a pleasure trip, when one of their companions disappears. It is not often that we come across such an experience that engrosses us totally in it.                

Amit Roy, a promising young Indian filmmaker makes a very bold attempt to venture into handling the subject of ethnic conflicts in India. In his debut film Road to Confluence he explores with critical analysis the dilemma and predicament that many of the Muslim intellectuals face when their rational thinking and approach on various issues lands them in to deep trouble in the midst of hostile attitude from the Muslim fundamentalists. It is really commendable that Amit Roy is able to get able support from veteran actors like Paresh Rawal who is portrayed as a true Gandhian in the film. Om Puri and other veteran actors also give lively performances.

Madoda Ncayiyana, a young director from South Africa, makes a sincere effort in his film My Secret Sky to portray the journey of two children, brother and sister, from their village to the city to carve out a living. He is very successful in bringing out the best from the child actors to make it a real journey of life.              

There (Orada) from Turkey, by Hakki Kurtulus and Melik Saracoglu, is another film that has rich cinematic values. The brother and sister, who meet at the funeral of their mother, after a long separation, visit their father living on an island. They all recollect their past and it is now the time for a frank introspection for all of them. The film is slow paced but very effective. It is reported that the two young filmmakers are faithful followers of Ingmar Bergman’s style and have absorbed some of his shades in this film. The film has a very smooth flow of shots depicting logical sequences that makes us reminisce the techniques of Bergman and sometimes of Bresson. The dialogues are very carefully penned.              

Train in the Tenth Floor, by Joshy Mathew, in Malayalam language, is a moving film that evokes deep sympathy for a psychiatric patient who undergoes anguish and agony in a mental hospital for 15 long years. It is a pity that none of his family members including his wife and son care to visit him even once. The actor who plays the role of psychiatric patient gives a memorable performance.              

There were quite a number of good films in the cinema of the world section and most of the films also had repeat screenings so that all the delegates were given the opportunity to see them. The festival concluded with the closing ceremony on the evening of 18th December 2009.        

Edited by Steven Yates