"The Festival" is the Winner of the Festival By Cüneyt Cebenoyan

in 9th Zanzibar International Film Festival

by Cüneyt Cebenoyan

The Festival (Talnabami) is a film based on a very simple story. We meet the family of a Brahman priest with two young boys. They are very poor and live on subsistence level. It is the monsoon season, so there are heavy rains almost all the time. The two youngsters gather palm fruits which fall to the ground to sell in the market and also to feed themselves and their parents. When one of their friends tell them about the monsoon festival talnabami which is going to take place in a few days at the house of Aunt Joti Pishi, they get excited. They hope to be invited to the feast and eat as much as they can from the sweets made from palm fruits (their mother cannot cook sweets out of the fruits they gather because they lack such ingredients as sugar and oil).

The festival is also an opportunity to sell the palm fruits that they gather. But the younger brother Gopal (Sourov Das) thinks that if they sell the fruits they won’t be invited, so he gives them for free to Aunt Joti Pishi. They were probably never invited to the feast before because whenever Gopal mentions the festival his mother says that they have nothing to do with it. But this time Gopal thinks that he had deserved to be invited. He had risked his life to gather the fruits when it was very early in the morning and poisonous snakes were everywhere. And when the day comes he puts on his best clothes and starts waiting in front of his house. He sees the messenger of the hosts passing by their house without visiting them. And then, with wet eyes, he sees families going to Aunt Joti Pishi’s house. They weren’t invited just because they were poor. It was never a question of “deserving” to be invited anyway.

The Festival is a very low budget film; it’s form fits it’s content, that is everything is kept simple. This is exactly what this story about basic human feelings needs. The feelings of being excluded is transferred to the viewer perfectly. Though Gopal’s family is from an upper cast it is the class to which one belongs that is important. And the poverty of Gopal’s family makes him invisible to the eyes of the rich.

The story on which the script of the film was based is by Bibhutibhusan Bandyopadhyay who is also the author of the book on which the Apu trilogy (Pather Panchali; Aparajito; The World of Apu) by Satyajit Ray was based. Like the above mentioned films of Ray, The Festival can be considered as a representative of the neo-realist style. The director of photography Samir Debnath does a great job in capturing the feel of the monsoon season. When the film ended I felt soaking wet.

The film’s director Dhananjoy Mandal is a Calcutta-based, self-taught filmmaker who is in his late thirties. He has done several documentaries which were shown in his own country India and at international film festivals. He won the best documentary award at the third Minsk International Environment Film Festival held in Belarus for his film A Silent Killer. The same film had also won the National Film Award in 2003 as the best investigative film of the year. Mandal is also an employee of the West Bengal State Electricity Board. The Festival is Mandal’s first full-length feature film.