Screen + Sound + Stage
Text by Anvita Budhraja
The only thing better than a week-long vacation in Goa is if you can spend a good part of that week watching a carefully curated selection of some of the best that cinema has to offer. The International Film Festival of India, which started yesterday (and runs till November 28) in Panaji, will see everyone from celebrities to film enthusiasts converging to celebrate film. From open air screenings of sports biopics, to a special presentation of Tunisian films, to animated features produced by Indian and global studios in collaboration, and even a series of Masterclasses and Conversations with Indian and International movie greats, the 49th edition is filled with promise. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, we highlight some of the most interesting film sections at IFFI through 5 captivating films.
Denmark’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for the Oscars, The Guilty is a riveting, pulsating, thrilling story of one police officer’s emergency-response duty. On a routine day, battling frustration and disappointment, Asger Holm answers a call from an abducted woman. What follows is a suspense-filled cinematic marvel as Holm tries to take matters into his own hands. The limited setting and the sophisticated use of sound heighten the tension, but of course, it is the subtle yet vivid portrayal of Holm’s tortured mind that ultimately keeps you at the edge of your seat.
The festival boasts 15 other Oscar-nominated Foreign Language Films and some of the other entries include The Wild Pear Tree (Turkey), Donbass (Ukraine), The Heiresses (Paraguay), Ayka (Kazakhstan), Dogman (Italy), Yomeddine (Egypt), Birds of Passage (Colombia).
The Footnoteand A Death in the Gunj
IFFI’s “In Focus” sections choose one country and one state (proposed for the first time this year) to spotlight at the festival. This year, carefully selected masterpieces of Israeli cinema will be showcased in an effort to strengthen ties between India and Israel and to encourage productive intellectual exchange, while the focus on Jharkhand seeks to promote its rich culture, art and diversity. The festival also plans to celebrate Jharkhand Day on November 24.
The ten films from Israel have a lot to offer – from the Palestine issue, the fragile orthodox-secular balance, to personal desires and disappointed ambition. Joseph Cedar’s 2011 film, The Footnote, is one of these movies and while perhaps not as forceful or dramatic as some others, it nevertheless has a lot to say. Father and son, professors and rival scholars, come into opposition when a prestigious award meant for one is mistakenly given to another. The politics of academia are surely not for everyone, but by adding the eternal high-stakes of a family rift into the mix, The Footnote questions – in its quirky, light-hearted tone – issues of loyalty, ambition, and familial love.
But if you’re craving extreme and dysfunctional family drama of the August: Osage County kind, the focus on Jharkhand includes A Death in the Gunj, Konkona Sen Sharma’s 2016 directorial debut. Set in the 70s in the Anglo-Indian community of McCluskieganj, Jharkhand, the film dabbles in everything that is mysterious and eerie. It brings together an ensemble cast of distinct characters in an atmosphere that exudes, right from the start, gloom and menace. Other films to be showcased in this section are Begum Jaan, Mor Gao Mor Desh, Ajab Singh ki Gajab Kahani, Ranchi Diaries, Panchletand M.S.D. The Untold Story.
Commemorating the legend – Ingmar Bergman
“I experience things. Especially here when there’s a full moon and the silence is total … The light of the moon shines in here – of the full moon … It is incredibly intense and casts shadows. And I feel very strongly that I am surrounded by other realities”
Any film by the illustrious Swedish filmmaker, Ingmar Bergman is august company, and this year IFFI celebrates the centenary of his birth by showcasing 7 incredible films from his venerable oeuvre – Summer With Monika, Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, Persona, Autumn Sonata, Fanny and Alexander, and Saraband. In addition to his films, IFFI invites you to a behind the scenes look at Bergman, his life, his lens, and his inspirations with filmmaker Marie Nyreröd’s 2004 documentary Bergman Island, which is also being showcased. Whether you’ve seen all 60 of Bergman’s films, or only the introspective Wild Strawberries; whether you’re familiar with his haunting Oscar-winning work Through a Glass Darkly, or you associate him simply with the secluded Baltic island of Faro, this retrospective is sure to be exhilarating and moving. Bergman’s style was called experimental, even theatrical; but at the heart of each of his films was a primordial terror – an exploration of the deepest recesses of the human psyche.
Sudani from Nigeria
The festival hosts two film sections that bring together a truly eclectic mix of cinema. The World Panorama contains recent movies from acclaimed international filmmakers while the India Panorama has an assortment of Indian feature and mainstream films selected by a jury. But perhaps one can celebrate the best of both – the national and the international – with 2018 Malayalam-language film Sudani from Nigeria. Set in Malappuram (Kerala) against the backdrop of the beautiful language of football, this movie follows football manager Majeed and star player Samuel as they forge a friendship through universal forces of pain, financial hardship, and sports. That compassion reigns in the face of adversity is perhaps the lesson worth learning most. Sudani from Nigeria presents a gentle, cheerful version of the global world, which seems like a fitting statement for this festival’s integrated view of the world cinema.
Other titles in these sections are Sealed Lips (Germany), An Orange Ship (Bangladesh), Once Upon a Time (Poland); Dhappa (Marathi), Uma (Bengali), Peranbu (Tamil), and mainstream movies like Raazi (Hindi).