The 49th International Film Festival of India in susegad Goa showcases exciting cinema, says Ronita Torcato who wishes she was there
Always susegad and sun-kissed, Goa, India's littlest state promises an exciting experience for cine-lovers from across the country and abroad at the ongoing International Film Festival of India (IFFI 2018), which ends on Wednesday, November 28 . Not just the Kala Academy and the multiplex, even the quaint streets of Panaji are screening films nightly, bringing joy to the common man, tourists and delegates. How many films in all over the nine days of the fest? 212 films from over 68 countries including two World premieres, 16 Academy Award nominated films, and this will warm the eminent linguist Ganesh Devy's heart, half a dozen films in rare Indian languages. “There is one film from Ladakh and another from Lakshadweep which is great for cinema lovers,” enthused Bollowood’s Rahul Rawail.
Three Indian films Bhayanakam, To Let, and Ee.Ma.Yau are also competing with 15 international productions for the Golden and Silver Peacock awards and handsome cash prizes at the fest which is organised by the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) and the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.
Bhayanakam earned its director Jayaraj two National Awards—for Best Director and for Best Adapted Screenplay, in 2017. To Let marks the debut of author, poet and cinematographer Chezhiyan Ra as a director. Ee.Maa.Yau helmer Lijo Jose Pellissery is a critically acclaimed director, best known for Amen and Angamaly Diaries—a cult Malayalam hit.
This year the International Competition section features films representing 22 countries. Interestingly, the section also features an Oscar nominated film Donbass, which won its director the Un Certain Regard Award for Best Director at Cannes this year, and is Ukraine’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the upcoming 91st Academy Awards.
Goa has been the venue for IFFI since the past 15 years and this correspondent who has attended 13 is sorry for missing the 49th edition of the fest which is showcasing the best of recent international cinema, along with Retrospectives, Masterclasses, In-Conversation sessions, Homages, and segments featuring the best of Indian and world cinema produced in the past year, apart from providing a platform for young creative minds to interact, view and learn. One year, a large group of students from the FTII was unable to find accommodation and slept in their chosen mode of transport from Pune—a large AC bus. For a couple years after, the festival organisers made camping arrangements on the beach which proved to be a hit with the young, but was strangely, discontinued in 2016.
IFFI for the first time, is featuring a State Focus section to spotlight the films of one of the Indian States. Jharkhand has been selected as the State of Focus for the 49th IFFI and Jharkhand Day will be celebrated on November 24 at the festival.
Two years ago, the 47th edition set a benchmark by becoming the first Indian film festival to screen audio descriptive movies. The section is a joint collaboration with UNESCO and the NGO Saksham under the Accessible India Campaign and Sugamaya Bharat Abhiyan. Since 2016, the programming has also included a special curated section for the differently-abled. This year the festival brings two Hindi favourites— Sholay, one of the greatest Bollywood films and Hichki, for the benefit of the visually impaired children. A special presentation of Tunisian films will bring the children up close to international cinema.
The formal opening which was aired live on DD National and also streamed live on Youtube.com /pibindia was followed by the world premiere of The Aspern Papers at the Kala Academy in the presence of the director Julien Landais, cast and crew of the film and Bollywood stalwarts like Akshay Kumar (who took a chartered flight), Randhir Kapoor, Subhash Ghai, Karan Johar, Madhur Bhandarkar, Arijit Singh, Ramesh Sippy (director of Sholay), Poonam Dhillon, Kiran Juneja, Siddharth Roy Kapoor, Prasoon Joshi and Jury member Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra,who said the movies were “outstanding and it is difficult to say which one is better.”
The Aspern Papers is Landais’ debut feature and is adapted from the novella by Henry James, which is based on the letters Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote to Mary Shelley's stepsister Claire Clairmont. The film stars Golden Globe Award winner Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Golden Globe nominated actress Joely Richardson and her mother—six time Oscar nominee and Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave, and Morgane Polanski (daughter of acclaimed filmmaker Roman Polanski) IFFI 2018 will close with the World Premiere of the German film, Sealed Lips.
A government press note cites the names of a battery of top officials in attendance including Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, who described India as “a land of storytellers who inspire and entertain” and launched the web portal of Film Facilitation Office in the presence of Goa Governor Mridula Sinha, PWD Minister of Transport and River Navigation, Goa Ramakrishna Sudin Dhavalikar, IFFI Festival Director Chaitanya Prasad and ESG Chairman Rajendra Talak.
IFFI Goa has also rolled out the red carpet for foreign film-makers like Barbara Meier, Nicolas Hau, Chin Han, Lois Robbins, Polish director and Jury Chairman Robert Glinski, and Tom Fitzpatrick.
Akshay Kumar’s Gold is one of the sports- based films screening at IFFI this year as a part of the Sports Biopics section.The other films are Mary Kom, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, 1983, MSD: The Untold Story and Soorma. A-lister Akshay believes meaningful films can trigger change in rural India. Israeli master craftsman Dan Wolman who has shown his films at previous IFFIs was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award “which is sweeter because I am receiving it in India, a country whose people, culture and cinema I truly admire.”
In its 49th edition the Country of Focus is Israel. Ten films are being screened in the package which opens with Avi Nesher's The Other Story. Israeli actor Alon Aboutboul (known for Rambo III, Munich by Steven Spielberg, Body of Lies by Ridley Scott and The Dark Knight Rises) is part of the delegation.
The World Panorama section is presenting 15 films, which are Oscar submissions from various countries. The Festival Kaleidoscope section carries 20 critically acclaimed international films that have been to major film festivals, a majority of them being multiple award winners. Sketch on Screen (Animation Film Package) will screen three international feature-length films done in collaboration with Indian studios.
This year, IFFI has also collaborated with the International Council for Film and Audiovisual Communication (ICFT) Paris to present a special prize consisting of the UNESCO Gandhi Medal to a film which reflects the ideals promoted by UNESCO. Ten films will vie for this coveted award, out of which two are Indian films.
The Homage section at the 49th IFFI include tributes to the late Sridevi, Shashi Kapoor, M Karunanidhi and Kalpana Lajmi. A retrospective of films of the recipient of the most prestigious film award in the country, Dadasaheb Phalke Award is also being showcased during IFFI. This year Vinod Khanna received the award posthumously. IFFI will also pay tribute to Terence Marsh, Milos Forman, and Anne V Coates.
As part of the Retrospective of Ingmar Bergman on his 100th birth anniversary, IFFI 2018 will showcase seven of the best films of his career. A documentary on Bergman titled Bergman Island directed by Marie Nyrerod has also been included in this section. The Indian Panorama package includes 26 feature films and 21 non-feature, and will open with the feature OLU directed by acclaimed filmmaker Shaji N Karun. Goan director Aditya Suhas Jambhale will present his film, Kharvas as the opening film in the non-feature segment.
Also being held on the sidelines of IFFI is the four-day Film Bazaar, set up by NFDC to encourage collaboration between South Asian and foreign filmmakers.