200-odd films from 76 countries, honouring of legends, slew of landmark films of historical worth from across the world were some of the highlights of IFFI-50
The 50th edition of Asia’s oldest international film festival was a major success. So, what did the International Film Festival of India (IFFI, November 20 to 28, 2019) had in its kitty that separated it from the previous 49 editions? A great deal. And not just in numbers, but also in terms of range and depth.
Packed into the nine-day festival were 200- odd films from 76 countries, which offered cineastes a wide sampling of last year’s most lauded works, besides a slew of landmark films of historical worth from across the world.
The best of contemporary world cinema apart, IFFI 2019 brought to film fans in Goa an impressive array of films from the past, including a package of nine previous winners of the Golden Peacock, the festival’s top trophy that now comes with a cash prize of over $55,000.
The Golden Peacock retrospective included the 1963 winner, Changes in the Village, directed by Lester James Peries, who is regarded as the father of Sri Lankan cinema. Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan (2014) was also in the segment along with James Ivory’s The Bostonians (1984), Miklos Jancso’s Hungarian Rhapsody (1979), Samira Makhmalbaf’s At Five in the Afternoon (2003) and Sergey Dvortsevoy’s Tulpan (2008). The sole Indian film in the selection of Golden Peacock winners was the Bengali film MonerManush (2010), directed by Goutam Ghose.
Another commemorative segment aimed at underlining the special status of the 50th edition of IFFI was a retrospective of Oscar- winning films. Entries in this section ranged from Casablanca, Gone With the Wind and Ben-Hur to The Godfather, Forrest Gump and The Silence of the Lambs. All About Eve, The Best Years of Our Lives, Lawrence of Arabia and The Sound of Music completed the line-up of Oscar winners.
All eyes were also on the ‘filmmaker in focus’ Takashi Miike, a Ken Loach miniretrospective, wo restored Indian classics (Ritwik Ghatak’s Titas Ekti Nadir Naam and Uday Shankar’s Kalpana) plus Master Frames and Festival Kaleidoscope, sections devoted to films hailed in Cannes, Venice, Berlin and Toronto.
Six films were screened as part of the Takashi Miike retrospective. The package included the relatively mellow The Bird People of China. The other Miikefilms in IFFI are Audition (1999), with which the maverick Japanese director known for his no-holds-barred depiction of violence and sexual excess began to acquire international fame; Ichi the Killer, a manga adaptation that is still banned in several countries; the yakuza thriller Dead or Alive; the samurai film 13 Assassins; and First Love, which played in Cannes Directors’ Fortnight this year.
The 50th IFFI competition had assembled 15 films that gave the five-member jury headed by John Bailey, veteran Hollywood cinematographer and former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, plenty to choose from. As for the composition of the jury, IFFI had rarely got it better than it has done this time.
The competition line-up included two Indian titles: Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu and Anant Mahadevan’s Mai Ghat Crime No. 103/2005.
Among the other films in the IFFI 2019 competition were Pema Tseden’s rural-Tibet set Chinese production Balloon, Ali Aydin’s Turkish entry Chronology, Swiss filmmaker Blaise Harrison’s first fiction feature Particles, Brazilian actor Wagner Moura’s historical epic Marighella, Indonesian director YosepAnggiNoen’s The Science of Fictions and the Slovenian film Stories from the Chestnut Woods, directed by Gregor Bozic.
World Panorama also had the Canadian film Coda, directed by Claude Lalonde. Master Frames brought together 19 films by directors such as Pedro Almodovar (Pain and Glory), Olivier Assayas (Wasp Network), Hirokazu Kore-eda (The Truth, Roy Andersson (About Endlessness), Costa Gavras (Adults in the Room), 377 India’s Only Film BIZ magazine for the world http://www.pickle.co.in Roman Polanski (An Officer and a Boy, Goran Paskaljevic (Despite the Fog), Werner Herzog (Family Romance LLC), Atom Egoyan (Guest of Honour).
A bunch of equally fancied names were part of IFFI’s Festival Kaleidoscope, which showcased films that earned critical accolades in the course of the year. Led by Bong Joon-ho’s Palme d’Or winner Parasite, this section includes several other titles that premiered in Cannes: Mati Diop’s Atlantique, Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe and Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire.
Adding yet another dimension to the IFFI experience last year was a one of its kind hi-tech digital, interactive and multimedia exhibition put up by the Bureau of Outreach and Communication and National Film Archives of India (NFAI) at Darya Sangam, near Kala academy.
Named http://IFFI@50 the exhibition traced the journey of IFFI over the last five decades as it showcases Indian cinema to the world while also providing a platform in India for showcasing world cinema. The exhibition leveraged novel hi-tech features like Zoetrope (moving picture creative installation), 360 bullet shot, 360 degree immersive experience area, augmented reality experience, vertical digital display panels, virtual reality tools, hologram technology, etc to create a self-learning historical experience for the viewers.
Amitabh Bachchan inaugurated the Dadasaheb Phalke Award retrospective organised at Kala Academy during IFFI. Speaking at the launch, the veteran actor said, “I feel deeply humbled and would thank the Government of India for this prestigious hnoour. I’ve always felt that I’m not deserving of such recognition but I humbly accept this with a lot of grace and affection”.
Calling cinema a universal medium, Bachchan added that films are beyond the borders of language. The actor expressed hope that we continue to make films that will bring people together.
The Indian Panorama section of the 50th edition of IFFI opened with the screening of National Award winning Gujarati film Hellaro; directed by Abhishek Shah in the feature film category at INOX in Panjim, Goa. A Kashmiri film Nooreh, directed by Ashish Pandey, opened the non-feature film category at Indian Panorama.
The other selections in the feature film category included five Marathi films Tujhya Aaila, Anandi Gopal, Bhonga, Mai Ghat and Photo-Prem. This category also included three films each in Malayalam and Bengali, two in Tamil and one Kannada film.
The feature film category also had a subsection on mainstream cinema, under which popular films like Gully Boy, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Super 30 and Badhaai Ho were screened. Telugu film F2 was also screened under this category.
A session on Oscar Retrospective was held on Day 1 at IFFI Goa. Moderated by Journalist and film critic Naman Ramachandran, the session had the Festival Director, ADG, Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF), Chaitanya Prasad along with the editor of American Film Editor who also worked on the restored version of Casablanca, Carol Littleton.
This year, Russia was the focus country at IFFI. Speaking on the joint production of films and cultural exchange through films, Russian Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev said that such efforts will bring the spirit of India and Russia together. Head of Russian delegation at IFFI and Editor in Chief of Kinoreporter Maria Lameshev said that there was a great interest for Russian films among Indian people. She added that according to the coproduction agreement, 40 percent of budget of the film would be given back by the Ministry of Culture.
She extended her support in facilitating meetings for possible co-productions in future. Eight Russian films–Abigail, Acid, Andrei Tarkovsky: A Cinema Prayer, Beanpole, Great poetry , Once in trubchevsk , Why don’t you just die!, and The Hero–were screened in the Country Focus section of IFFI this year.
A joint collaboration between IFFI, Saksham Bharat and UNESCO, the 50th IFFI edition screened three films for those with special needs with an aim to promote the creation of inclusive spaces for the differently-abled through audio description. The section opened with ‘Munna Bhai MBBS’ directed by Rajkumar Hirani. Attending the festival for the first time, actress Taapsee Pannu said that she was surprised to know such films were made. “I’ve not seen films that use audio to explain the scenes; so I wanted to surely see how it’s done,” she said. The other films screened were Lage Raho Munnabhai, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story and the Konkani film Questao De Confusao with additional narration for the visually impaired.
The 2019 edition of the Open Forum organised by the Federation of the Film Societies of India opened with the pertinent topic: Focus on IFFI @50: Flash Back and Moving Forward. The session was inaugurated by Chaitanya Prasad, Festival Director, ADG, Directorate of Film Festival (DFF), Kiran Shantaram, President, Federation of Film Societies of India, AK Bir, Filmmaker and Chairman of Technical Committee, IFFI 2019, Alexey Govorukhin, Executive Producer, Kinoreporter Magazine, Russia and Marianne Borgo, actress from France.