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INDIA’S FLAGSHIP FILM FESTIVAL TURNS 50

admin   November 1, 2019

The countdown has started for International Film Festival of India’s (IFFI) 50th edition. The event, which will bring together film personalities and cineastes from across the world, will feature 200-odd films from 76 countries

The 50th edition of Asia’s oldest international film festival is a few weeks away. So, what does the International Film Festival of India (IFFI, November 20 to 28, 2019) have in its kitty that will separate it from the 49 editions gone by? A great deal. And not just in numbers, but also in terms of range and depth. Packed into the nine-day festival will be 200-odd films from 76 countries, which will offer cineastes a wide sampling of this year’s most lauded works, besides a slew of landmark films of historical worth from across the world.

Present & Past

The best of contemporary world cinema apart, IFFI 2019 will bring 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. Last year, Ukranian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass won the award.

The Golden Peacock retrospective includes 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) is 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 is the Bengali film MonerManush (2010), directed by Goutam Ghose.

Another commemorative segment aimed at underlining the special status of the upcoming edition of IFFI is a retrospective of Oscar-winning films. Entries in this section range 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 complete the line-up of Oscar winners.

Filmmaker in focus

All eyes will also be on the ‘filmmaker in focus’ Takashi Miike, a Ken Loach mini-retrospective, two restored Indian classics (RitwikGhatak’s TitasEkti 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 will screen as part of the Takashi Miike retrospective. The package includes 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. Miike, 59, who enjoys a cult following around the globe, will, in the second half of IFFI, participate in a freewheeling conversation on his approach to cinema, the salient aspects of his creative credo, and the influences that have shaped him as a director. He is, of course, one of the brightest stars of what is known as Asian Extreme Cinema. What stands out in Miike’s work is the fresh and innovative ways in which he employs the conventions of horror films and gangster thrillers. The Ken Loach retrospective, besides Kes and Riff, will include the octogenarian British director’s latest film, Sorry We Missed You, which premiered in Cannes earlier in the year.

Fantastic Fifteen

The 50th IFFI competition has assembled 15 films that promise to give 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 has rarely got it better than it has done this time.

The competition line-up includes two Indian titles: Lijo Jose Pellissery’s Jallikattu and Anant Mahadevan’s Mai Ghat Crime No. 103/2005. The pair will be vying for the Golden Peacock and other awards with a bunch of critical successes, including French-Canadian director Sophie Deraspe’s Antigone, Norwegian director Hans Petter Moland’s Out Stealing Horses and Austrian cinematographer and documentarian Andreas Horvath’s narrative feature debut, Lillian. Among the other films in the IFFI 2019 competition are 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.

Bailey, 77,who apprenticed under ZsigmondVilmos and Nestor Almendros, has over the decades shot some of America’s most-loved movies. Among them are Paul Schrader’s Mishima: A Life in Fopur Chapters, for which he won a Best Artistic Contribution Award at the Cannes Film Festival in 1985, Lawrence Kasdan’s The Big Chill, Robert Redford’s Ordinary People, John Schlesinger’s Honky Tonk Freeway and Jonathan Demme’s Swimming to Cambodia. Earlier this year, in Cannes, Bailey won the coveted French honour – Officier des Arts et Lettres.

As president of the main competition jury, Bailey will be working with four top-flight filmmakers: Scotland’s Lynne Ramsay, France’s Robin Campillo, China’s Zhang Yang and India’s Ramesh Sippy. Ramsay, 49, who made her first narrative feature, Ratcatcher, 20 years ago, has since slowly and steadily built an enviable but small body of work, which includes We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011) and You Were Never Really Here (2017), both of which premiered in the competition section of the Cannes Film Festival.

Moroccan-born French writer-director-editor Campillo, 57, is best known for 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute), which won the Cannes Grand Prix, in 2017. He was the editor of the 2008 Palme d’Or winner, Laurent Cantet’s The Class.

Chinese director Zhang Yang, 52, is the maker of the Tibetan-language films Paths of the Soul and Soul on a String.

Ramesh Sippy, 72, is a prominent Mumbai producer-director who made one of Hindi cinema’s most iconic blockbusters, Sholay. In the 1970s and 1980s, he delivered several major box-office hits, including Shaan, Saagar and Shakti.

Super Sixty

For many attending IFFI, the centrepiece is always the 60-odd films that make up the World Panorama. It is a section that yields many riches: 2019 is going to be no different. The expected highlights: Rodd Rathjen’s Australian film Buoyancy, about a Cambodian farmer-boy sold as a slave to a Thai fishing trawler; Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, a Finnish film directed by J-P. Valkeapaa; the Macedonian religious satire God Exists, Her Name is Petrunija, directed Teona Strugar Mitevska; Alma Har’el’ Honey Boy, based on an autobiographical screenplay by Shia LeBeouf; Romanian director Marius Olteanu’s Monsters, which examines the disintegration of a relationship in three chapters; Palestinian auteur Elia Suleiman’s sardonic take on a man looking for a homeland, It Must Be Heaven; Alejandro Amenabar’s While At War; and the Cannes hit, Ladj Ly’s Les Miserables.

World Panorama also has the Canadian film Coda, directed by Claude Lalonde. The film, which is scheduled to be IFFI’s mid-fest gala, stars Patrick Stewart as a veteran pianist who returns to the stage after a three-year hiatus and is assailed by self-doubt. It is left to a free-spirited music critic, played by Katie Holmes, to bring him out of his shell.

Master Frames

Master Frames brings 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), 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 are part of IFFI’s Festival Kaleidoscope, which showcases films that have 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.


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The OSCAR RACE begins HERE…

admin   August 30, 2019

The 44th Toronto International Film Festival will, like the editions that have gone before, will see the emergence of a clutch of Oscar favourites. The focus of observers will be not only on the film that wrests the festival’s coveted Audience Choice Award, but also on a host of other buzz-generating titles By Saibal Chatterjee

World cinema greats like Pedro Almodovar (with the autobiographical Pain and Glory, which fetched Antonio Banderas the best actor award in Cannes), Bong Joon Ho (whose Parasite bagged the Palme d’Or this year) and Hirokazu Kore-eda’s The Truth (follow-up to the 2018 Palme d’Or-winning Shoplifters) in the TIFF program seeking to launch their Oscar bids.Which are the other TIFF films that have the power to capture attention in the awards season?

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story, starring Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver, isn’t premiering in TIFF. The Netflix film arrives in Toronto after competing in Venice. The indie director’s new drama, which delves into a once-happy marriage falling apart under the weight of the clashing individual compulsions of the partners, promises to be one of the buzziest titles at the festival. Marriage Story, ironically focused on a divorce, also has notable performances from Laura Dern, Alan Alda and Ray Liotta Both Driver and Johansson have another title each in the TIFF 2019 programme – the former is in The Report, the latter in Jojo Rabbit. Both films are expected to be talked about in the lead-up to the Oscars.

The Report, Harriet, The Personal History of David Copperfield, Harriet, Jojo Rabbit

Another film that is most certainly up for Oscar glory is the Tom Hanks starrer A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, directed by Marielle Heller. While Hanks is one of Hollywood’s most beloved stars, Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? earned three Oscar nominations earlier this year, including two in acting categories (for Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant.

In A Beautiful Day…, one of over one hundred world premieres in this year’s TIFF line-up, Hanks plays children’s television host Fred Rogers who becomes the subject of a profile for a cynical, reluctant New York journalist (Matthew Rhys).

The TV personality’s wisdom and generosity transforms the writer who starts out with the intention of rustling up a superficial writeup. But the encounter turns out to be much more than that. The film is based on Tom Junod’s Esquire article about his experiences with Rogers.

Todd Phillips’ Joker, a comic book movie with a difference, narrates the origin story of the arch-villain. The eponymous character is played with customary vim and vigour by Joaquin Phoenix. While the lead performance will surely be on the Academy’s radar leading up to Oscar night in 2020, the film is in with a chance to become the second comic book movie (after Black Panther) to earn a Best Picture nomination.

This searing portrait of the quintessential bad guy is set in early 1980s crime-infested Gotham City. The cast of Joker includes Robert De Niro as a talk show host who is idolised by Arthur Fleck, a hard-up clown who aspires to be a successful stand-up comic and, thwarted in more ways than he can countenance, lets the demon inside him wrest control of his being and turn him into a crazed killer.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Joker, Bad Education, Parasite

We will also be keeping an eye on the flight of The Goldfinch, the John Crowley film that Warner Bros. will launch at TIFF. Starring Nicole Kidman and Ansel Elgort, the film adapts a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt about a layered coming-of-age crime story woven around a young man who loses his mother in an art museum bombing.

Fox Searchlight Pictures, the studio that won the 2017 Best Picture Oscar for The Shape of Water, will bet big this year with Taika Waititi’s anti-hate satire Jojo Rabbit, another buzzy TIFF world premiere.

The inventive film centres on a German boy who, on discovering a Jewish girl hiding in his home, consults his imaginary best friend Adolf Hitler (played by Waititi himself).

Steven Soderbergh’s The Laundromat, starring Meryl Streep, Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas, is a sharp dramatization of the Panama Paper leaks, which revealed the unsavoury world of global finance. Adapted from an investigative journalist’s Pulitzer Prize-winning reportage, the film has been scripted by Scott Z. Burns, who also has his own directorial project, The Report, in TIFF.

The Report, a powerful expose of CIA’s torture tactics, stars Adam Driver as an investigator deployed by the US Senate to probe the country’s use of third-degree methods post-9/11.

The Laundromat, Pain and Glory, Marriage Story, Radioactive

The cast includes Annette Bening, who could well be in Best Supporting Actress Oscar contention for her part in a political thriller that tracks one man’s dogged, half-decade pursuit of answers to many questions triggered by CIA’s unbridled use of torture as a tool of investigation.

Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield, which world premieres at TIFF, could make amends for the total snub that the Scottish director’s most recent film, The Death of Stalin, received from the Academy. The new film is bolstered by a cast of proven actors – Dev Patel plays David Copperfield and is supported by Tilda Swinton, Ben Whishaw and Hugh Laurie. Iannucci imparts a decidedly contemporary sensibility to the Charles Dickens 19th century classic.

TIFF hosts the North American premiere of Benedict Andrews’ Seberg, the biopic of French nouvelle vague icon Jean Seberg. The titular role is played by Kristen Stewart in a drama in which the FBI turns the spotlight on the actor owing to her growing friendship with civil rights activist Hakim Jamal. Among the less fancied titles that might acquire a higher profile by the end of the festival is Cory Finley’s Bad Education, starring Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney and Ray Romano. It is based on a true story of a financial crime in the US school system.

This film, as much a character study as a dramatized account of a massive coverup of a scandal. Kasi Lemmons’ Harriet, featuring Tonywinning Broadway actor Cynthia Erivo, is another film that has the potential to attract wide awards season attention. It is the rousing biopic of abolitionist Harriet Tubman, who escaped slavery and led other to freedom through a network of safehouses known as the Underground Railroad.