FILMS, MY LOVE!

World class cinema, creme de la creme of films, at IFFI this year. Many memorable films to nourish and fill the heart with the timeless magic of the story well told!

Tara Narayan caught up with the 51st International Film Festival of India and says the finest of world cinema is always a treat to hone one’s senses …and grow up some more! Cinema is the best education medium there is the world over…

THE 51st International Films Festival of India has come and gone and I’m still half-lost reflecting on films seen and films missed! This time around I managed to see only ten films against the 20 or 25 at regular IFFIS. But maybe this is because it was not a regular November IFFI (with the akash neem trees in town in cool white bloom) but an irregular January IFFI (with the copper pod trees in crinkly yellow bloom) – and Covid-19 fears hanging like a Damocle’s sword over everyone’s conscience! Although come to think of it’s not a bad idea to have IFFI in the month of January instead of November. January is generally when the weather is at its coldest and one is in need for an incentive like getting up and rushing off to see one of the IFFI films to cheer up. January is when most are in a reflective, despairing, looking back, looking forward mood and last year 2020 was a dead loss. January is when human beings need to cheered up the most if I may say so.
For me catching the IFFI films has always been a miss or hit affair and this 51st IFFI it was more so. The lack of even a simple brochure in hand to help in deciding one’s choice of films to see quickly was not there since all information and booking was on line. So it was a haphazard rush to check film schedules, reading up a bit about the films and do the booking…say it was all grist for the mill in an ordinary working woman’s life.
I was re-scheduling daily routine, keeping those at home and work posted about my whereabouts. I pretty much know I cannot see all the films I want to see, so I just try to see as many as I can in the early morning hours and maybe post-lunch to fit into my daily routine – when nobody will miss me! With every film I rush off to see I hope this one will not make me feel like walking out but will capture my mind or soul or something like that, enough to feel IFFI-happy and a little worried about my own life.
Hey, there are always personal mirrors to clean up. Those few magical films viewed will always leave one humbler, wiser, maybe sadder — above all like one’s soul has been cleansed a little. Films could be like my favorite breakfast, brunch, lunch, teatime or dessert for the senses…everyone’s taste in films is different but you understand it is nourishment of another kind I’m speaking about here and perhaps the food analogy is not quite appropriate or is it?
My taste in films to view lean towards films about the great outdoors which come with wondrous travelogue insights into life and times around the world and a story to share which changes forever whatever superficial views about life and times we may have entertained in our life in general or specifically oftentimes. My 51st IFFI bouquet was made up of opening film “Another Round”, then “Lands of God” (Devbhoomi), “Meghmallar”, “Sincerely Yours, Dhaka”, “An Impossible Project”, “The Audition”, “Spring Blossom”, “The Lamp of Truth”, “Summertime”, “February” and closing film “Wife of A Spy”…may be one or two more films which doesn’t come back to mind easily!
The American Summertime’ directed by Carlos Lopez Estada is an outstanding tour de force and along with a tour of Los Angeles (City of Angels) offers amazing insight into the human spirit when it is down and out; escapist to the core but here’s some stunning presentation of eloquence in poetry format which defines each memorable person living on the edges of urban dire straits all around…both preview and review of where they’re coming from – so many broken hearts in need of healing. This is one film you may not miss. The celebrated Serbian director Goran Paskoljevic’s Indian-Serbian filmDevbhoomi’ set in the Uttarakhand mountains of the Himalaya is another film bringing one down to the basic moving force for change – education. What happens to young women when education in the rustic village countryside is perceived as a poison – “padai ka zaher!” Life in paradise is really hell in paradise for women more so than men. Men are better placed in the running away game and women less anchored comfortably! “Devbhoomi” is a very defining film for this 72nd Republic Day of Indian independence.
“Meghmallar” is rain, rain, glorious rain and the fine watery landscapes of Bangladesh, how a teacher’s family is impacted by the 1971 war of liberation for Bangladesh. So much about Bangladesh we don’t know – West Bengal and Bangladesh may be different countries but share similar cultures and of course the lyrical Bengali language so rich in nuances. Germany’s `The Audition’ (directed by Ina Weisse) is a powerful story about a music teacher in search of perfection in a world of full of imperfections and in the process a tragedy unfolds in her own home. This is a terribly insightful film about parental-children relationships in Germany or westerns society or so to speak. They have too few children and we have too many!
The French film “Spring Blossom” is lyrical in its portrayal of a teenage student acquiring a crush or falling in love with “an adult” man and doesn’t know how to handle it, how real is it? Very sweetly eloquent dilemma of youth and beautifully picturized. Director Thanesh Gopal’s “The Lamp of Truth” (a Canadian production) we should all see to better understand the search for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka — how devastating the genocide of the civilian population was along with the real life story of a government doctor who was an eyewitness and prisoner of his conscience. The politically and religiously-driven genocide of hatred impacted us in India vis-a-vis Tamilnadu and assassination of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi (not politically savvy at all)! This is one of the world’s genocides which has gone largely unrecognized and a blot on the history of our civilization.
Don’t ask me why I went to see the film from Bulgaria titled “February” but something about the title appealed, it’s a film which fills the heart with a man’s persevering love for his hardy country life to do with flocks of sheep, dogs, birds, woods, one-horse cart….“My grandfather was a shepherd, my father was a shepherd, I am a shepherd.” A scene in which a young boy fills his battered aluminium bottle with water from a running spring and there’s this lyrical musical sound of water as it fills up his bottle…is etched in my mind!
“February” is a film which in a back and forth format captures the life of a man past, present and assured future in Bulgaria’s countryside – call him a jerk or a man in a class of his own. His wife could have chosen to stay with him but she preferred to stay in village or town where life is easier, less lonely. This film of such timeless silences is still echoing in my mind. To choose hardship over ease and all the reasons which come along with that choice are worth saluting, maybe!
It was full circle for me this IFFI from sharply contrasting films, the American life and times of searing urban poetry in “Summertime,” to the Bulgarian life and times of being austerely perfect in “February.” Much to learn from these engrossing two films! Different films, directors, countries, cultures, languages, beguiling stories of life and times past, present and future. Are films going into the museum of time now? How long will the film industry continue to make films for the big screen with respect and adoration of filmmakers whose films are like champagne for mind and body, heart and soul? Of course, thank-you IFFI. See you again soon!

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