THE MAGIC OF FILMS THIS IFFI…. During the nine day festival more than 270 films were screened , 13 world premieres, 18 international premieres, 62 Asian & 89 international premiers.
LIFE is a film and oftentimes I think my life is a fit narrative for a film too — if anyone cares to film it! I suppose we love to run away to see a good film because all of us are actors at heart off and on, real life actors good, bad or ugly. For reasons of health I didn’t see more than half-a-dozen IFFI films this time around when the film festival is in its 20th avatar in Panaji, Goa.
To my good luck all films I saw were superlatively good cinema and eye-opening to how life transforms itself for better or worse in countries around the world —in enlightened societies as also closet societies in traditional hardworking rural backgrounds.
Cinema is undoubtedly as much education as entertainment in the best sense of the word. That is when it is faithful to the art of storytelling and brings a lot of reality up close for our understanding social history as well as the history of the world as it moves to global perspectives.
IFFI offers more and more genres of films from around the world and although all the background reading material was adequately placed on the IFFI App on which delegates booked their choice of films for the ten days; alas, I got the hang of how my App worked only after a couple of days were lost! So what happens when you lose your hand phone or misplace it or the battery goes dead or you are out of power and can’t charge anywhere to make it come alive again? There are no options to fall back on except that the band of young digitally savvy helpers at the Help Desk at the INOX complex were great – they could sort out one’s phone problems given some time. The guys and girls at the INOX ticket counters were a valuable help in booking a ticket for a film one desperately wanted to see a film, any reasonably decent film… media people whether they had time or no time to see films could book five films per day.
The bookings were fine, so were the queues and the festival soon fell into its usual groove; some folk turned up to book too late when registrations were closed after a reported 12,000 figure notch-up. Day tickets were a big flop. A group of late arrivals all the way from Vizag raved and ranted at not being able to register as delegates at the gates of the ESG building!
In the initial years of IFFI in town Panaji I used to run away from home and office to see films, when the akaas neem trees were blooming all the way down the Campal promenade…for me the blooming akash neems will always be etched in memory as IFFI time, both are kind of synonymous joys to revel in! Simple joys of mind and body, heart and soul, the ability to go and see a film all on my own in my youthful 70s.
This year’s opening film was the UK entry of Stuart Gatt’s 100 minute “Catching Dust.” A real mindbender of a film with one sophisticated Geena indulging her husband, a former criminal, Clyde. Both live in the boondocks of a lonely Texes’ Big Bend trailer commune – he hunts for food and makes cactus wine, she tries to play at being happy wife. The past comes surging back when another couple all the way from New York turn up to park their trailer nearby, seeking a new perspective in desert country wilderness …tough life, insecure minds, suspected motives, a kind of suspense thriller, but at the end we see how life is tough for horses and women! “Catching Dust” offers so much insight into the educated human mind, so much more insecure, vulnerable, deadly and so self-defeating. Make no judgement about who’s saint and sinner! Must see film.
Among the language films Kishor Pandurang Belekar’s Kannada film “Gandhi Talks” which was premiere release is most memorable, this film is a silent black comedy about monetary needs and how they corrupt morals, a cat and mouse whodunit film with laughs galore and somewhere there a chilling message of what happens when we say goodbye to a few time-tested moral values. Starring: The iconic and laconic Vijay Sethupathi plays a stellar role, supported byAditi Rao Hydari, Arvind Swami and Siddarth Jadaav. Plus, the film’s a musical courtesy AR Rahman.
“Hoffman’s Fairy Tales” was illuminating and an utter delight of a film. In this Tina Barkalaya Russian film we have Nadezhda, a graceful timid woman trapped in a marriage with one utterly wife-spoilt Vitaly in an apartment; she works, he plays. Then someone falls in love with her sender hands and offers her modelling roles in which her hands are in demand – there’s a dramatic transformation for Nadezhda. Even though we learn that not all fairy tales are happily ever after, some are downright sad. But fairy tales are what give us hope without which we may not feel like living at all! Or said Tina Barkalaya, the Russian director of Georgian origin, this is her feature debut film and she was present at IFFI with a friendly translator who translated in English for her at press conferences. I thought this film competing for the Golden Peacock at 54th IFFI should have won the award!
Then DK Welchman and Hugh Welchman (a filmmaking couple) had the excruciatingly powerful film “The Peasants.” Actually a most exquisite animation film which brings to live this Lithunia/Serbia/Poland 2023 release about tragic lovely Janna forced into marrying an older, wealthy farmer Boryna – despite her love for his son Antek. She becomes the object of envy and hate in the rustic community. She struggles to rise above her predicament and in the end gets savagely hounded out of the community…the falling rain revives her spirit and her wounded soul and she rises. A most haunting story of a women’s life in rural background where men call the shots good, bad or ugly. This is very much a woman’s film. The Welchmans also co-wrote and directed “Loving Vincent” which was a real winner of a film too. So is this one and more so.
Then there was the Kannada film “Aaraariraaro” in which director Sandeep Kumar weaves the story of an bedridden old lady in an old mansion and a thief who befriends her – to make for some poignant messages. We have wretched nurse, an irresponsible doctor who come and go leaving their patient to the not so terrible mercies of a thief who brings the old lady come alive as perhaps his own “amma”(mother, he didn’t have one)…the film leaves one terrified that the more educated we are the more cruel we are to our aging parents who seek little else but dignity of life in whatever circumstances and a little love and affection in the winter years of life. A must see TMT Productions film starring Prasanna Shetty, Jeeva, Nireeksha Shetty.
The closing film “The Featherweight” (USA, 2023 ) is a Robert Kolodny production and is set in the mid-1960s, about the life and times of Italian American boxer Willie Pep who in his ups and downs life in shambles dreams of making a comeback; painstakingly researched and filmed but and a visceral portrait of the discontentment of “20th century American masculinity, fame and self-perception.” Alas, many in the audience walked out, unable to appreciate the slow film.
A couple more films and I was done with IFFI films for now! It’s a pity nobody thinks of doing films on the theme of healthcare, hospital dramas, serious narratives of patients in a hospital ward! Once upon a we had medical thrillers like which revolved around hospital life but perhaps this genre is too challenging for modern day filmmakers! Why?
Postscript: The 54th IFFI-Media Group did a superlative job posting all the news and views and films and press conferences of the festival on WhatsApp account, thank-you Loukik Parakh and Darshana & Co!
On that note farewell to IFFI till next year; it’s avjo, selamat datang, poiteverem, au revoir,arrivedecci, hasta la vista and vachun yeta here for now.