Every international film festival has a distinct character or style—sometimes, even a political ideology. Compare the recently concluded Berlin Film Festival with Cannes. While a haunting Japanese film Mogari No Mori (The Mourning Forest) about an old man on a pilgrimage to his wife’s grave won the grand prize at Cannes, Berlin saw the world premiere of Polish master Andrej Wajda’s latest offering Katyn—a deeply political film. Violent Brazilian police film The Elite Squad won top honours here.
What sets the 10th International Film Festival of Mumbai—one of the youngest festivals in India and the world—apart is its youthful enthusiasm to celebrate the diversity of cinema. The festival opens with Wajda’s Katyn and closes with Mogari No Mori. The festival will also bring to Mumbai the much celebrated anthology of short films made by the world’s 35 greatest contemporary directors, which premiered at the 60th Cannes festival. And it’s not only the masters who will set the festival abuzz; young, aspiring film-makers will also get a fair chance to showcase their talent in the short film competition section on the theme of Mumbai: the city.
A scene from Zavet.
Katyn is based on Andrzej Mularczyk’s story Post Mortem—a true story of the massacre of 22,000 Polish army officers by Soviet forces. In an interview at Berlin, Wajda elaborated, “The film is made up of selected scenes and dialogues gleaned from diaries, memories and the correspondence exchanged between the murdered officers and their wives.” Katyn is a story that waited to be told for decades, because during the communist regime in Poland, stories about Stalin’s brutality was extensively suppressed and distorted. Katyn has won rave reviews across the world and was nominated for this year’s Academy awards in the best foreign film category.
Carlos Saura’s documentary Fados—the last in a musical trilogy that began with Flamenco (1995) and continued with Tango (1998)—is another of the festival’s grand attractions. It traces the history of the Portuguese tradition of fado music that was born in the 1820s in Lisbon’s slums. Presumably, the film has no plot and uses only music to narrate its own story.
A scene from Mogari No Mori.
Another high point of the festival is Zavet (Promise Me This), the latest film by Serbian director Emir Kusturica that was nominated for the Golden Palm at the last Cannes Film Festival. Better known for films such as Time of the Gypsies and Black Cat, White Cat, Kusturica’s Zavet tells an outrageously funny tale of a widowed grandpa who wants his grandson to find a bride for him.
However, the film I’m most eagerly waiting for is To Each His Own Cinema. This compilation of 33 short films by the who’s who of world cinema was commissioned by the Cannes Film Festival to celebrate its 60th anniversary. The film offers a rare chance to see 35 great directors of our time (Abbas Kiarostami, Wong Kar Wai, David Lynch, Roman Polanski, Nanni Moretti, Lars von Trier and Gus Van Sant are some) expressing their love for cinema.
The celebrated Italian silent film of 1911, Pinocchio, will also make its way to Mumbai. The restored version of this jewel of the silent era will be presented with live music. The film is based on Carlo Collodi’s novel and tells the story of the well-known puppet Pinocchio. An animation film based on the same novel later became a super hit, but watching the first one with live music will be a real treat.
A poster of Katyn.
Japanese director Naomi Kawase’s Mogari No Mori will be the closing film of the festival. This film won the Grand Prix at the 60th Cannes Film Festival. It reflects on the mystic bonds between man and nature and has been termed a meditative, profound work.
I remember each festival for the retrospective sections. This year, it’s going to be a memorable one: On the one hand, we have Saura, and on the other, we have Wajda. The festival will also celebrate Wajda’s 1957 masterpiece, Kanal’s 50 years.
Celebrated Spanish director Saura will be honoured with the International Lifetime Achievement Award. The director will be present at the closing night, and the festival will also hold a retrospective of his works—El Septimo Dia, Bunel Y La Mesa Del Rey Salmon, Iberia, la Noche Oscura, Pajarico and Peppermint Frappe. I’m really excited about watching his Carmen on the big screen, a sensuous study of illusion, reality, obsession, passion and fantasy.
Screenings in the week-long festival begin on 7 March at Imax Adlabs, Metro Adlabs, Fun Republic and PVR Juhu. Screenings are open to the public after registration at the festival counters at Imax Adlabs Imax and Metro Adlabs for a fee of Rs500 (Rs300 for film society members, film industry representatives and students).
Bikas Mishra is editor of DearCinema.com, an Internet magazine on world cinema. He was a member of the selection committee of the 10th International Film Festival of Mumbai.
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