More misses than hits, more gazers than stars, more bustle than business... That’s what the latest edition of the film festival is all about, finds Metro
Maybe it’s the unseasonal rain. That might explain the damp squib that the 8th Kolkata Film Festival has turned out to be. But that’s only if you refuse to scratch below the surface and turn a blind eye to the writing on the wall — doesn’t Writers’ Buildings have enough on its plate without taking on such a large slice of the celluloid pie' Isn’t it time that this film festival, to be a film festival, is handed over to private players with minimum fuss from the government' The answer, simply put, is yes. The reasons are not tough to find — no information flow till the start of the festival, no stars to gaze at, no hype over foreign films, no bazaar buzz, no nothing.
The lowest key festival in recent memory has no film to jog the crowds out of storm-induced indoorsy-ness, nor does it hold out glitz or glamour. Instead, the only eye-catcher is the firepower, courtesy the beefed-up security and the earnest signs which urge visitors to ‘please allow security check’.
There was one… err… light… shining bright enough to liven up the drab opening ceremony on Sunday last. It was the giant, ugly white candle with which Union information and broadcasting minister Sushma Swaraj was asked to light the inaugural lamp. But she didn’t miss a beat, though Marco Bechis, director of the inaugural film, who was also lighting a couple of diyas had a little more trouble. But that didn’t compare to the embarrassment when they confused the name of his film, mis-announcing Sons and Daughters as Sons and Lovers (D.H. Lawrence would not have been too pleased either).
Thanks all around and no “sorry” from Nandan officials for being clueless in Calcutta, sorry Kolkata, about anything and everything to do with the film festival till the inauguration and after.
The lopsided line-up
Around 135 films from 30 countries are being screened at the weeklong fest at the Nandan complex and a few private halls. No foreign film to queue up the night before for — just a bagful of contemporary, mainstream Indian cinema that isn’t too tough to catch at all.
The Mr & Mrs Iyer show
...was the sole breath of fresh hype. And it did not disappoint. Unlike other recent “artsy” releases. Konkona’s performance has been marked for its “maturity” and the film, which premiered at the fest, got good reports overall. Film-maker Aparna Sen, who was touched by the lengthy applause that followed Monday’s screening, also remarked that she was happy that a retrospective of her works was being held in her own city. With daughter by her side, she was the most seen and most sought-after face of the fest.
...has to be the epitome of Southie style. Mani Rathnam bowled ’em all over with his sweet turns of speech and his enthu in answering all questions at the press con, dressed in bright, happy, red and even during the inauguration, he and his wife were among the only ones to give the photographers something to click about.
... or rather the lack of it. The tentative first schedule had 36 delegates from around a dozen countries. But unlike last year, which saw seminars and discussions every day, this year had no interfaces where people could find out more about the films and their makers. Roger Frappier, a Canadian producer, is set to conduct the first Master Class session, a workshop with young directors on November 15, at Nandan II from 11 am. But there were no names to really reckon with and not even Ismail Merchant for foreign-desi flavour.
If the film fest is ever to graduate from a showcase to a serious marketplace as well, there has to be more concentration on interaction with young and new Indian film-makers with international delegates. And more international delegates who matter, please.
The bazaar bore
Yawn. A more tedious place could not be conceived. The Film Market at the Calcutta Information Centre, as stitched together by the Eastern India Motion Pictures Association leaves a lot — if not everything — to be desired. A few sad stalls sit patiently, often sans visitors, and always without buyers. TV channels, a few upcoming releases and a few VCD hawkers snail away the time, with no promotional activities being organised to boost interest. Like ESC Productions, the makers of the Manisha Koirala-starrer Escape from Taliban. “We are here primarily to sell our film to an international audience. We made it in English because we thought it would appeal to distributors elsewhere. At this fair, we expected at least the start of a dialogue,” said a disappointed spokesperson.
If the point of the Film Market is to sell anything more than a few VCDs, there has to be an effort to get Indian and foreign distributors in the same room, not to watch films, but to put their heads together.
This is Calcutta, and we are like this only. The film fest draws its share of regulars. To be fair to them, there was the odd European film that was worth waiting for. But that was just a flash in the deadpan fare.