Monday, 30th October 2017

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A week of wait and watch

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By RESHMI SENGUPTA
  • Published 19.11.06
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They saw and slept cinema, for seven days on the trot. Between adda sessions and sip ’n’ bite, they hopped from Bergman to Bela Tarr, jostled for seats and even snored in the hall. Spread over nine venues with 225 films from 53 countries, the 12th Calcutta Film Festival rolled on from November 10-17 with a glitch here and a grouse there.

Curtain-raiser

For starters, true to tradition, there was hardly an information trickle (forget flow) on the list of films and foreign delegates till the unveiling.

Then, Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee decided to do away with both the thali girl and a Central minister as chief guest. “The concept of thali girl doesn’t exist in any film festival across the world… We had asked the Centre for funds and to return the ‘international film festival’ tag to us, but they didn’t respond,” he stated.

The chief minister can take consolation in the fact that his festival raised Rs 11 lakh from ticket sales, Rs 2 lakh more than last year.

Market watch

Yet, precious little found its way to the fourth edition of Film Market, sponsored by Patton and Eastern India Motion Picture Association. Despite a strong business buzz from the organisers, the fizz failed to last till the end on the Nandan campus. Channel-B, the only company selling CDs and DVDs at the Film Market, did see some foreign delegates picking up Bengali films with English sub-titles. “There aren’t too many films with English subtitles, so the choice was limited. Among the films, (Kaushik Ganguly’s) Shunyo e Buke sold well... Business wasn’t very good, but it was certainly better than last year,” said Sumit Agarwal of Channel-B.

The makeshift tent saw higher footfalls than previous years, with open forums and the screening of European classics on DVD.

Film format

With more films on the roster, repeat screenings were rare. So, cine-goers grumbled for having to give Mizoguchi a miss for Miguel Littin. Though not all the entries were up to the mark, none of the halls went even half-empty. People squatted on the stairs and on the floor to devour everything from Patrice Chereau to Jeon Soo-il.

“There was a huge demand for Road to Guantanamo, Iberia and Sex and Philosophy. But there were too many films... Our aim was to change the format of programming. We have been able to curb the supremacy of co-ordinators, who often club mediocre movies along with a few good ones. In most cases this time, we have made direct contact with the directors,” said Nilanjan Chatterjee, CEO of Nandan.

A novelty was the bunch of contemporary Chinese films — their first ever screening in India — including the Cannes Jury Prize-winning Shanghai Dreams. The package on Franz Kafka was rare too; it included Orson Welles’s The Trial.

The S word

With a title like Sex and Philosophy for his film, Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf was the most misunderstood man at the festival. The first screening at New Empire drew a crowd large and rowdy enough for the cops to step in. But the serious-looking delegates and guestcard-holding visitors sprang the bigger surprise on Thursday evening. The queue had snaked from Nandan to the Maidan police station.

The 1,000-seater Nandan I was overflowing within minutes. But when there was no skin show even 20 minutes into the film, several disappointed feet made a move towards the exit.

Overheard: “Dhut, shudhu philosophy, no sex.”

Star draw

With a translator in tow, the bearded Miguel Littin from Chile was the most sought-after celebrity at Nandan. Roaming around with a handycam, the smiling 64-year-old seemed far removed from those turbulent days when he risked sneaking into Pinochet-ruled Chile to document life under dictatorship in his homeland.

Despite a brief stay, Polish film-maker Krzysztof Zanussi also made his presence felt, with Persona Non Grata and a series of interactive sessions. But the youngest star to make a mark was Finnish child actor Vili Jarvinen of Valo, who watched his film at Purbashree in Salt Lake and then obliged the audience with autographs.

Poor party

(From top) Sreela Majumdar and Chaiti Ghosal with Pawan Ruia; Miguel Littin shoots the film festival. Pictures by Rashbehari Das and Aranya Sen

The seven days of partying did not really live up to their billing. The local celebrity brigade was all but missing at most — be it Pawan Ruia’s midweek bash at Taj Bengal, John Mantosh’s farewell dinner at RCGC or the Bhojohari Manna lunch fare on the Star theatre terrace.

Flop finale

Hopes of an all-night finale flickered and then quickly faded out. Nandan officials posted an all-night screening bulletin on Thursday evening only to pull it off by Friday morning. “Administrative problems,” rued CEO Chatterjee.

What Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s cultural carnival did manage to do was draw around 2.2 lakh people. It’s a different matter that many of them were there as much to be seen as to see.