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Film: An Overview of the 19th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF)

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By Rafikul Islam

Opening Ceremony

Light! Sound! Camera! Action!

The Place:  Netaji Indore Stadium.

The Day: November 10, 2013.

The Glittering Lights: Banglar Jamai (The son-in-law of Bengal) Big B, Amitabh Bachchan; Bengal’s Brand Ambassador, Shah Rukh Khan; Dhanyi Meye (Bengal’s wonder girl) Jaya Bachchan; Kamal Hasan, who acted in the Bengali film Kabita; Guru, Mithun Chakraborty; Prosenjit Chatterjee, the acclaimed Bengali actor; scores of current and past Bengali actors and actresses.

Thaali Girl: This year Subhashree was the KIFF thaali girl.

The Frame: Mamata Banerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal, presided over the inauguration. Sukalyan Bhattacharya choreographed Down Memory Lane, which showcased 100 years of Indian Cinema. Dev and Koel felicitated Big B. Ranjit Mallick gave the inaugural speech. In the opening ceremony, a clipping of Brand Bengal was screened.

The Jarring Note: Missing foreign delegates on stage.

Opening Movie

As a tribute to Rituporno Ghosh, who passed away this year, the 19th KIFF started with a screening of his Taak Jhaank (Hindi version). The Bengali version Sunglass was screened in Nandan I. The actors Jaya Bachchan, Naseeruddin Shah, Madhavan, and Konkona Sen lived up to their reputation. The mother-daughter and husband- wife relationships are uniquely portrayed in the film. But the real star of the movie is a ‘sunglass’, through which the story unfolds.

Sex in Films

The 19th KIFF celebrated nudity in world cinema and screened a number of films keeping to this theme. In Kim Ki-Duk’s Pieta (South Korea, 2012), the hero is a recovery agent, who sexually assaults the woman who claims to be his mother. He is a violent character and inflicts severe injury to those people from whom he recovers money. He takes away the money that the victims obtain as insurance claims. In Jacques Doillon’s Love Battles (France, 2013), the heroine beats her partner rather whimsically. There are some explicit sex scenes in the film. The Look of Love (UK, 2013), a biopic of Paul Raymond by Michael Winterbottom, the hero makes money by introducing his wife and daughter, along with other women, in the seaside variety show circuit. Nagisa Oshima’s In the Realm of the Senses (Japan, 1976) depicts the all-consuming sexual passion between a man and a woman. The film is still censored in Japan. Oshima passed away this year. Oshima’s Empire of Passion (Japan, 1978) weaves sex and story-telling beautifully. Fernando Trueba’s The Artist and the Model (Spain, 2012)depicts a nude model through the artist’s eye.

Eduardo Nunes

The Brazilian director, Eduardo Nunes’ Southwest (2011) was screened in the ‘Shades of Black and White’ category. He finds the people of the city ‘very warm’ and the food ‘spicy.’ According to him, Nandan complex is ‘the best hangout in the city.’ He considers Bengal to be the ‘real India.’ He rated the government hospitality a 9 on a scale of 10, while adding that ‘it can be made better.’ He found ‘doi’ and ‘misti’ terrific. He liked drinking tea from earthen pot ‘a lot.’ He praised Rituporno’s Sunglass, the opening movie, and Mani Ratnam’s Kadal (India, 2013), which he found to be a big production. He enjoyed being at the KIFF because it was a huge festival that gave him an opportunity to meet so many people. When I asked him about the Brazilian dance-form, he said, ‘I like Samba but don’t know how to dance it.’ He said that he would cast Indian actors in his movies if ‘the subject demands.’ He was elated to know that the Brazilian football team has a great fan following in India, particularly in Bengal and that some of the Brazilian players are playing in the Calcutta teams.

Katia O’Wallis

The French actress and producer, Katia O’Wallis, attended the festival. She is now living in Greece. Her earlier movie was Charlie’s Son (Greece, 2008). Karolos Zonaras’ Big Hit (Greece, 2012), Katia’s second movie, deals with corruption. Katia missed the opening ceremony. She found the people in Kolkata ‘warm.’ She liked the Bengali delicacies, alur dom and koraisutir kochuri very much. She was wearing salwar which she found to be very comfortable. She found the people in Kolkata easy to talk to. She liked the young audience at Nandan because of their positive energy. She has watched Satyajit Ray’s Apu Trilogy and likes the first movie the most. She wants to act in a Bengali movie if she finds a suitable role. She finds similarity in the nature of the human beings, despite linguistic differences. She would like to come back to KIFF.

Adnan Osman

Adnan Osman’s debut feature film, Death Triangle (Iraq, 2012), was screened at the festival. It deals with the story of Iraqi people trying to flee the country during war. He has made twelve short films before. He enjoyed being in Kolkata except for the traffic. He considered the people in the city to be ‘happy go lucky’.  For him, it was a very good feeling to watch his film with the local audience, which appreciated him. He likes Amitabh Bachchan’s acting very much and would love to direct him some day. He found the technical expertise in Indian films very high, compared to those available in Iraq. He wished to come back to the KIFF again.

Audience Reaction

Md Nurul Absar, a senior citizen and a retired bureaucrat, watched three films. Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s Television (Bangladesh, 2012) touched his heart. He feels that the movie is an eye opener for the orthodox people. Technology should be welcomed and used properly. Rewatching Uttam Kumar on full screen in Manu Sen’s Bhrantibilas (India, 1963) was a golden experience for him. He also liked Joshy Mathew’s Black Forest (India, 2012), a children’s movie.

Students from Norway, Pia Christine Nardal and Nora Nussle Torvanger, who attended the festival, found the City of Joy ‘full of life’ and the people very friendly. They had come on an educational tour to Bangladesh and India. They watched Alan Resnais’ You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (France, 2012). Nora had already seen The Deep (Iceland/Norway, 2012), which narrates the boat wreck survivor’s struggle and is based on a real life incident in Iceland.

Audience’s Choice Best Movie

According to the people’s verdict, Reha Erdem’s Jin (Turkey, 2013) was the best movie in the festival. In the film, the heroine loses her father at an early age. The father is taken away by the foreign army and his body is never handed over to the family. She joins a rebel group and helps them willingly, often putting herself in danger. She even helps and feeds a wounded soldier from the enemy camp. Finally, she is shot dead, leaving the audience pensive. The cinematography is world-class.


Mostofa Sarwar Farooki’s film, Television, won The Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award. The movie depicts a growing conflict between tradition and modernity in a society which is undergoing transformation. The film is set in a remote village in Bangladesh, tightly policed by a religious leader, who thinks that television and mobile phone will corrode the moral fiber of its youth. Eventually, a television set is brought to the village by a Hindu resident, who can’t be directly censored by the Muslim leader. However, the Muslim inhabitants of the village throng to watch programs on the television, covertly defying the strict diktat of the religious leader. The movie captures the complex influences of globalization and the pulls of consumer goods and technologies on the youth. Such competing pulls of consumerism and traditional values produce complex subjects in the remotest parts of the earth. Films from South-Asian countries such as Indonesia, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, and the Philippines contested for the award.

Closing Ceremony

Bengal’s pancha konya (five daughters) – Moushumi Chatterjee, Susmita Sen, Bipasha Basu, Rani Mukherjee, and Koel Mullick – were honored in the closing ceremony at Science City. A team of dancers depicted a scene from Satyajit Ray’s Pather Panchali. The Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, once again played the perfect host. She hinted at more categories for competition in the forthcoming edition of KIFF. A total number of 189 films from 66 countries were screened over a period of 8 days. The logo for the next edition of the festival was unveiled at the ceremony. At the end, there was a two-minute laser show documenting the changing moods of the festival.

Closing Movie

Francois Ozon’s Young and Beautiful (France, 2013) was screened as the closing movie of the festival. It deals with the young beautiful heroine’s hidden life as a prostitute. Once while she attends to her rich old customer, he dies. That is how her secret life becomes public. She has to face her family members who are shocked to find her secret. A packed audience watched the movie. The 19th KIFF comes to an end with this film.

Pack Up! Time to usher in the 20th KIFF. The show must go on…

Rafikul Islam teaches at Howrah Rabindra Vidyamandir School. He obtained his M.A. in English Literature from Burdwan University and his B.Ed. from Calcutta University. He is passionate about his voluntary role as a Kolkata City Guide.

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