The Osians Cinefan Film Festival is one of the world’s largest festivals of Contemporary Asian and Arab Cinema today. It is organized annually by Osians in association with the Government of the NCT of Delhi. The 11th edition of the festival, held between 24th and 30th of October in Delhi this year, had a flood of films – features, short fiction, documentaries, docu-fiction and mainstream Indian films in the seven-day long festival. The best quality and strength of this festival lies in its screening programme that maps films from countries that produce very few films but with several outstanding films within them. Among the 40-odd countries represented by their films was Algeria in France to Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Romania, Syria, Tunisia, etc.
Shoma A. Chatterji
For the films in the “In-Competition” section, there were five prizes for feature films and two prizes for short films.
[ReviewAZON asin=”B002QZT1N4″ display=”inlinepost”]The other two prizes for Best Actor and Best Actress went to Ali Reza Aghakhani and Negar Jhaverian respectively for their outstanding performance in the Iranian film Before the Burial directed by Behnam Behzadi. The surprise is that the two actors are complete amateurs and faced the camera for the first time. The film is about a man trying to settle scores and reconcile himself with his past that goes back by 20 years when he was imprisoned for his political activism. The film has the flavour of a documentary within the fiction format.
The two Special Jury awards went to Wailing Wall (Tunisia) directed by Elyes Baccar and Khargosh (India) directed by Paresh Kamdar. Wailing Wall puts together the voices of the Palestinian people, echoing their cries of help for peace and for freedom. They demonstrate against the wall of separation that destroyed lives and demolished homes. The film is a brilliant testimony on a lost youth and the horrible discrimination and torture they have endured since 1967. The film needs to be specially commended because the director, born in 1971, was born into the split wall.
Khargosh, based on a prize-winning short story by Priyamvad, is about the coming-of-age of ten-year-old Bantu who finds himself playing go-between for his older friend Avneesh, and the girl he desires, who is named Mrityu metaphorically by her young boyfriend. But once the lovers get together, Bantu finds himself at a loose end and begins to feel a strong pull towards the young girl. His boyhood metamorphoses into adolescence and the world of sensuous passion begins to unfold. It is a film eloquent in meaning, aesthetics and cinematic texture in the production design, the sound effects, the music and the acting. Khargosh also won the Audience Award and a Special Mention by the FIPRESCI Jury.
Panah Panahi’s short, The First Film won the best film award in the shorts section while Vinoo Choliparambil’s Vitthal (India) got Special Mention. Panahi is the son of noted Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi and this is his first film. Despite its widespread use, viewing satellite television is officially banned in Iran. Rooftop dishes are routinely confiscated by the authorities. In their voyeuristic pastime of trying to watch a girl across their apartment, two restless young men catch glimpses of government crews raiding the rooftops of the apartment buildings to dismantle satellite dishes. The two young men begin to capture the crews surreptitiously on film, risking arrest.
Vithhal is a shocking indictment on how children are brutalized in the name of conventional rituals within Hindu Brahmins by the family when someone dies. Vithhal, a 12-year-old boy, is forced to have his head tonsured when his grandfather dies because he is the elder grandson. The boy, very proud of his thick haired head, finds his world collapse around him when his schoolmates ridicule him and his parents ignore his grumblings. The denouement is shocking. It is a dark film that does not open any window of hope and succeeds in getting its message across with brilliant cinematography, good editing, strikingly natural performances and unusual screenplay.
Other short films worthy of mention are Geethu Mohan Das’s Are you Listening?, The Maid, a USA-Egypt co-production directed by Heidi Saman, Sara Siadat Nejad’s My Tree (Iran), Rami Abdul Jabbar’s The Viewing (Iran), Lebanon’s Ali the Iraqi directed by Vatche Boulghourjan, Distances (France-Sweden) directed by David Dusa and Nandu Jadhav’s The Hook (India). Notable Indian films were Harishchandra’s Story (India) directed by Paresh Mokashi, a fictionalized account of Dadasaheb Phalke’s forays into making India’s first official film Raja Harishchandra, Faiza Ahmad Khan’s Supermen of Malegaon, a feature-length documentary and Jai Tank’s first feature Madholal Keep Walking.
This year, the festival introduced its unique OLE programme, an acronym for its detailed name Osian Learning Experience that comprised of an interaction of the visiting filmmakers whose films were in the programme, with the audience. Another section introduced this year was InDialogue, a dialogue between and among diverse cultures of the world, aimed at listening to voices debating and discussing among themselves, a carefully curated collection of international films. “The InDialogue section is not only the central nerve of Osian’s-Cinefan but also a source of cinematographic strength,” says Mani Kaul, Director General of the Festival.
One of the most outstanding film in the In Dialogue section was Brothers (Israel) directed by Igaal Niddam. It is the story of a conflict between two brothers who meet after many years that reflects a society torn between its religious and political principles. Other memorable entries were Dot (Turkey) directed by Dervis Zaim, 3 Women (Iran) directed by Manijeh Hekmat, Abbas Kiarostami’s My Sweet Shirin (Iran), Over There (Iran) by Abdolreza Kahani and Days of Boredom (Syria) by Abdellatif Abdelhamid.
Newstream is a major initiative taken by Osian within its educational initiative OLE. It screened, followed by detailed Q & A session between the filmmaker and the audience, of some handpicked mainstream films from Bollywood with young directors spelling out the target group. The films that represented this new stream were Kaminey (Vishal Bharadwaj), Dev D (Anurag Kashyap), Luck by Chance (Zoya Akhtar), Love Aaj Kal (Imtiaz Ali), Aamir (Raj Kumar Gupta) and Oye Lucky Oye Oye (Dibakar Banerjee). The discussions were dynamic, lively and controversial but the two-hour Q & A sessions over the OLE sessions seemed to be a bit too much for filmmakers who had already said what they had to say through their films.
Euphoria, the noted Delhi-based band performed live at the closing ceremony, Oxfam India’s theme on climate change entitled Payenge aisa ek Jahan composed and sung by Dr. Palash Sen on behalf of Oxfam, a collaborator at the festival. The Sirii Fort foyer had put up an enlightening exhibition down memory lane. The walls, lit strategically, were filled with posters, framed stills, songs and handbills of old Indian films from all parts of the country. Gulzar was bestowed the Lifetime Achievement Award. He reciprocated with a Master Class in screen writing to inaugurate the OLE.