The International film festival of India will open in Panaji on November 20 with Jiri Menzel's The Don Juans. A Czech comedy that will hopefully create the mood for 11 days of movies and magic, The Don Juans is operatic in just about every way, revolving around a small town company's delightful dilemma over the production of Don Giovanni. The film is a burst of energy created through terrific gags and the exuberant notes of Mozart.
The festival's 44th edition will close on November 30 with Justin Chadwick's Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, based on the 1994 700-page memoirs of the legendary apartheid leader and former South African President. Serious and sombre - quite in contrast to the inaugural work - the closing movie has been critically applauded for the riveting performance of Idris Elba as Nelson Mandela. One critic called him "a Mandela for the ages".
Between the opening and the closing night, one of the highlights of the festival will be the 15-film Competition. Which this year boasts of Kaushik Ganguly's Apu's Song and Veena Bakshi's The Coffin Maker, both from India.
Most Indians will be familiar with Apu, the character in Satyajit Ray's debut feature, Pather Panchali (1955). The iconic boy who played Apu is Subir Banerjee, and Ganguly's movie revolves around the life of this lad. Strangely, Banerjee never acted again, and Apu's Song (a spin from the English translation of Ray's work, Song of the Little Road) follows Banerjee as he travels to a film festival in Germany to receive an award, reminiscing about his life on the way.
Equally poignant is the Naseeruddin Shah-starrer, The Coffin Maker, where hard days force Anton hailing from a distinguished family of carpenters to take up coffin making.
Along with these two Indian titles, 13 others from different parts of the world will vie for the Golden Peacock Award. The Iraqi work, My Sweet Pepper Land about one woman's battle against socially restrictive Kurdish practices, Japan's Like Father Like Son (a dramatic look at what happens after babies are mistakenly switched at a hospital), Greece's Joy (which looks into the mind of a baby snatcher) and East Timor Beatriz's War (that talks about the agony of two people separated during war and occupation) are some of the competing entries.