The International Film Festival of India begins its 11-day sail on the banks of the picturesque Mandovi here with a Chinese work, Wheat. Helmed by He Ping, the narrative focuses on two deserters during an ancient civil war in China. Structured with disarming simplicity, the movie marks the return of He six years after his Warriors of Heaven and Earth misfired. An interesting mix of visual lyricism, comedy and elements of Greek tragedy and popular Western, Wheat is set in the summer of 260 B.C., marked by wars among States that finally resulted in the unification of China under the Qin dynasty in 221 B.C.
The story takes place on the bloody aftermath of the Battle of Changping in which Qin’s forces killed almost half a million Zhao troops. He Ping stays clear of historical details and zooms in on two deserting soldiers who plan to return to their village to help women harvest the wheat crop. Narrowly escaping being beheaded by Qin’s army, the two soldiers find themselves among the women of Zhao.
Wheat will be one of the nearly 60 films from 45 countries in the prestigious Cinema of the World category. Jacques Audiard’s brutally engaging prison drama, The Prophet and Spanish master Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces, which is not quite in the league of his last work, Volver, are part of this section. A retrospective of British director of Indian origin, Gurinder Chadha, and a focus on movies from France, Italy, Poland, Croatia and Estonia, will be the other highlights of this IFFI.
In the 15-entry Competition, two Indian works, Satish Manwar's Gabhricha Paus (Marathi) and Atanu Ghosh's Angshumaner Chhobi (Bengali) – will vie with others from Asia, Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America for the festival's top prize – Golden Peacock, accompanied by a cash award of Rs 40 lakhs.