West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has dared the Centre once again, making China the focus country in Kolkata International Film Festival. As many as seven films of the country will be screened at the eight-day festival with Chinese delegates and filmmakers attending at a time when Delhi’s relations with Beijing are at a low following China’s move to block India’s bid for Nuclear Supplier’s Group membership and China’s tacit support to Pakistan at the BRICS summit in Goa after the Uri attack.
KIFF will be held in the city between November 11 and 18.
“We try and recognise good cinema from across the world. This year the focus country happens to be China,” said information and cultural affairs secretary Atri Bhattacharya.
“This is an international film festival. It does not have any political colour. We are here to promote good cinema,” Bhattacharya remarked when asked whether the move to invite China will carry political portents.
A few of the films in this section are American Dreams In China (2013), crime thriller Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) and 3D action comedy adventure The Monster Hunt (2015).
Significantly, Mamata Banerjee has often made it a point to emphasise her difference with the Centre. In January she invited Pakistani ghazal singer Ghulam Ali to perform in Kolkata after his show was cancelled in Mumbai and Pune following Shiv Sena protests.
In March 2015 Pakistan high commissioner to India, Abdul Basit, called on Mamata Banerjee at the state secretariat, which is not a very common practice and raised a few eyebrows.
In September, a 12-member team including film personalities from Bengali cinema along with Bhattacharya, CEO Nandan and KIFF director Yadav Mandal went to Beijing. Tollywood actors Dev (also a Trinamool MP), Raima Sen, Rituparna Sengupta, producer Shrikant Mohta were part of the team.
Significantly, the Chinese focus in KIFF comes at a time when Mamata Banerjee has decided to go on an offensive against BJP and the Sangh Parivar on a number of issues such as cow politics, ghar wapsi, religious intolerance, the Centre’s ‘infringement on the federal character’ of the country.
On Thursday itself she attacked the ruling party at the Centre and said at a public meeting that her party will fight religious/political intolerance in the country tooth and nail.
“We are living in an age of intolerance. Integration is the theme of this festival and we want to spread the message of unity and harmony,” said filmmaker Gautam Ghose, chairman of KIFF 2016.
Last year Pakistani filmmaker Sarmood Khoosat’s critically acclaimed film ‘Manto’ on Saadat Hasan Manto was screened at the Kolkata film festival.
However, this year, no Pakistani film will be screened. Ghose said they tried to procure Pakistani classic Jago Hua Savera, but failed to obtain confirmation from the distributors of the film.
The Pakistani film was supposed to be screened at the MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival but the authorities decided to drop it at the last moment.