The Indian subcontinent will get a fair share of attention at the 69th Cannes Film Festival that opens on May 11 with the gala screening of Woody Allen’s Cafe Society. And India will expectedly hog much of the ‘regional’ limelight in Cannes with two entries - one documentary and a short fiction film - in the festival’s official selection.
That apart, Anurag Kashyap’s Raman Raghav 2.0, about a 1960s Mumbai serial killer played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, is set to premiere in Directors’ Fortnight, a prestigious parallel section in which the Mumbai director’s two-part Gangs of Wasseypur and Ugly bowed in 2012 and 2013 respectively. Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Nepal, too, will be showcased in the latest edition of the world’s premier film festival.
The festival on the French Riviera is known for attracting independent cinema heavy hitters as well as huge glamour wattage in the shape of Hollywood and European movie stars.
Kalimpong boy Saurav Rai, a student of Kolkata’s Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute (SRFTI), will register his presence amid the glitz and glamour with his 28-minute Nepali-language diploma film Gudh (Nest).
Rai’s film is among 18 titles - 14 fiction and four animation - selected from 2,300 entries received from film academies across the world for the Cinefondation competition, now in its 19th year.
“The film seeks to capture the vivid memories that I have of my growing up years,” says 29-year-old Rai. “The political turmoil in Darjeeling forms a minute backdrop. “Gudh is 80 per cent reality and 20 per cent imagination,” he says, adding that even what he has drawn from his imagination is “very close to reality”.
“That this cathartic personal journey of mine has made it to Cannes is a dream come true,” says the young filmmaker.
The Cinefondation selection will be judged by a five-member jury presided over by Japanese filmmaker Naomi Kawase. Three prizes are up for grabs in the section and the award-winners will be announced on May 20.
The other Indian film in the Cannes official selection - Shirley Abraham and Amit Madheshiya’s The Cinema Travellers, a documentary on Maharashtra’s travelling tent theatres - represents a journey of a completely different kind.
The 96-minute film, made over a period of eight years with the support of the India Foundation for the Arts, the Cluster of Excellence, Heidelberg University and Goethe-Institut India, is part of the festival’s Cannes Classics section, which includes nine documentaries on cinema history.
The Cinema Travellers documents the changes and challenges that the once-thriving tent cinemas face in the digital age.
Among the restored prints to be screened as part of Cannes Classics this year is the 1959 Pakistani film Jago Hua Savera (The Day Shall Dawn), the country’s first nomination for the best foreign language film Oscar.
Watch the Pakistani film Jago Hua Savera here:
Directed by Aaejay Kardar, Jago Hua Savera was the result of a rare collaboration among talents from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). Based on a story by Bengali writer Manik Bandopadhyay and scripted by Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, the film focused on the lives of impoverished fishermen of East Pakistan. The female lead in Jago Hua Savera was played by Calcutta screen and stage actor Tripti Mitra.
In Cannes Critics’ Week, the Singaporean-French production A Yellow Bird, directed by debutant K Rajagopal and featuring Seema Biswas in a key role, homes in on the state of Indians in contemporary Singapore. As an Indian voice in Chinese-dominated Singapore, Rajagopal is seen as an authentic representative of minority aspirations.
A Yellow Bird tells the story of the struggles of an Indian man released from jail after an eight-year incarceration for contraband smuggling.
“A Yellow Bird aims to examine the position of the ‘Indian’ in contemporary Singaporean society. The story stems from my own experiences as an Indian-Singaporean (in a society) where a sense of belonging to my birth nation is frequently questioned and tested,” the director said.
In a significant breakthrough for Afghan cinema, Directors’ Fortnight will host the premiere of debutante Shahrbanoo Sadat. The 26-year-old Kabul-based director’s first film Wolf and Sheep was developed in the Cannes Cinefondation Residence in 2010 and completed with Danish funding.
Watch the trailer of Wolf and Sheep here:
In the Cannes Atelier, a section that helps new projects get off the ground, the subcontinent will be represented by two proposed films - Aditya Vikram Sengupta’s Memories and My Mother (India) and Pooja Gurung and Bibhusan Basnet’s The Whole-timers (Nepal).