Taviani brothers' Wondrous Boccaccio to open Beijing International Film Fest

  • Gautaman Bhaskaran, Hindustan Times, Chennai
  • Updated: Apr 09, 2015 13:54 IST

The 5th Beijing International Film Festival will open with an Italian work, Maraviglioso Boccaccio, (Wondrous Boccaccio) by the renowned auteurs, the Taviani brothers Paola and Vittorio. Honoured for their Caesar Must Die at the 2012 Berlin Film Festival with the top Golden Bear -- a movie about convicts in a prison outside Rome rehearsing to stage Shakespeare's Julius Caesar -- the Tavianis have also won awards at Cannes.

Maraviglioso Boccaccio has been adapted from a 14th century Italian literary work, Decameron, penned by Giovanni Boccaccio. A collection of 100 short stories, Decameron was the first known example of prose in Italian literature, and is said to have influenced Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (about pilgrims on their way to the shrine of Saint Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral)

Set in Florence during the dark days of Black Death or plague in 1348, Decameron follows the lives of seven young aristocratic Italian women and three men, who flee to the countryside hoping to escape death. To while away their time, they tell stories that are both witty and erotic, stories that let us take a peek into their lives. Some of these stories are sexually explicit and because of this Decameron was banned during the centuries.

The Taviani brothers have chosen five of these 100 short stories for their film. While an earlier interpretation of the literary work by Pier Paolo Pasolini was a celebration of pleasure and love, the Tavianis' movie centres on the horrific tragedy brought about the plague.

The brothers have said that Maraviglioso Boccaccio is as relevant today as it was centuries ago.. There are all kinds of "plagues" now -- in several forms. They were obviously referring to human greed, consumerism, killer competition and spiritual famine.

Maraviglioso Boccaccio will be one of the 15 entries competing for the Tiantan prizes. M. S. Prakash Babu' s Fig Fruit and the Wasps from India -- about two documentary filmmakers who savour the beauty of the countryside while they are waiting for a couple of musicians -- will also be part of this prestigious section.

Apart from these, two Chinese works -- Tsui Hark's The Taking of Tiger Mountain and Jean- Annaud's Wolf Totem (French-Chinese production) -- will vie for the Tiantan trophies along with titles from 13 other countries. Most of these will be world premieres, some international premieres.

The competition line-up -- chosen from close to 1000 submissions from 90 countries -- includes Italian director Michele Placido’s La Scelta, German helmer Marie Kreutzer’s second feature Gruber Geht, Japanese auteur Sono Sion’s Love & Peace and US moviemaker Michael Almereyda’s Experimenter among others.

Some of the gala screenings -- held in the evenings with red carpet presentations -- will have India's NH10, Russia's Downshifer and Holland's The Admiral.

The Festival runs from April 16 to 23.

Here is the list of the 15 competing works:

A White, White Night (Russia), Ramil Salakhutdinov
Battle For Sevastopol (Russia/Ukraine), Sergey Mokritsky
Children (Slovakia/Czech Republic), Jaro Vojtek
The Silence Of Rio (Columbia), Carlos Tribiño Mamby
Experimenter (US), Michael Almereyda
Fig Fruit And The Wasps (India), M S Prakash Babu
Gruber Geht (Austria), Marie Kreutzer
Impermanent (Iran), Amir Azizi
La Scelta (Italy), Michele Placido
Love & Peace (Japan), Sono Sion
The Beginning Of Time (Mexico), Bernardo Arellano
The Falling (UK), Carol Morley
The Taking Of Tiger Mountain (China), Tsui Hark
The Whistleblower (South Korea), Soonrye Yim
Wolf Totem (China/France), Jean-Jacques Annaud

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