Report: The Bangalore International Film Festival 2024 - Hindustan Times
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Report: The Bangalore International Film Festival 2024

ByKV Vasudevan
Apr 16, 2024 09:18 PM IST

Remarkable films in Santhali and Boro apart from offerings from other Indian languages, a retrospective of the works of Abbas Kiarostami, and recognition for the work of stalwarts like MS Sathyu made the fifteenth edition of the BIFF stand out

Quality was the watchword at the 15th Bangalore International Film Festival this year. The event that ran from February 29 to March 7 and featured over 200 films from 50 countries coincided with the 90th anniversary of Kannada cinema. At the inauguration, the Chief Minister of Karnataka, Siddaramaiah, stated that the festival was a huge platform for filmmakers to showcase their talent and added that the government had set up a committee to clear the backlog of state film awards. Heeding director Jabbar Patel’s request that a Kannada version of his movie on Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar be made, the CM said that all support would be extended to the project.

Packed venues at the BIFF reaffirmed the power of cinema (Bangalore International Film Festival)
Packed venues at the BIFF reaffirmed the power of cinema (Bangalore International Film Festival)

Winding queues for the films on offer (Bangalore International Film Festival)
Winding queues for the films on offer (Bangalore International Film Festival)

To set the mood, three-time Grammy award winner Ricky Kej churned out a medley of songs representing nine decades of Kannada film.

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Artistic Director of the festival, N Vidyashankar said the festival was where “we come together to explore, celebrate and partake the joy of showcasing Indian films along with acclaimed ones from a vast spread of 50 countries”. He also stated that the Bangalore fest being among the 43 festivals accredited by the International Federation of Film Producers Association (FIAPF) is a testimony to its sustained growth.

MS Sathyu (HT Photo by Chandru Mirchandani)
MS Sathyu (HT Photo by Chandru Mirchandani)

Lifetime Achievement award

Nonagenarian filmmaker MS Sathyu (94), who was bestowed with the lifetime achievement award, brought the house down when he made light of his advanced years and expressed his desire to make films. “I am waiting for the call from willing producers, prepared to take a marginal risk,” he said.

Awards galore

In the Kannada section, Nirvana, helmed by L Amar won award for the best film, while Kandelu directed by K Yashoda Prakash and All India Radio by Rangaswamy were adjudged second and third, respectively.

Marathi film Shyamchi Aai was adjudged the best film in the Indian Cinema category while the Tamil film Ayothi, directed by R Manthira Murthy, and the Malayalam thriller Chaver, directed by Tinu Pappachan, were placed second and third.

A scene from Inshallah A Boy (Film still)
A scene from Inshallah A Boy (Film still)

Pick of Asian cinema

Inshallah A Boy from Jordan walked away with the best film award in the Asian film category. In it, director Amjaj Al Rasheed brought out the sufferings of a woman struggling to grapple with life after the death of her husband. The Arabic film stretched its limits a bit when the woman fakes her pregnancy but the protagonist’s fears, beliefs and moral values are well brought out.

The Settlers scores

Spanish film The Settlers shone in the Critics Picks section. In it, a wealthy widower hires three horsemen to mark out the parameters of his extensive property. Chilean director Felipe Galvez keeps the audience guessing till the final frame. Galvez has won many awards for his short films but this is his first feature and it had the audience enthralled.

Bhutanese film wins fans

In the contemporary world cinema category, Bhutanese film The Monk And The Gun directed by Pawo Choyning Dorjiwas was a runaway winner with two house full shows. With a simple storyline of modernisation finally arriving in the Kingdom of Bhutan in 2006, the director sharply recounts why Bhutan became the last country in the world to become connected to television and the Internet. The director take the audience to the rural parts of the country where religion is more popular than politics and people are clueless about the methods of voting. A monk devising a mysterious ceremony for Election Day is an unexpected twist.

Octogenarian steals the show

A close second to the Monkish delight was the Australian stunner, Damage helmed by Madeleine Blackwell. Imagine a movie with just two characters hogging the spotlight for all of 84 minutes. A taxi driver, who is not a citizen, is caught in a quagmire while driving an 84-year-old woman who is unable to remember her destination.

Desperate bids

In Four Little Adults directed by Selma Vilhunen, a successful Member of Parliament in Finland finds out that her husband is having an affair. The protagonist decides to invite the other woman into her home in a desperate bid to save her marriage. The polyamorous relationship has its awkward moments and when a fourth character is pitched into the plot, Juulia finds new meaning in her life.

Retrospective of Abbas Kiarostami

The works of the late film director known for single handedly placing Iran on the map of international cinema were showcased at the festival, allowing film buffs to feast on offerings spanning over five decades. One of the most significant filmmakers of his generation, his ability to find beauty in the mundane left the audience transfixed, as usual.

Mrinal Sen’s masterpieces

In his birth centenary year, the festival also paid tribute to Mrinal Sen. “Hindi cinema was rescued from its worst phase when Sen broke the conventions and trusted formulas in the way he created Bhuvan Shome,” said filmmaker Sekhar Das. Inevitably, the panel discussion centred on comparing Sen with the other greats of Bengali cinema, Satyajit Ray and Ritwik Ghatak. The general consensus, though, was that Sen stuck to his strong points and presented the Bengal famine especially in his unique style.

Constitutional values and Indian Cinema

Drawing deep from his experience, veteran filmmaker Jabbar Patel spoke about the importance of conveying constitutional values even in commercial potboilers.

Shivamma’s resilience

In the world cinema category, all eyes were on Shivamma helmed by Jaishankar Aryar. A social satire set in north Karnataka, it features 44-year-old Shivamma, sole bread winner of her family, who cooks mid-day meals at the village government school and who is determined to find the right match for her only daughter.

Of the film that has been screened at 17 film festivals across the globe, the director says “Shivamma’s resilience was the winning factor”. “It was a proud moment for me when the audience travelled through the protagonist, in those endearing moments,” he said adding that it is often difficult for a woman to achieve her goals.

Debutant explores core issues

Shishir Rajmohan’s maiden feature film Abracadabara was very well received in the Indian Cinema (Chitrabharati) competition. The film explores core human issues in the life of a retired widower confronted by questions he hasn’t so far dared to ask himself. Alongside is a young woman’s quest for identity. All this is accompanied by a magician providing insights into the film’s theme.

Kherwal poster (Courtesy IMDB)
Kherwal poster (Courtesy IMDB)

Santhali delight

The Unsung Incredible India section, Kherwal in Santhali brought the roof down. In it, director Uttam Kamati brings out the feelings of a Norwegian academic, who expresses his desire to be buried in a Santhali village.

AI in filmmaking

A panel discussion on the impact of Artificial Intelligence on filmmaking and screen writing followed by a masterclass on editing by the German Kai Elermann was a notable feature at the business end of the festival. Panelists underscored the effectiveness of AI in helping writers: “Even an established writer could have an off day with writer’s block and AI could help him come out of it,” a participant said.

Challenge of documentary film-making

Documentary filmmaker Anirban Dutta called for documentary films to be preserved as they mirror society and chronicle a nation’s history. The discussion revolved around the change in the documentary scene in India and the challenges that filmmakers face. Filmmakers Anupama Srinivasan and Sushmit Ghosh spoke about how platforms like Doc Edge have allowed them to interact with the best technicians and bolstered the overall quality of their works.

Chronicling the journey of SASO

Peace Notes, a documentary by Maya Chandra and Akhil G Kumar chronicled the journey of the South Asian Symphony Organisation and its quest to unite South Asian people through music.

Tribute to Vijaya Bhaskar

A session in memory of the acclaimed music composer in all the southern languages in the presence of his two daughters turned out to be engrossing. Music director SR Ramakrishna pointed out the multi faceted work of the composer, who adapted and immortalised several works of eminent poets like Da Ra Bendre though mellifluous tunes.

A scene from Gorai Pakhri (Film still)
A scene from Gorai Pakhri (Film still)

The female gaze

Director-actor Ranji Basumatary, whose Boro-language film Gorai Phakhri was very well received, spoke about the need for sensitive portrayals of gender issues. “The young have to be told that the onus is on them to pass moral values on to future generations,” she said.

All in all, the 15th Bangalore International Film Festival provided the right mix of cinema for enthusiastic film buffs.

KV Vasudevan is a senior journalist covering arts and culture. He lives in Chennai.

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