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Where class tells

The ultra-glam Cannes International film festival has just concluded. Anjali Bhushan and Ashok Rai give a wrap-up Cannes report.
Hindustan Times | By Anjali Bhushan, Ashok Rai, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 27, 2008 06:40 PM IST

The ultra-glam Cannes International film festival has just concluded. The French Riviera town is already sleepy and laid-back after the movie carnival which hosted such celebrities as Clint Eastwood, Sean Penn, Brangelina, Penelope Cruz, Robert De Niro, Sharon

Stone, Jude Law.. to name just a few. Now are there any lessons to be learnt by our own international film festival bosses?

Here’s a wrap-up Cannes report from Anjali Bhushan and Ashok Rai

Whoever said life is easy in another country? I long to go home to my calm Aksa pad. But it will be a while before I do that. German, Swiss, French keyboards — I have managed to negotiate through them all in my attempts to write from the just-concluded Cannes International Film Festival.

Now that the festival is wrapping, the pavilions are being pulled down; the sand is glistening in the sun again. The journos, paparazzi and filmmakers, who are still in this Riviera town that sleeps for the rest of the year, look exhausted. The boutiques, restaurants and taxi stands are as deserted as a post-explosion scenario in a sci-fi movie.

The Indian contingent is long gone. The chief news grabbers were Anil Dhirubhai Ambani’s Big Reliance Entertainment which announced collaborations with frontline Hollywood film production companies. And Kishore Lulla’s Eros Entertainment tied up with the prestigious Euro-entertainment company, Lionsgate.

And yes, Ketan Mehta and party created waves with a splashy party. But for the rest, it was the same-ole-same-ole.The screening room for Indian films wasn’t exactly packed to the rafters in the market section. And the stalls for inquiries about Indian movies for sale were frequently deserted.

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting representatives hardly made their presence felt, raising the age-old question: is there any point of government officials landing up at international fests at the expense of public money? I just hope the film festival directorate networked sufficiently with the Cannes fest powers-that-be as well as with filmmakers from all across the world.

Normally, the Delhi-based festival’s directorate lobbies to get films from Cannes but the outcome is iffy. We have to accept whatever we get.

A crusader gone

We sorely missed the presence of IM Sahai, the feisty cineaste who would be at the Cannes frequently. Almost as a jehad, he would take up the cause of Indian cinema with the Cannes authorities.Why aren’t our films given more prominence? Why aren’t many more selected for the competition section?

After Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen, not many India-based filmmakers have been lionised at Cannes. Surprisingly, the films of Shyam Benegal haven’t found a spot in the festival’s competition. Sahai would continue to war with the Cannes festival directors and was always promised that India would be given its due importance the next time around.

This year also, Sahai’sdemands and pleas went unanswered. There won’t be another fighter of the same tenacity for Indian cinema at Cannes or at any festival for that matter ever again. Sahai, in his 70s, passed away in his Noida house last year.

Criticised but.. wonderful

Of the welter of films at the 61st edition of the Cannes, many were panned by the critics, especially the overly-commercial Hollywood venturers (think Indiana Jones). Surprisingly, the critics’ darling, the German director Wim Wenders, was also given a thumbs-down for Palermo Shooting. Incidentally, Wenders had won the Palme d’Or for Paris for


(1984), Best Director for

Wings of Desire

(1987) and the Grand Jury Prize for

Far Away, So Close

(1993). He had also served as President of the Caméra d’Or Jury in 2003.

His new film was unfairly panned. Perhaps because it did not follow a conventional pattern and was free flowing—which is a filmmaker’s birthright.Why can’t one tell a story the way one wants to?

Wenders, in fact, said, “I was sick and tired of having to play it safe. I wanted to make a film as if it were rock ‘n’ roll again—bold and daring, adventurous without fitting a bill,without being afraid to say something.. without forethought or scheming.”

The Palermo Shooting

is about a celebrated photographer who leads a hectic life which is envied. Then his life spins out control.He just takes off, leaving allmaterial possessions behind. The journey leads him from Düsseldorf to Palermo. There he is stalked by a vengeful, mysterious shooter. Intriguing, imaginative and technically brilliant, it was our favourite, even if not that of themajority of the viewers.

Final take
Cannes continues to be the big, elegant lady of the movies.Venice and Berlin are its classiest competitors. Lessons can be learnt by our festival authorities at the event. One, critics have to be treated professionally. Neither is there any favouritism nor any prejudice ruled by the size and nationality of the publication.

Second, and above all, cinema viewing is almost a religious experience here. Any cell phone call ring or sms beeps are immediately hissed out.. and often the offender is asked to leave the auditorium. Viva movie watching.

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