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Brazilian hit to open IFFI

A film on Olga Benario will open the fest, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2005 18:46 IST

The Directorate of Film Festivals could not have homed in on a more appropriate opening night film for the 36th International Film Festival of India.

The fact that IFFI Goa 2005 will kick off on the evening of November 24 with the screening of Olga Benario – A Life for the Revolution, a commercially successful and critically acclaimed film from Brazil, is perfectly in sync with the state’s historical and cultural links with Portugal.

Directed by debutant Galip Iyatanir, the Portuguese-language Olga Benario is a screen adaptation of a novel about the heroic but tragic life of Communist revolutionary Olga Benario, who died in a Nazi gas chamber at the age of 34 during World War II.

A Jew born in Germany, she ended up in Brazil when the party gave her the job of escorting a leading political figure of the time, Luis Carlos Prestes, to the sprawling South American country thought ripe for Communism. By the end of the long voyage, Olga and Carlos became lovers and, eventually, man and wife.

In one of Brazilian history’s darkest chapters, the then president Getulio Vargas, a Nazi sympathiser, deported Olga to Hitler’s Germany.

Olga Benario – A Life for the Revolution,a commercially successful and critically acclaimed film from Brazil, will open the will open IFFI.

Olga Benario, filmed on locations in Germany, Russia and parts of Latin America, is as much a sweeping love story as a superb reconstruction of the struggles of a forgotten historical personage who fought to make the world a better place to live in.

It is just the sort of human drama that should go down well with people looking for a rousing inaugural to India’s annual celebration of the cinematic arts.

Iyatanir’s film has also been included in the festival’s newly introduced Competition section for Asian, African and Latin American cinema. Interestingly, the five-member Competition jury will be headed by one of Latin America’s most respected filmmakers, Miguel Littin.

Last year, when IFFI was first held in Panaji, Goa, the honour of opening the festival had gone to Mira Nair’s Vanity Fair, a work in which William Makepeace Thackeray met elements Bollywood melodrama. It did generate a fair buzz among festival delegates because of its obvious links with India, but it left critics a trifle cold.

But DFF’s espousal of Indian filmmakers’ active engagement with global production funds is set to continue this year. The 36th IFFI will unveil a clutch of brand-new films made by local talent with international backing.

Among the most awaited of the Indian-made global films that will be premiered in Goa during the festival is Deepa Mehta’s Water, which received widespread applause when it opened the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year.

Set in late 1930s colonial India, Water captures the plight of widows compelled by outmoded social traditions to lead a life of privation, servility and exploitation.

By playing off the rising tide of nationalism and the progressive ideals espoused by Mahatma Gandhi against the unbearable conditions in which these women exist, Mehta’s film seeks to achieve a degree of balance in the portrayal of a complex society in flux.

Another key premiere at IFFI 2005 will be that of Jagmohan Mundhra’s Aishwarya Rai-starrer, Provoked. The film deals with the long, bitter and finally triumphant legal battle waged by an Indian woman who killed her abusive husband in the UK. The cast of the film includes Nandita Das as a firebrand legal rights activist.

Yet another English-language film helmed by an Indian, Vishal Bhandari’s The Hangman, is also in the line-up of IFFI 2005 premieres/special screenings alongside German filmmaker Florian Gallenberger’s Bengali-language film, Shadows of Time.

First Published: Nov 09, 2005 19:00 IST