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EU fest unveils a rich spectrum

The fest will showcase 19 top quality films, writes Saibal Chatterjee.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2006 21:28 IST

A festival of 19 top quality films from as many nations, scheduled to run from March 3 to April 11 in four Indian cities, will yet again provide cineastes in this country a glimpse of the similarities and divergences of European cinema.

The 11th European Film Festival of India, which kicks off in New Delhi’s Siri Fort Auditorium-II on the evening of March 3 with the screening of the Austrian film, My Russia, will also travel to Kolkata (March 17-24), Chennai (March 24-31) and Thiruvananthapuram (April 4-11).

The inauguration of the festival will take place in the presence of Barbara Graftner, the director of My Russia. The film is an intense family drama that touches upon political and human issues through the story of a young man who marries a Ukrainian woman and sets off a chain of events that neither his manipulative mother nor he has much control over.

“This festival takes place once every two years as part of an Indo-US action plan to strengthen cultural relations between the subcontinent and Europe,” says Jutta Stefan-Bastl, ambassador of Austria, which currently holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.

She says: “India is a great film-producing nation that churns out hugely entertaining musical sagas about human relationships. Many of the films in the European package, too, deal with relationships. Only, the latter, unlike Bollywood films, do not have happy endings. That is because European cinema is infinitely more complex.”

According to Alexander Spachis, charge d’affaires of the Delegation of the European Commission to India, Europe is a bit like India in terms of its cultural range and diversity. “Yet, like the many regions of India, the 25 EU member-states are similar in many crucial respects,” he says. “I am sure that is what this festival will convey in ample measure.”

“It would have been even better if all the 25 member nations were represented in the European Union film festival,” says Miklavz Borstnik, charge d’affaires of the embassy of the Republic of Slovenia.

The 19 films in the screening line-up are, however, good enough to offset the absence of six EU members. Many of them have won prestigious awards around the world. Among the films that will be screened is the Czech entry, Kolya, winner of the Oscar as well as the Golden Globe for best foreign language film in 1996.

Kolya is a bittersweet comedy set in the period just before the collapse of Communism. An aging Prague bachelor’s life changes forever when the Russian woman he marries for convenience ditches him and migrates to Germany, leaving a five-year-old boy behind. The initial repulsion and confusion give way to a warm bonding that develops between the man and the boy.

Also in the package is the quirky Dog Nail Clipper, directed by Finnish filmmaker Markku Polonen, who will be flying to Delhi and Kolkata as part of a delegation from his country during the course of the EU festival. Polonen occupies a pre-eminent position in contemporary Finnish cinema alongside the Kaurismaki brothers, Aki and Mika, and Veikko Aaltonen.

The other films to watch out for are Mike Leigh’s 1999 Gilbert and Sullivan biopic, Topsy-Turvy from the United Kingdom, Branko Djuric’s Cheese & Jam from Slovenia, Gracia Querejeta’s Hector from Spain, Philippe de Broca’s Viper in the Fist from France, Margarida Cardoso’s The Murmuring Coast from Portugal, Paula van der Oest’s Zus & Zo from the Netherlands, Frederic Fonteyne’s Gilles’ Wife from Luxembourg, Riccardo Milani’s The Soul’s Haven from Italy, Anno Saul’s Kebab Connection from Germany and Hilde Van Mieghem’s The Kiss from Belgium.

For lovers of the European approach to the craft of cinema, that is a spread that is absolutely irresistible. European cinema is unique because it does not have easy access to the kind of funds that Hollywood has and is, therefore, driven primarily by small producers compelled to adopt a wide range of approaches to the medium.

The melange that emerges from that struggle year after year has an element of formal richness and artistic enterprise that Hollywood can never replicate.

First Published: Feb 28, 2006 21:28 IST