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Indian script makes Cannes cut

Dev Benegal?s story bags prestigious project, reports Saibal Chatterjee.
None | By WIDE ANGLE | Saibal Chatterjee, New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAR 24, 2006 07:10 PM IST

A script rustled up by Mumbai filmmaker Dev Benegal between assignments has made it to a prestigious programme introduced last year at the Cannes Film Festival to help young directors from the four corners of the globe take their ideas to cinematic fruition.

Benegal will be one of the 18 writer-directors who have been selected for the Atelier du Festival of the upcoming 59th Cannes Film Festival. Although the man himself is tight-lipped about the development, it has been officially announced that the script that has earned the honour is titled Road, Movie.

All that Benegal is willing to divulge at this stage is that the proposed film is “about four characters and a bear”. The script revolves around a travelling movie theatre. “Om Puri is already on board,” says the writer-director who is now in the process of completing the rest of the casting.

The Atelier du Festival, organised by Cinefondation, a not-for-profit body set up by the Cannes festival organisers to provide support to student filmmakers in postgraduate courses, creates a platform for a diversity of filmmakers and their producers looking for sources of additional funding. The Atelier sets up meetings between filmmakers and funding agents during the entire course of the festival.

The Atelier is like a workshop where directors who have completed the writing phase of a feature film project are aided in the process of getting the venture off the ground, completing it and then finding distribution. The programme was launched last year with a view to promoting the work of young filmmakers endowed with voices and visions that capture the essence of the cultures they belong to.

Dev Benegal’s script has made it to a prestigious programme at the Cannes. This capsule will help young directors globe take their ideas to cinematic fruition.

Three of the 18 filmmakers who attended the Atelier in 2005 – Paz Encina of Paraguay, Gerardo Nanranjo of Mexico and Imunga Ivanga of Gabon – have already completed their films. Three other films are nearing completion and seven more will be ready by the end of the year.

American writer-director Ryan Eslinger, who was invited to last year’s Atelier, managed to cast Hollywood actress Sharon Stone in his proposed film, When a Man Falls in a Forest. The film is set to open in a few months. Basic Instinct star Stone was in Cannes last year to promote Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers. 

In the Atelier this year, Benegal will have the company of two other prominent Asian filmmakers – China’s Wang Bing and Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul. Wang Bing has one feature film behind him, but his current global fame rests primarily on the epic documentary, Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks. Weerasethakul, one of Thailand’s best-known filmmakers, won the Cannes Jury Prize in 2004 for the evocative Tropical Malady.  

Also on the 2006 Atelier du Festival roster is Romanian filmmaker Cristi Puiu, who won Cannes’ Un Certain Regard prize last year for The Death of Mr. Lazarescu.      

Benegal’s last feature film was Split Wide Open, made in the late 1990s. The Atelier selection means that he can now notch up at least two new films within the next one year. He hopes to shoot Road, Movie this winter, while the ambitious Srinivasa Ramanujan biopic, which he is writing and directing jointly with British actor-filmmaker Stephen Fry, is set to roll sometime next year.

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