Osama and Distant among favourites
As Cinefan 2003 draws to a close today, many who have been diligently following the festival this year will also find it equally tough to decide which of the 13 deserves it the most. There are as many as five films are vying for the top prize this time.
At the top of the pile is Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Distant, which won for itself the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes this year. The film which is also credited with winning the Best Actor prize (shared by Muzaffer Ozedmir and the late Mehmet Emin Toprak), is about the loneliness of a human being.
The problem is compounded by his inability to communicate with his cousin who comes to live with him for a while. So while he feels the need to be with someone - anyone - when he is alone, he starts resenting his cousin's presence because it takes away his privacy and space.
Next in line is Siddiq Barmak's Osama (winner of the Camera D'Or at Cannes this year and also recieved a special mention by the Jury at Cannes), a straight forward account of a 12-year-old girl disguised as a boy who had to step out of the house to earn bread for her family, under the Taliban rule.
The treatment of the film is so intimate, that it ceases to be a film after a point. Its almost as though one is transported into Osama's world and experiencing her fear and angst as she steps out daily and worries about making that single mistake which would reveal her to the dreaded Taliban and their draconian diktats.
Then there is the celebrated director of poetry in cinema from Indonesia Garin Nugroho whose Bird Man Tale is the first film which discusses the assertion of independence by Papuans from Indonesia. Bird Man Tale is one of the very few pro-resistance films to come out of Indonesia and uses an entirely Papuan cast.
The film draws a metaphor from the desire of a teenage boy Arnold, who wants to kiss a young woman he's recently seen. As his desire grows into an obsession, one notices a parallel between the two - Arnold's need to be close to her and Papuans desire for independence. Unlike others of its genre, Bird Man Tale is non-violent and gentle and yet makes its point emphatically. Therein lies its strength.
Tareque Masud's Matir Moina is another such gentle film and again a hot favourite. Set in the 70s just before East Pakistan called for its independence from (then) West Pakistan, Matir Moina is about a family, where the man of the house goes from being moderate to increasingly right wing as opposed to his activist brother who's working with the revolutionaries. The film not only fetched the International Critics' Prize at Cannes 2002, it was also nominated for the Academy Awards in the Best Foreign Language film category.
That he ends up losing his young daughter to a disease because he doesn't want her treated by doctors (part of his growing religious beliefs), but by homespun homeopathic medicines, only serves to highlight the larger picture of a country lost to fanatic beliefs responsible for bringing large-scale ruin.
While Cinefan isn't in the league of any of the world's competitive festivals, by introducing the competition section the organizers have ensured that the festival gets to be taken seriously by cineastes. For, you could be screening the best films from the world over but it is the prizes that really bring in the edge.
Besides, a competition means that the international film frat takes you seriously. Already, there has been news of certain Indian films being pulled out of the competition section at Cinefan, because winning a prize here makes them ineligible for competitions abroad. Incidentally, these films were accomodated in the India Bazaar section to make them eligble for the audience prize, introduced this year.