The ninth edition of BIFFES, the international film fest in town, ends on Thursday and MK Raghavendra, film critic & scholar, writes exclusively for The Good City:
BIFFES has been particularly good this year, offering several sections from ‘Cinema of the World’, Retrospectives, Homages and Country Focuses to Chitra Bharati and Kannada Competitions.
The Cinema of the World section has films from a host of countries; in different periods, different countries gain ascendance in international cinema.
Iran and South Korea have had their respective days with the importance given to the likes of Abbas Kiarostami and Kim Ki Duk. The outstanding film-producing country today, in terms of the quality of its cinema, may be Romania.
Romania is represented by Cristi Puiu, who is best known for The Death of Mr Lazarescu(2005). Puiu’s new film Sieranevada can be fascinating or unbearable, depending on how the spectator is inclined. It is three hours long and deals with an extended family meeting at a ceremony commemorating the death of a patriarch. The conversation is random and often at cross-purposes – dwelling on matters ranging from conspiracy theories over 9/11 and life under communism to the Second Coming and infidelities of the male members of the family. One could wonder where it is all heading but, almost miraculously, it all comes together, the political, the personal and the global in a way rarely seen.
Radu Jude is another Romanian filmmaker of great importance (because of his searing portrayal of 19th Century slavery in Aferim!– 2015); he is represented by Scarred Hearts. This film is an adaptation of the diaries of a poet who died in his twenties of tuberculosis of the spine in the first half of the 20th Century. The film gives one of the most unbearably poignant portrayals of terminal illness in cinema – perhaps an even greater one than Ingmar Bergman’s Cries and Whispers (1972).
Another great film is Graduation by Cristian Mungiu, who attained fame with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007). This film is about a local doctor moving heaven and earth to help his daughter in an examination so that she can get an education in Britain.
The Homage section – dedicated to people who passed away in 2015-16 – includes films of Jacques Rivette, the most intellectual director from the French New Wave; the great cinematographer Raoul Coutard, best known for his work with Jean-Luc Godard; and the documentarist/producer/cinematographer Haskell Wexler, best known for his counter-culture film Medium Cool (1979). Wexler is a radical figure in the documentary and his work includes an examination of US meddling in Nicaragua, dictatorship in Brazil, etc.
Among the most popular sections is the Competition section for Indian cinema, which includes films from Maharashtra, Assam, West Bengal, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Manipur. Also attracting great interest is a Sanskrit language film Ishti by G Prabha, which looks at the Namboodiri community in the early part of the 20th Century. Kannada cinema is expectedly represented by Ananya Kasaravalli’s Harikatha Prasanga, which has awakened great curiosity for dealing with the subject of the actor playing female roles (in Yakshagana) and the subtle changes it makes in his personality. Another Kannada film at BIFFES, to mark GV Iyer’s centenary, is Hamsageethe (1975). This film is notable for its exquisite music in telling the story of a great singer, and makes stunning use of the Chitradurga landscape.
This year’s BIFFES has been an enormous success, with almost all shows running to full houses.
It is heartening to see the old and young streaming into the halls to catch a new Iranian film by Farhadi or a film from the farthest corners of India, like Haobam Paban Kumar’s Manipuri film Lady of the Lake, which miraculously reconciles a contemporary political issue with myth and metaphysics.
From Feb 2 – 9 at PVR Cinemas, Orion Mall, Malleswaram East in Bengaluru and Inox Cinemas, Mall of Mysore, Mysuru