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40th IFFI lines up a cinematic feast

Saibal Chatterjee

The 40th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), which kicks off in Goa on November 23, promises to be a veritable feast of outstanding cinema from around the world.

Veteran Hindi film actress Waheeda Rehman will be the chief guest at this year’s IFFI opening ceremony, where present-day Bollywood and southern movie star Asin will help her light the inaugural lamp.

Malayalam cinema mainstay Mamootty will fly into Goa towards the end of the 40th IFFI to be the chief guest at the festival’s closing ceremony on December 2. 

Nearly 60 films from 45 countries will be screened in the 11-day festival’s ‘Cinema of the World’ section. Among them will be the closing film, Spanish master Pedro Almodovar’s Broken Embraces, starring Penelope Cruz; and French veteran Jacques Audiard’s powerful prison drama, The Prophet. The two films made waves at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

Interestingly, Almodovar’s last film, Volver, was chosen for the opening night of the 38th IFFI in 2007.  Apart from turning the focus on Latin American cinema, the 40th IFFI will present retrospectives of Portugal’s Manoel de Oliveira, the world’s only active centenarian filmmaker, and Thai writer, producer and director Nonzee Nimibutr. De Oliveira is the only living filmmaker today who began his career in the silent era. Included in the retrospective is his latest film, Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl, which he completed last year at the age of 101.

Of special interest to audiences in Goa will be a retrospective of British filmmaker of Indian origin, Gurinder Chadha, the creator of successful features like Bhaji on the Beach, Bend it Like Beckham and Bride & Prejudice.

IFFI will also screen films from five European nations – France, Italy, Croatia, Estonia and Poland – in a special Focus section. 

In its sixth year in Goa, IFFI, which is hosted by Panaji, will, for the first time, register its presence in Margao as well. A new 1100-seater auditorium has been constructed there for the regular screening of IFFI films.

Goa Chief Minister, Mr Digambar Kamat says: “We want to make IFFI Goa one of the world’s premier film festivals. And we also want everybody in Goa to feel a part of this event. Therefore, we have brought Margao into the IFFI ambit.”

IFFI, one of the oldest and largest film festivals in Asia, will, as usual, showcase the best films made by the world’s most prolific industry in its centrepiece section, the Indian Panorama.

Two Indian films – Satish Manwar’s Gabhricha Paus (Marathi) and Atanu Ghosh’s Angshumaner Chhobi (Bengali) – will vie with 11 other films from Asia, Asia Pacific, Africa and Latin America, for the festival’s top prize – Golden Peacock, accompanied by a cash award of Rs 40 lakh. IFFI’s total prize money adds up to a whopping $ 140,000.

The 2009 Panorama, which is made up of 26 features and 18 non-features, has films by a fair share of IFFI regulars – Buddhadeb Dasgupta’s Janala (Bengali), Shaji N. Karun’s Kutty Srank – Sailor of Hearts (Malayalam), Rituparno Ghosh’s Shob Charitro Kalponik (Bengali), Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukhtankar’s Ek Cup Chai (Marathi) and Ijjodu (Kannada), directed by M.S. Sathyu, who has returned to the big screen after a 12-year hiatus.Rubbing shoulders with these veterans will be a clutch of promising first-time filmmakers – Paresh Mokashi (Harishchandrachi Factory, Marathi), Aijaz Khan (The White Elephant), Seema Kapoor (Haat – The Weekly Bazaar).

For the first time in the history of IFFI a Konkani entry – Laxmikant Shetgaonkar’s Paltadacho Munis (The Man beyond the Bridge) – will be the opening film of the Indian Panorama.

The Vasco-based filmmaker’s first feature won a prestigious Fipresci (Federation of International Film Critics) award at the 34th Toronto International Film Festival in September.

Two other films with Goa links will be screened in IFFI this year – Sangram Gaekwad’s Zagor and Tapan Acharya’s Marathi-language film, Janma. These two entries are in the Indian Premieres section meant for brand new Indian films.

Among the six other Indian films that will be premiered during the 40th IFFI are Amol Palekar’s And Once Again..., an offbeat marital drama set in Sikkim, Saurabh Shukla’s comedic I am 24 and actor-director Makarand Deshpande’s quirky Shahrukh Bola Khubsoorat Hai Tu, about a poor little flower girl who goes into a tizzy when the King Khan pays her an innocuous compliment at a busy Mumbai traffic intersection.

Ananth Mahadevan’s Red Alert – The War Within, about a simple Andhra Pradesh villager who is caught in the crossfire between the police and a band of Maoists, is expected to be among the most talked-about films of the Indian Premier section. The film arrives in Goa after its triumph in the South Asian International Film Festival in New York, where the lead actor, Sunil Shetty, bagged the best actor award.

International star Ben Kingsley, whose worldwide fame rests on his remarkable eponymous star turn in the Oscar-winning Gandhi, will be in Goa to conduct an acting Master Class.

In a special package of war films, IFFI will screen a colourised version of Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat.

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