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Vying for the honours

Nineteen films from Asia, Africa and South America are in the competition section of the Eighth International Film Festival of Kerala.


THE COMPETITION section of the Eighth International Film Festival of Kerala, which begins in Thiruvananthapuram on December 12, has quite a few films that deal with issues in Islamic societies. This includes `Osama', the first feature film from Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban.

Ninenteen films from Asia, Africa and South America are in the fray.

There are six films from India, including four from Kerala. Seven films are from other Asian countries, four from Africa and two from South America.

The members of the jury, headed by eminent Latin American filmmaker Humberto Solas, are Mousa Sene Absa (Senegal), Hemut Groschup (Austria), Garin Nugroho (Indonesia) and Rituparno Ghosh (India).

A cash prize of Rs. 10 lakhs awaits the producer and director of the best film that bags the Swarna Chakoram. The Rajatha Chakoram for the best director carries a purse of Rs. 3 lakhs and the Audience Prize is worth Rs. 1 lakh (for the director).

For the first time in the history of the festival, the best debut director will be given a Rajatha Chakoram and Rs. 2 lakhs.

The FIPRESCI, the international body of film critics, will give an award to the film adjudged the best by their jury.

Films from India:

Bhavum

(Emotions of Being)

Director: Sathish Menon

The film highlights the dilemma of a woman who finds her husband's desires and goals in conflict with her conscience.

It provides an insight into the intellectual and emotional upheavals caused in society by globalisation and resultant consumerism.

Margam

(Means)

Dir: Rajiv Vijayaraghavan

Margam traces the journey of a man from being a person with joie de vivre while living at his ancestral home in the village to his current reclusive existence in the city.

Mathrubhoomi -- A Nation without Women

(Motherland: A Nation without Women)

Dir: Manish Jha

This film received a standing ovation when screened at the Venice Film Festival but had to face a hostile reaction at the Toronto Festival, when a section of the audience accused Jha of trying to gain attention by portraying India in a bad light.

The film projects an age when there are few women in society, owing to selective foetal discrimination and female infanticide. This, in turn, leads to anarchical polygamy and violence.

Nizhalkuthu

(Shadow Kill)

Dir: Adoor Gopalakrishnan

Adoor's film is centred on the life of the last hangman of erstwhile Travancore.

`Nizhalkuthu' probes the mind of the hangman, tries to fathom his sense of guilt, and analyses individual freedom of action vis-a-vis the State's dictum.

Padhom Onnu: Oru Vilapam

(Lesson One: A Wail)

Dir: T. V. Chandran

Set in a village in Malappuram district, the film deals with the practice of child marriage still prevalent among the Muslim community in the district.

Raghu Romeo

Dir: Rajat Kapoor

The film narrates the love Raghu Romeo, a waiter at a nightclub, has for Neeta, who is just a fictitious character on TV.

Films from other Asian countries:

Matir Moina

(The Clay Bird)

Dir: Tareque Masud (Bangladesh)

This film, which was refused a censor certificate by the Bangladesh Film Censor Board, won the FIPRESCI International Critics' Prize for Best Film at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival.

Set in the late Sixties in Bangladesh -- a time of turmoil - `Matir Moina' tells the story of a family torn apart by religion and war.

Khamosh Pani

(Silent Waters)

Dir: Sabiha Sumar (Pakistan)

Sabiha Sumar's first feature film, `Khamosh Pani' won the Golden Leopard award at the 2003 Locarno International Film Festival.

It narrates the life of Ayesha in a small village in Pakistan after General Zia-ul-Haq's decision to make Pakistan an Islamic state. Indian actress Kiron Kher plays the lead in the film.

Punchi Suranganavi

(Little Angel)

Dir: Somaratne Dissanayke (Sri Lanka)

The film is about the friendship between a 10-year-old boy from the Sinhala community and an eight-year-old girl from the Tamil community.

Osama

Dir: Sedigh Barmak (Afghanistan)

This is the first feature film to be made after the Taliban took over Kabul in 1996. "The film is about the hopelessness of those days," says Barmak, who went into exile in Pakistan during the Taliban rule, and returned only when it ended.

Abong

(Small Home)

Dir: Koji Imaizumi (Philippines/Japan)

Disillusioned with the grind of the city, a woman leaves her family behind and goes away to a tribal Shangri-La in the mountains. Her family joins her later after a period of struggle.

Biola Tak Berdawai

(The Stringless Violin)

Dir: Sekar Ayu Asmara (Indonesia)

This maiden venture by Asmara bagged the prize for Best Debut Film Director at the 27th Cairo International Film Festival.

It tells the story of a woman with a traumatic past who runs an orphanage for physically and mentally challenged babies with the help of an eccentric paediatrician.

She grows fond of a mentally-challenged boy and seeks a way to have him cured.

Windspiel

(The Wind Game)

Dir: Alireza Ghanie (Iran)

`Windspiel' is a mystical film rooted in Persian philosophy. It narrates a young man's spiritual search in a symbolic manner using breath, wind and air as metaphor for spiritual love.

It is Ghanie's first feature film. For want of money, he took three years to shoot the movie. He has lived in Austria for the better part of his life.

Films from Africa:

Abouna

Dir: Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (Chad)

`Abouna', by the Chadean director who lives in France, is about two boys who grow up indisciplined after their father leaves them. They are sent to the harsh rigour of a Koranic school. When they return, they find that their mother, for lack of emotional support, has lapsed into a state of catatonia.

Le Prix du Pardon

(Price of Forgiveness)

Dir: Mansour Sora Wade (Senegal)

It is the story of a person who murders his rival in amour and marries the contested woman. But he is destined to live with the ignomy of having to bring up the dead man's son by the woman he had won through crime.

Promised Land

Dir: Jason Xenopoulos (South Africa)

It is about an Englishman who visits South Africa to finalise his mother's estate. Though he is not a racist, the Englishman unwittingly gets drawn into the plot by a White supremacist group to destabilise the Government. In the face of conflicting interests, the Englishman has to define his identity.

Et Apres

(Then After)

Dir: Mohamad Ismaeli (Morocco)

Many in the north of Morocco cross over to Spain illegally by boat, risking their lives and freedom, in search of a better tomorrow. This is the tale of one such person.

Films from South America:

O Homem que Copiava

(The Man Who Copied)

Dir: Jorge Furtado (Brazil)

The film is peopled with four characters, two men and two women, who, in spite of meagre earnings, struggle to keep their dreams alive.

El Ultimo Tren

(The Last Train)

Dir: Diego Arsuaga (Argentina/Uruguay)

A humorous film with a tinge of melancholy, `The Last Train' is an assertion of national pride.

It is the story of three retired railroad workers who hijack a Uruguayan steam engine that's to be sold as a prop to Hollywood. They travel on the engine across the countryside proudly claiming, "Our national heritage is not for sale!"

PRAKASAM K. UNNI

Graphics: Manoj

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