Saturday, May 24, 2014

Egoyan’s ‘The Captive’ And Ceylan’s ‘Winter Sleep’ Mesmerise

Exclusive Coverage of the Cannes Film Festival
Sun May 18, 2014

The Cannes management has to be hailed for their superb screening facilities and, more so, their consideration and all-out efforts to help their  4,000-strong registered delegates. When  there was an unprecedented rush at the 8.30 am screening for Canadian director Atom Egoyan’s latest film The Captive,  the guards said that the theatre was full, but told us politely to wait. In a matter of minutes, the Cannes management had arranged another nearby venue for an extra screening scheduled at 9 am. And so, everyone was accommodated.  Ruffled feathers turned into into satisfied purring. That is Cannes for you.

Atom Egoyan has his own stamp of delving deep into the human psyche to probe what shapes people to be what they are and how they behave. He uses mystical,  abstract touches to suggest that people are manipulated in some way  beyond their understanding. His latest film The Captive is far more sensational than his earlier films, and one cannot help feeling that this time, it is the audience that is being manipulated.

The Captive is on an important subject – kidnapping of the girl child. The film is about a couple not that at ease with each other, who both  dote on their 9-year-old gifted daughter, training to hit the highest  ice-skating championship with her 10-year-old male partner. When her father comes to collect her in his truck, she lounges engaging in conversation beyond her years. When he returns minutes later, she is not there. The girl’s  agonised parents go to the police. The wife blames the husband for his neglect. The State detective force take over the case, interrogating the grief-stricken parents in their own rough, accusing ways, trying to find holes in their evidence or  the truth of what they are saying.

Eight years later the detective squad locate the girl on  television’s paedophile channels. With that the mystery unravels of a how television can be used for almost any kind of reality viewing  ruled by crazed minds. The last third of the film however becomes a routine common-garden thriller. The plot does not hold – it is bizarre and loosely strung together, which  mitigates the film’s high production values.

As happens sometimes, there was only one screening of the high-profile  film, Winter Sleep, directed by yet another of Cannes’s favoured giants, the Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan . Despite being  3.20 hours long, the largest festival theatre, the Lumiere, was jam-packed and hardly anyone left the hall.  Ceylan’s films usually present a finely observed study of disparities and injustice in society.  In this case, Ceylan takes a family of landed gentry headed by a liberal intellectual writer residing in a tastefully designed hotel that he owns. He lives with his much younger wife who leads an independent life as an activist and his disgruntled, carping  sister who enjoys taunting both her brother and his wife.   The film rips away the layers that conceal the true nature of their feelings towards each other. A strong subtext is the family’s attitude towards their struggling, penniless tenants, thereby revealing their true feelings of a class divide.

The Directors Fortnight with 19 strong films this year is the only section in Cannes that operates as an independent entity and co-exists almost as a side-festival . It believes that film must be seen as strictly as an auteur (director) led art form among filmmakers.  The opening film was Bande De Files (Girlhood) from France, directed by Céline Sciamma, on a girl who leaves her family setting and quits her school and neighbourhood run by unruly boys. She changes her name and with a new identity joins a free-spirited gang of women in the hope of starting a new life.

Courtesy: - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column

Friday, May 23, 2014

India’s Day At Cannes



Fri May 16, 2014

clip_image002The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) that has been spearheading film exchanges on many levels at Cannes inaugurated their business space at the main Palais area of the Cannes Market.

The chief guests were US producer and director  Ashok Amritraj  and Mallika Sherawat  (who moves between India and the US at lightning speed). Presiding over the crowded event was Bimal Julka, Secretary,  Ministry of  Information and Broadcasting and India’s Ambassador in France, Arun Singh. CII top executives were present including  Amita Sarkar, Deputy Director General, Atreyee Talapatra, Director, and Anamika Kalia, Deputy Director.  The amiable Ashok Amritraj is the Chairman of  CII Cannes Initiative.  Mallika stayed away from her usually enticing couture and wore an elegant beige gown. Courteous and attentive to one and all, she was a major attraction.   The speakers spoke about the various initiatives that CII has taken and are promoting to further India’s film ties across the world.

Following immediately after was the inauguration of the imposing India Pavilion looking out on to Croisette beach front. The India Pavilion is being coordinated by the Federation of the Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FIICI) on behalf of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting.  Bimal Julka, Secretary, I&B Ministry, welcomed all guests giving a brief outline of  India’s role in Cannes and also how India’s film industry was now streamlined and effective to attract film ventures for shooting in India to co-productions.  Ambassador Arun Singh then spoke of the importance within France of the Indian presence reverberating in Cannes. The event was packed with both Indian and foreign delegates. The talk was all about the many meetings furthering connections with the many facets related to  Indian cinema.  Bobby Bedi moderated.

Then, the film talent being facilitated in Cannes took over. They was Uday Chopra of Yash Raj Entertainment, one of main producers of the opening night film, and Avtar Panesar, Vice President, International Operations, Yash Raj Films, Mumbai, producers of the only Indian feature film officially programmed in Cannes, Titli, which is competing in the UN Certain Regard section. The pleased-as-punch members of the Titli team were centre-stage, first-time feature film director Kanu Behl, his actors Ranvir Shorey and Shashank Arora, and his editor Namrata Rao.  Titli is about a younger brother in a rough, abusive family making a shady living on the streets of Delhi. He wants to free himself and lead his own life. The film follows his strange and poignant trajectory in how eventually gets his way.

The first of the panel discussions laid out at the India Pavilion was an in-depth look at the making of Titliwith all those responsible – its creative talent, its producers and also its marketing wing represented by the irrepressible marketing wizard Guneet Monga. Guneet has almost single-handedly spearheaded India’s growing acceptance in the international market which she initiated with Anurag Kashyap’s recent films.

Director Kanu Behl and his actors talked of the immense preparation and effort they made in achieving the raw authenticity that marks the film. “I did not want known actors so that audiences would not be influenced with pre-conceived notions. We improvised a lot in the dialogue after our workshops. My actors and I come from the same rough by-lanes of Delhi so we knew the idiom and body language of where the film is set.”  Guneet explained that with the rising interest worldwide in realistic films from India, films that connect with the country’s current life and problems, makes it clear that this kind of cinema is on upward swing. “It can no longer be ignored”,  she stated emphatically.

Director Mike Leigh has a powerful following worldwide and particularly in Cannes. Rooted in his own British tradition, he is admired for his  heart-felt, intimate depictions of ordinary and  disadvantaged people, generally of the lower middle class.  His latest film, Mr Turner, is a mesmerising  bio-pic on  the last years of the renowned painter and master of light, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851). The film is a visually radiant, finely detailed and deeply insightful look at this cantankerous, middle-aged man artist who was incomparable with his  brush, appalling in his appearance and manners, and yet compelling as an extraordinary personality and human being. The rave reviews the film has received makes it a strong contender at the very start for the  2014 Palme d’Or.

Courtesy: - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Black Ties, Haute Couture And Bedraggled Scribes Walk The Red Carpet At Cannes



Thu may 15, 2014

clip_image002CANNES: Opening day at the Cannes film festival is a frantic rush on many levels. The first challenge is to get settled wherever you are staying. Early morning delegates fresh off their flights rush to the Monoprix to shop for the coming ten days. There they bump into other bedraggled friends / film professionals – more here than at any other festival event. From the supermarket, the rush is to get the timings of the day’s main events.

Opening day is devoted to key Press Conferences and the gala opening films. The Press saw the much awaited Grace of Monaco in the morning. The big screening is after the grand red carpet festival opening. Black tie for the gentlemen and haute couture for the ladies. Celebrities sail up the steps and onstage every other minute.

But earlier, at 1 pm, diligent journos battle their way into the packed (no standing) Press Conference for Grace of Monaco. It is directed by Olivier Duhan and stars Nicole Kidman alongside Tim Roth and Parker Posey. Nicole Kidman has an easy-going readiness to answer questions, even leading ones, with a fluent confidence and clarity. How did she react to the princely children’s unhappiness with the probing into details of their parent’s troubled marriage? Kidman says she was saddened. But the film had made clear at the start that this is a fictionalized account of events related to reality.  When asked if she would ever be moved to giving up acting, she answered at once: “Absolutely.” She believes what the film says, that love can surpass ambition. She regretted that her most prestigious moments (such as the time she won the Oscar) always coincided with the lows in her personal life. She added that she did not have the privilege of marrying a prince, but very quickly she said her husband  was indeed a prince among men.

The director and his team dodged questions on the film politicising the royal wedding by linking it to the time when France was all set to take over Monaco. They believed that the film had a human angle to it of a very unusual royal marriage  and how it affected the mind and destiny of Grace Kelly, Hollywood’s leading star, who gave up her country and her career for the life of a Princess. The film shows her drawing close to her near-defeated husband and then taking the losing situation into her own hands and bringing it around with her innate wisdom and her love for family.

The evening had another Press screening competition film in store for us. It was  the only  African film to compete, Timbuktu,  by the reputed director Abderrahmane Sissako , on how the  gun-toting vigilante fundamentalist groups of today’s violent times can target the poor and innocent destitute fleeing in abject fear with nowhere to go.

The  Cannes international jury  this year has distinguished names:  Jane Campion (Director, Screenwriter, Producer – New Zealand), Carole Bouquet (Actress – France), Sofia Coppola (Director, Screenwriter, Producer – United States),  Leila Hatami (Actress – Iran), Jeon Do-yeon (Actress – South Korea), Willem Dafoe (Actor – United States), Gael Garcia Bernal (Actor, Director, Producer – Mexico), Jia A Zhangke (Director, Screenwriter, Producer – China) and  Nicolas Winding Refn (Director, Screenwriter, Producer – Denmark).  

The 2014 jury is an unusual one, in that it is very woman friendly.  The President of the Jury is a woman – Jane Campion. She is also the only woman to have won the Palme D’Or in Cannes for her film, The Piano  in the year 1993.  In the 67th Cannes, the  women jury members (5 in number) outnumber the male ones (4 in all). The Cannes festival was criticised last year for not featuring even one woman filmmaker in competition and also sidelining them in other sections. The powers-that-be appear to have made ample amends.

Courtesy: - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched in January 27, 2014 - reproducing Uma da Cunha's column

Wednesday, May 21, 2014



Tue may 13, 2014

clip_image002On May 14, Cannes’ latest celebration will open with its dazzling red carpet parade, marked by an elegant merging of high fashion and film as high art. With that, every night, over 2,000 invited guests will make their choreographed ascent up the 24 crucial steps of the Grand Théâtre Lumière.  Halfway, the steps widen into a platform where preening stars put on a show for the 300 screaming photographers lined up both sides and the sea of vocal spectators lining the streets.

Cannes’s 67th observance brings us its usual excitements, but also a single unusual tweak. It is going to be one day shorter. The European elections on Sunday, May 25 has led Festival management to reveal their own silver screen winners a day earlier.  So a slightly tighter schedule awaits us but not, for that reason, anything less emotive, path-breaking or, in its own way, glitzy.

India’s presence, too, is a bit curtailed this year. But its trio of films in the much contested Official Selection sets a record. Yashraj Films, India’s top-rung studio, steals the limelight …

To begin with, it could be a first for India to be involved with Cannes’s prized opening film. That film is Grace of Monaco with Nicole Kidman in the title role. Lo and behold, Yash Raj Entertainment based in Los Angeles is one of the film’s six producers.  Uday Chopra will be a major presence on opening night.

Then, it was Yashraj Films in India that gave new wave trend-setter Dibakar Banerjee the option to make three films of his choice. Titli, the directorial debut by Kanu Behl is the first, and it is in Cannes in the coveted Un Certain Regard section. The director will contend for the Camera d’Or award for the festival’s best directing debut.

Talented animation film maker Gitanjali Rao too sets her own record by making her third grand entry into Cannes.  Gitanjali won the award at Critics Week in 2006 for her animated short Printed Rainbow. She returned to Critics week in 2013 as a jury member.  Now, her latest odyssey True Love Story, a kaleidoscopic take on Bollywood’s impact on Indian street life, is set to compete again in Critics Week.

Finally India, as the world’s largest producer of films, occupies major space in the Cannes Marche. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FIICI) coordinates the India Pavilion this year for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. Nina Gupta, of the National Film Development Corporation, the body set up to nurture Indian cinema in its many facets, will head her booth in the Riviera. She will be joined there by another strong regular, the Confederation of Indian Industries.  These are powerful spokes-people of institutions backing India’s film industry.

India’s glamour will be present, spotlit and gorgeous. One of the main sponsors of the Cannes festival, L’Oreal, will have three of its India Ambassadors in Cannes – Aishwaria Rai, Sonam Kapoor and Freida Pinto (Katrina Kaif cannot make it due to work commitments).  Mallika  Sherawat,  a regular at Cannes, will be present to inaugurate the Confederation of Indian Industry booth in the Cannes Market – along with Hollywood producer  Ashok Amritraj who is inviting selected guests to his yacht cocktail at the start of the festival.

The fun and festivities in Cannes are mingled with over 200 films on official display and a thousand others dotted all over the sea-front Croisette as market screenings.  Then there are sections such as the Short Film Corner (many Indians included here) and Cinéfondation (highlighting documentaries), with non-stop lobbying for sneak screenings by hundreds of hopefuls.  Partying will contribute its joy and toll every splashy night. 

Courtesy: - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on

January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column