Friday, May 30, 2014

Many Splendoured Cannes


Exclusive coverage of the Cannes Film Festival

Fri May 23, 2014

clip_image002The hub of Cannes is its four official sections: Competition, Un Certain Regard, Critics Week and Director’s Fortnight. But emanating from this central core is a whole gamut of other programmes and events that each constitute a world of their own. There is the Cinéfondation (films devoted to student films), the Short Film Corner (screening documentaries and shorts from all over the world), Cannes Classics (screening finely restored film classics from all over the world, under the aegis of Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation) and many more looking into every aspect of film as an art form.

Of particular interest is the La Fabrique des Cinémas du Monde (The Making of World Cinema), financed by the French government, and with Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles as its patron for this year. The program is designed to help boost the cinema of countries where it is still developing art form.

This section selected ten filmmakers from all over the world on the merit of their scripts to be part of a rigorous networking agenda at Cannes. French Institute director Valérie Mouroux said, "These promising film directors, from Asia, Africa, South America and the Middle Eat, have the chance to meet one-on-one with producers, to search for co-production funds." Walter Salles meets each one individually to evaluate their respective scripts.

Among the ten is the young director from Bangladesh, Kamar Ahmad Simon. His documentary Are you Listening!, about a farmer saving his land from being lost to the sea in Bangladesh, won the Grand Prix in 2013 Cinema du Reel (Paris) as the best feature and was awarded the Golden Conch in MIFF (Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short, Animation Films), 2014.

Kamar is now ready with his first feature film script, Silence of the Seashell, in Bengali, about two friends who cross India, their journey beginning in Kolkata, to search for a river bank remembered in one of the friends’ youth before his mother’s death. The script was awarded by the Goteborg International Film Festival.

An architect by training, Kamar moved early into film. He visited the Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute often which was a learning experience. He then became an associate of Tareque Masud, the only Cannes award-winning director (The Clay Bird, 2002) from Bangladesh. He is the founder of ‘Filmy-Bahas’, an active group of film dialogue, discussion and debate in Bangladesh.

Kamar feels that with his back-up of meetings at Cannes, he may be ready to shoot his film the year end. His films starts in Kolkata and he is looking for a producer to work on this part of the film.

Yet another key event in Cannes is its line-up of Master Classes. Leading them this year was one by Italian legend Sophia Loren, charming as ever at the age of 79. She was the subject of a Master Class on her remarkable career and also for a special screening of her new 25-minute short film The Human Voice, directed by her son Edoardo Ponti. It is based on the Jean Cocteau play which allows its one character to display a gamut of emotions while speaking on the phone. Preceding it was the premiere of the newly restored 1964 classic Marriage Italian Style. This film is one of her 14 collaborations with director Vittorio De Sica and her co-starring with her 12-time leading man Marcello Mastroianni. Marriage Italian Style brought Loren her second (and last) Best Actress Oscar nomination, and it still holds up today.

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

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Cannes, Where Red Carpet Glamour And Good Cinema Merge


Thu May 22, 2014

clip_image001CANNES: Titli, the only Indian film to be officially selected in Cannes this year, had its world premiere on Tuesday.  The film was in the Un Certain Regard, a section that closely follows competition in importance.  In many ways this is the most preferred section in the festival. The coveted Competition slot definition is over-powering, screening in the imposing Grand Théâtre Lumière  which seats 2,000 persons. So, expectancy and tension dominates its every nuance.

Un Certain Regard screens films that have a large canvas as well as b content because they deserve a platform. The audience here is smaller, more relaxed and openly supportive. Certainly for Titli, as the prolonged applause as the credits rolled out made it clear that this film will go places, appealing to people  far and wide, as the singular The  Lunchbox has done.

Titli, set in the main streets of  Delhi, is about a family of three brothers led by the eldest among them, the brutish Vikram. They make money by hijacking cars and stealing from their owners. The youngest is the unhappy Titli, who yearns to be free and lead his own life. His attempts are foiled every time.  He is made to marry to tie him down and keep him on the family leash. To his surprise his bride feels as resentful and handcuffed as he does. She has a lover she would rather be with.  The film then develops twists and turns that are ironic, poignant and hit you straight in the guts. It stars Ranvir Shorey, brilliant as an alley lout with no feelings. The youngest brother is played by newcomer Shashank Arora, who gives the film an anguished emotional edge.  

The Hollywood Reporter the next day had this to say, "The story advances from one violent scene to another …. Yet faces are bloodied and arms are broken off screen, making it easier to watch than a lot of other gangster films. As one brother ruefully notes, ‘We’re not into murder.’ This leaves room in the script for the really bad things people to do each other, including lies, betrayal, and bartering every human relationship for money.”

Playing the same day in Critics Week (devoted to first/second films) was the one other Indian film in the festival,  the animated True Love Story  by Gitanjali Rao, which collected the Golden Conch at the Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation Films earlier this year.  The film is about what happens when the ‘Ultimate Bollywood Fantasy’ is applied in reality to the streets of  Mumbai. Using 2D Animation, painted frame by frame, the film is styled more like a live action film. Bollywood is a religion in India. It offers fantasy and escape for a few hours. Yet, when the same fantasy is mistakenly believed for reality, the balance is lost. Mumbai-based Gitanjali Rao  won three awards in 2006  Critics Week  for her debut film,  Printed Rainbow. In 2011, she was on the Critics Weeks jury. This  year  True Love Story competes with nine other films from all over the world.

Finally at the gala fashion parade culminating in the evening screening of the competition film  Search, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan  was on the red carpet stairway looking radiant and stunning.  She is the first of  the Indian L’Oreal ambassadors, and has been in Cannes every year for the past thirteen years. She was on the  international jury in 2003. Much loved at this festival, she is given pride of place at every turn.

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

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

“Women Are Undervalued In Film”

Exclusive Interview with the Cannes International Jury head Jane Campion

Tue May 20, 2014

clip_image002CANNES:On  the opening day of the festival the  international jury was introduced to the media. Heading it is Jane Campion, one of  the world’s most respected auteur directors, whose work is known for its humanity as well as a head-on honesty and truthfulness on the subtleties that constitute injustice. Her films have led to heated debate, while she herself remains seemingly detached despite her strong convictions. Campion is the  only woman to have won the Palme d’Or in Cannes. She  won it twice: for her short film  An Exercise in Discipline – Peel (1982)  and then for her celebrated feature film, The Piano (1993) tied with Farewell My Concubine, directed by Kaige Chen.

Jane Campion took time off from her busy schedule for an interview,  talking in quiet, almost meditative tones, but with a ready assurance that underlines her firmness of mind and intent.

You have a  special affinity with India that has been with you for some 20 years. How did that happen?
My first visit to India was when I was really young. I went to Jaipur and the culture shock on many levels was far too overpowering. I was looking for some respite, something calming. I saw an old woman one day conducting yoga lessons.  She said I should join her class and I did. My relationship with this yoga teacher continued and developed into a strong tie and later, a bond. She monitored my yoga lessons from the distance between our two continents.  Of course, in the beginning I was not that regular. I invited her to Australia and she said I should encourage yoga in my city, Sydney. She took lessons in my house – it was the most convenient place.  I met her almost every year for 19 years. She recently passed away. I do 15 minutes of yoga every day and have been doing so for some years now.

Only one of your films has an Indian connection – and that was Holy Smoke  (1999) which has a strong Indian philosophical slant specially  at its start. The first 8 to 10 minutes was shot  in India (in Pushkar and Delhi) with Dhritiman  Chatterjee playing a Sadhu. Have you felt like returning to India in the films you  plan  to make?
Not in any specific way. It is the story that  leads you to a country and place … not one’s own personal liking or inclination.

Have you been influenced by any Indian filmmaker?
Of course and Satyajit Ray comes to mind. His films open your heart to the world and to feelings. His is the kind of filmmaking that you can trust and a world you can visualise and like to belong to.

Have you a film in  mind now?
I don’t like talking about something that is under preparation. In any case I am at an age now where career is not that important. I take my time …

Your most recent work,  the television series Top of the Lake has done well, I hear?
Yes, it has. And it is very different from my usual work. It is a crime story – a vigorous mystery that has touches of  humour. It is a mini-series which had seven episodes in the US and six in the UK.

In your films  you champion a woman’s place and role in  life.  In Cannes you noted publicly that women are not given their due in any aspect  of work within their profession related to cinema?
Women are under-valued  as professionals working in film. Only seven percent of entries this year in Cannes have been directed by women. There has to be more equality here between the genders. It is not that I have anything against men or vice-versa.  I think men genuinely like and appreciate women. But in the workplace there is something else – a code or a mindset that must change. There is nothing women cannot  do. And that must be recognised.

You indicated that standing in judgement on a film as a jury member has its challenges?
Well, it is difficult … there are so many genres, styles, languages and cultures in the films that one has to evaluate, and to equate them together and chose one over the other is often frustrating and a dilemma. But, competition does centre  world attention on cinema and that is how films are promoted. So, it is worth it in the end.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Only Two Indian Films Make It To Cannes, But Joint Agreements Create A Buzz


Mon may 19, 2014

Only two films from India may have made it to Cannes official screens this year but the country’s vibrant film industry hits the news every day. The festival has several news dailies in French and English which cover leading world and festival news along with listings of the festival’s screenings and events of each day.

On Sunday, the front page of all three English dailies, Variety, Screen and Hollywood Reporter, headlined one lead story: the joint venture between Los Angeles-based Relativity Media and Mumbai’s  film/television network B4U’s on wide-ranging film,  TV and sports agreement to produce entertainment and sports content to be distributed across myriad platforms.

The announcement was made at an elegant and packed lunch co-hosted by entertainment journal Variety to celebrate Relativity Media’s 10th anniversary held at the exclusive Hotel du Cap in Antibe , a 20 minute drive from Cannes.

Relativity Media is a studio engaged in multiple aspects of entertainment, including film and television production and distribution, the co-financing of major studio film slates, music publishing, sports management and digital media.

B4U is backed by steel industry tycoon Lakshmi Mittal and Kishore Lulla (head of Bollywood distributor Eros International) and Gokul Binani. The joint venture, with B4U CEO Ishan Saksena in charge, will co-produce a slate of Hollywood films including  The Best of Me, due to release on October 17.  The production investment, said to be some $100 million, will co-finance, co-produce and distribute Indian language films and television shows as well as acquire projects in the US and South Asian markets, and distribute third-party content in India and selected Bollywood films in the US.  A new pay channel in India will focus on Hollywood content, in both English and Hindi, and launch “RelaTV” – a digital streaming technology platform to deliver compelling short and long form content to Indian consumers.

India’s stars arrive second half 

The huge number of  Indians attending Cannes this year are mostly young, promising hopefuls who are seeking to learn the international mantra to movie-making. There are hardly any big and known directors to be seen  – besides Sudhir Mishra, that is. The usual suspects such as Anurag Kashyap, Shekhar Kapoor and others in their wake are not around.

Also absent in Cannes from the word go is India’s glamour quotient, which in recent years has been high profile.  The festival’s major sponsor L’Oreal  chose Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as their Brand Ambassador some ten years ago. The product made Aishwarya a known name in Cannes and all of  France. This year it has added three celebrated names from India – Sonam Kapoor, Freida Pinto and Katrina Kaif.  All of them will be in  Cannes this year – except for Katrina who has work commitments.

Aishwarya was to arrive in the first week but an airline strike led to the cancellation of her flight. Now all three Indian celebs will be packed into the second week, which is sure to bring a strong oriental sizzle to the red carpet.

Meanwhile, Freida Pinto is in a new film -  Desert  Dancer  – which has market screenings in Cannes. The film will open the Italy’s Ischea Global Film and Music Festival in July.
Courtesy: - India's first independent on-line daily which was launched on January 27, 2014.reproducing Uma da Cunha's column