Thursday, May 14, 2015

Women Directors Steal the Show at Cannes


UMA DA CUNHA Thursday, May 14, 2015

CANNES: May 13, opening day of the Cannes International Film Festival, made it clear that the festival is presenting itself in a new mould.
The stress on glamour is much reduced. The dependence on big Hollywood studio films is not evident. French and European films are the main focus. And women filmmakers are centre stage. The symbol of this years Cannes dominating at all vantage points is in nostalgic black and white is the ravishing face and bewitching smile of Ingrid Bergman.

To show that art is for art’s sake, Cannes has forbidden selfies being taken on their august red carpet’s ascending steps.
In recent years Cannes has opened with leading Hollywood blockbusters that brought in spectacle, stars and sponsors, such as “The Great Gatsby”, “Robin Hood” and the “The Da Vinci Code”, culminating in last year’s debacle “Princess of Monaco”, labeled the Turkey film of the year, starring Nicole Kidman as a dolled-up Princess Grace.
This year’s opening film is the more subdued, issue driven , “Le Tete Haute” (Standing Tal), a highly contemporary study of family dysfunction wreaking havoc with today’s violent, rudderless, unloved teenagers. The film brought in mixed reviews but a more respectful overall response. Moreover the film is directed by a relatively unknown woman director, Emmanuelle Bercot. This marks a second time in Cannes history that a woman director has been given the honour of launching the festival.

There are a bumper lot of five French films in the 19 films in Competition, with only one that listed as premiere league “Dheepan” from director Jacques Audiard (who has made lauded films such as “Rust and Bone” and “The Prophet”. Thierry Frémaux responds saying that this is a good year for French films, so naturally they are more in number He adds that there are five American films as well and three Italian films in competition..
After enjoying major laurels in the past, Britain has come out poorly, with its sole entry being Asif Kapadia’s feature-length documentary “Amy” being shown in the Midnight section. But Britain does well in the festival’s other sections of Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week.
Cannes was severely criticised for its 2012 edition when there was a close to total absence of women directors in its programming. Besides giving Bercot the honour of presenting the opening film, Cannes is giving another unusual honour to yet another French woman director. It is presenting its rarely awarded Palme d’Or tribute to the veteran director Agnès Varda for her lifelong work.
It is mainly the women, of course, who dominate the famous Cannes red carpet. It is here that the well-known European flair for haute couture paraded by the famous stars. Katrina Kaif was India’s beacon here doing the country proud with her assured deportment and looking gorgeous in a black strapless Oscar de la Renta gown.



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

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

FIW Cannes special issue ready!
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From the Editor
Ingrid, India and the imagination
May 2015, and Cannes beckons again with its special seduction. Heightened this year with the unforgettable Ingrid Bergman as its face, symbolizing the magic, class and genius of cinema. Her daughter Isabella presides over the Jury of Un Certain Regard, a section second in prestige only to the main Competition.

Ground level for us in India, this is a Cannes with a difference. While the Competition - capital C - eludes us, India scores a record setting double whammy. For the first time, two Indian films have made it to Un Certain Regard, and both by emerging filmmakers.

For two leading French offerings, India provides an opulent background. France-India bonding has been a singular relationship for some decades now. The wonderful ‘Titli’, in Un Certain Regard last year, has just released commercially in France, and to good reviews. In Cannes 2015, the French-India amour lingers on, as much in the Festival Palais as (no guess work) on the beachfront Croisette.

Each year, India makes for The Short Film Corner straight as a beeline. Here Cannes gathers the world’s emerging documentary and short filmmakers. Seedling talent buds and blooms with the tutoring it gets. In this year’s crop, over 50 films connect with India one way or another, and they are covered in the pages of this issue.

India at the Cannes Marché (market) is another huge force. Major and new Indian participants are featured in the opening sections of this issue, with details of their purpose and aspirations.

This bumper Film India Worldwide issue also covers new Indian films, be they debuts, in regional languages, or coming from countries abroad and specially the Subcontinent. These films express the growing artistic and commercial fellowship in this part of the world. Another dispatch from India you will not want to miss reading

The Editor invites new subscriptions

Monday, May 11, 2015


Gurvinder Singh with his second offering “Chauthi Koot”  (following his impressive 2011 debut with “Anhe Ghore Da Daan”),  creates a record in Cannes.  In its 68 years of being, this is the first time that this august festival will be showcasing a Punjabi film, that too, in its second to competition section,  and for many, the most key one,  Un Certain Regard. 

Director Gurvinder Singh talks to Uma da Cunha
n his journey into the personal, probing  and edgy
artistry that marks his style of filmmaking.

I was not brought up in Punjab as people may think. I am Delhi-born and raised, belonging to the migrant Punjabi communities that moved there after Partition.  
My initial interest – more like obsession  -  was in photography and painting.  I read books on painting avidly, collected photographs, looked at  acclaimed work from abroad: Cartier-Bresson, for instance.

 It was when I studied Mass Communications at Pune University that I was introduced to films, watching them at the National Archives. I saw Luis Buñuel’s films there and his brilliant, crazed look at life was a revelation. I knew then that films too could reflect the artistry of photography.

I  joined the Film and Television Institute in Pune and found the teaching standards  frustrating even if we saw good cinema. But it is here that I got to work with my subsequent mentor, Mani Kaul. I had earlier read the book ‘Abhed Akash’, in Hindi,  which contained a series of interviews with him by Udayan Bajpai.  To imbibe its philosophical depth  more thoroughly,  I translated it into English.  It took a year, during which I communicated with Mani Kaul on email.

In 1999,  Mani Kaul  asked me to be his teaching assistant at a four month FTII course he was conducting. There were just ten students. The way this great master approached each one as a distinct individual molded me as well. He told us that we should recognize and respect our duality;  that it was our shortcomings that that made us different from one another; and he urged us to realize, understand  and express our unique identity  in our scripts and filming.  

Three years in Mumbai followed but I found the city too claustrophobic, too noisy, too big. I moved to Pune.  Now, after Cannes,  I want to live in my cottage in Himachal Pradesh and commute to Pune when needed.

I came to imbibe the spirit and character of Punjab when I spent four years wandering at will in various areas of that region. Village to village, I lived with Dalits, traditional street and stage performers and  folk singers.  I saw the striking caste divisions. The low caste live in the periphery. There are two Gurdwaras, one for the high caste and one for the low. There is a silent boundary that demarcates and shapes the lives of the two.  I made documentaries from this sojourn.

 Still from "Chauthi Koot"

My scripts are shaped by literary work. “Chauthi Koot” is an amalgam of  two short stories. My debut film was based on a novel. But I  write my own scripts. I always use actors from Punjab, either theatre actors or new faces. They know and feel the language and the thinking. There are so many dialects in Punjab. An actor from Mumbai , however adept and trained, will never have that natural, familiar, visceral authenticity.  The dialect in my new film is  Majhi, spoken in the belt around Amritsar and Lahore.

My first film “Anhe Ghore Da Daan”  (Alms for a Blind Horse) was funded by NFDC. It concerns the displacement of Dalits  in rural Punjab when a landlord comes to usurp their land for industry.  I plunged into making it, instinctively, and to my way of thinking. What interests me is images and sound and how the two integrate.  The film released commercially for a week in Mumbai, Delhi, Ludhiana and Jalandhar. People still  see it – in pirated versions. 

My second film “Chauthi Koot”  is set in the post 1984 Blue Star operation years. It is fifty percent funded by NFDC,  with Sunil Doshi contributing as well. The rest is from European backing.  It was hard getting it though, in spite of the film winning the Paris Project award at the 10th Hong Kong Film festival.

My scripts are spare,  not more than 30 pages as against the usual 100 or more. Funders back off thinking there isn’t enough meat in the story. But filming lies in elaborating and visualizing reality. A brief paragraph in a film can make for a 15-minute compelling scene. I improvise all the time seeing the place and space where I am shooting. I ask my actors to forget written lines and express what they feel.

However the support and guidance from my European backers was a boon.  They never interfered with my writing or my filming. I benefited with Olivia Stewart  being my script mentor and Catherine Dussart  selflessly nurturing the film’s promotion. I was able to handle my sound quality (for me a scene works only when the sound is right) in Paris working with the highly regarded re-recording mixer,  Bruno Tarriere.

My next film is also in Punjabi on a renowned Qawali singer. After that, I may perhaps look beyond Punjab.

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