Decolonising the mind and celebrating subversive voice


Decolonising the mind. That is the name given to a package of anti-war films at the 28th International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), set to open at the capital on Friday.

In a way, the name stands for what the film festival has been attempting to do over close to three decades. And, the current times have called for the festival to lay more stress on the fact.

Political stand

Its unapologetic political stand is also evident in how it notes in the festival booklet the country of origin of two of the films in the package as ‘Occupied Palestinian Territory’, at a time when some festivals go to comical extents to even avoid any mention of Palestine.

Yet, at the same time, the IFFK has always celebrated subversive voice, as evident in how for the second successive year it has given the Lifetime Achievement Award to a master filmmaker known for anti-Communist views, despite the festival currently being organised under the aegis of a Left government.

It was Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr last year, and Polish master Krzysztof Zanussi this year. Long-time IFFK watchers would remember the heated debate that Zanussi had with Marxist ideologue P. Govinda Pillai at the IFFK in the late 1990s.

The IFFK has always prided itself as a government and people-funded festival, with no commercial interests seeping in, unlike other major film festivals. That has reflected in the content, with its clear, unwavering focus on Third World countries.

Unique features

The open forum, one of the unique features of the festival, continues to be a platform where hard questions can still be raised, a rarity when even a silent protest against a movie, widely considered as a work of propaganda, can get delegates banned from some festivals.

But, the picture is not all rosy. For a while, it seemed that the IFFK this year would take place without an artistic director or a curator at the helm, for the first time its history.

The post had remained unfilled since last year, until French film consultant and programmer Golda Sellam was roped in at the eleventh hour as a curator. Though she admitted that it was tough to curate the films in such a short time, she seemed excited at what the team has achieved, especially with the ‘Female Gaze’ package of films by young women filmmakers from across the world.

Giving the festival more global visibility is also part of her mandate.

‘Spirit of Cinema’ award

The tone of the festival is expected to be set at the opening ceremony during which the ‘Spirit of Cinema’ award will be presented to Kenyan filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu, known for using her cinema as a struggle against the conservative values prevalent in her home country.

The International Competition this year looks formidable with the Indian films in the list too being strong contenders. Cuba will be the country in focus with six Cuban films to be screened as part of the package.

One of the highlights of the festival will be the package ‘Masterminds’ featuring the latest works of some of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, including Ken Loach, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Marco Bellocchio, Nanni Moretti, Hirokazu Kore-eda, Wim Wenders and Aki Kaurismaki.

Improving quality

The progressively improving quality of the Malayalam Cinema Today section over the years also points to the role the IFFK has played in changing the cinematic sensibilities of the young filmmakers here.

The ‘Mapping Power and Space’ package will introduce the audience to a fresh bunch of films from Latin America. William Friedkin’s horror classic The Exorcist and Malaysian director Amanda Nell Eu’s Tiger Stripes will be part of midnight screenings at the festival.

Three animated films will be screened as part of the ‘Signatures in Motion’ package. The world cinema package reflects the emerging trends and concerns from across continents.

Tribute

Four Malayalam classic films digitised and restored by the Kerala State Chalachitra Academy will be screened in the Restored Classics section. The homage section will showcase 11 films as a tribute to the film personalities who passed away during the year.

The choice of the opening film, Goodbye Julia, the debut film by Sudanese filmmaker Mohamed Kordofani, also gives a hint of one of the reigning concerns at the festival. Kordofani, who has called for a reconciliation between Sudan and South Sudan, writes in his director’s statement – “Writing this film was part of a continuous effort to get rid of inherited racism, motivated by a sense of guilt and desire for reconciliation, even if it seems late.”

It is a worthy opening for the eight day festival fostering conversations, triggering questions and building bridges.



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