By Sachin Chatte
The 47th edition of the International Film Festival of India is here. For the last successive twelve years, the festival has been a cinematic treat of the highest order for cinephiles from all over the country. It has been all the more special for film lovers in Goa – even though IFFI lasted for ten days (eight from this year), the ancillary effect was that we got a multiplex that started screening the latest Hollywood and Indian films in an ambiance that was as good as any other.
As a film lover, IFFI is like a pilgrimage – during that period, one eats and breathes cinema. You see, learn and understand so much about life – something that you may not personally experience but you can empathize with. If cinema is looked at as being something beyond just a form of entertainment it can be a richly rewarding experience.
Over the years, IFFI has given some unforgettable memories – not just some outstanding films but also an opportunity to interact and meet some of the most creative minds who have left an indelible mark on their craft.
It is not often that you get to breathe in the same space as the legendary Wong Kar Wai or have a candid chat with Kim Ki Duk, the South Korean director of memorable films like Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring, 3 Iron, Pieta.
If you love their films, it is difficult not to be in awe of them when you are face to face. Needless to say, they are film makers, not actors or actresses where there is some glamour quotient and fame involved.
While interviewing Kim Ki Duk, whose retrospective was held at IFFI in 2012, the gentleman was sitting with an interpreter in the conference hall of Entertainment Society of Goa with the calmness of a monk who never owned a Ferrari and spoke with utmost eagerness and sincerity.His personal story is inspirational – for 15 years he worked as a laborer there till he went to Paris to study Fine Arts for a couple of years at the age of 30. At the age of 41, his film Bad Guy was nominated for the Golden Bear at Berlin and that was just the beginning. Two years later he won the FIPRESCI Prize at Venice for 3 Iron and since then he has won just about every award at all the major film festivals around the world. When asked what inspired him to make films, he said something that stayed in my head – “The images in my dreams and the 9 O’clock news on television.”
It is also a revelation to talk to directors about their work and their insecurities. About the biggest challenge he faced, Kim Ki Duk said that he had spent a long time working in a factory and that gave him an inferiority complex – he thought that because of being a working class man, he could not understand or appreciate art and cinema.
An encounter with Andrey Zvyagintsev was even more interesting in terms of the way it happened. The Russian director whose film Leviathan was nominated for an Oscar and won more than 30 awards around the Globe was at IFFI in 2011 with the film Elena in the Competition Section. There was a press conference that was scheduled but the organizers couldn’t arrange for a Russian interpreter (In Goa, that should be as easy as getting a bottle of Feni). Since he was not informed of the press-con that stood cancelled he was rather disappointed. I managed to convince him that I would like to talk to him about his films even as he tried to convince me that his English was no good. His first film, The Return was a favorite, The Banishment was a good follow up and I was still trying to unravel the finer strands of Elena, a film which talks about class divides and ambitions in a unique way. Luckily, within minutes of starting a conversation, a Russian actress with reasonably good English spotted him and acted as an interpreter for us.
Philippines director Lav Diaz made two films this year, The Woman Who Left which won the Golden Lion at Venice and A Lullaby to the Sorrowful Mystery, the 8 hour film which will be screened at IFFI in two parts. But long before Lav Diaz became an internationally renowned director that he is today, he was on the International Competition jury at IFFI back in 2008. His claim to fame back then was West Side Avenue(2001) and the nine hour drama Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004). I first bumped into him at the Kala Academy men’s washroom and had a hearty chat about cinema in the canteen.
Jane Campion, the New Zealand born director settled in Australia who won an Oscar for The Piano (1993) was at IFFI in 2006 and presented her film Holy Smoke (2006), which has an Indian connection. I was in hot pursuit for an interview and finally managed to do that – in the INOX parking lot. Now it is not often that you get to meet or interview an Oscar awardee in the parking lot, do you? It is all thanks to IFFI and one can only look forward to creating such fond memories.