The Ninth Osian's Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema organized by Osian's Connoisseurs of Art, New Delhi, showcased around 140 films from more than 35 countries in the capital. The feature-packed Festival, existing for ten days, was inaugurated with the premiere of Babak Shirinshefat's film ‘Raami’, a co-production of Iran and Azerbaijan and concluded with the screening of ‘Cut and Paste’ by Egypt's Hala Khalil, who was also a member of the Asian-Arab Competition jury. Renowned critic and author Tadao Sato of Japan was conferred the annual Lifetime Achievement Award for promotion of Asian cinema. Sato is currently the President of the Japan Academy of Moving Images and Director of the Focus on Asia Fukuoka International Film Festival.
The Festival, tagged as 'Recreating Cinematic Culture', had a Focus on films from Japan to mark the Indo-Japan Friendship Year, with a tribute to Kenji Mizoguchi, besides a ‘benshi’ performance – the first of its kind in India – as homage to Kenji Mizoguchi. Benshi was used with silent films with an off-screen narrator – the benshi – telling the story and sometimes speaking for onscreen characters. The festival screened Mizoguchi's silent masterpiece, ‘The Water Magician’ made in the year 1933, with a narration by one of the world's leading benshi, Ms Yuko Saito.
A number of Indian films like Prabhakar Shukla's “Kahani Gudiyaa Ki” starring Divya Dutta, Seema Biswas and Asif Zakaria; Arindam Mitra's ‘Shoonya’ starring Kay Kay Menon and Tulip Joshi; Arindam Nandy's ‘Via Darjeeling’ starring Kay Kay Menon and Sonali Kulkarni; Rajat Kapoor's ‘Mithya’ starring Ranveer Sheorey and Neha Dhupia; Suhail Tatari's ‘Bhairavi’ starring Priya Gill; Navdeep Singh's ‘Manorma Six Feet Under’ starring Abhay Deol, Gul Panag and Sarika; Shivajee Chandrabhushan's ‘Frozen’ starring Danny Denzongpa; Rajeevnath's ‘Anubhav’ starring Sanjay Suri and Gul Panag; Anish Ahluwalia's ‘Kya Tum Ho’ starring Rajit Kapoor and Joy Sengupta; Nanda Anand's ‘Return To Rajapur’ starring Manoj Bajpai and last but not the least Anand Rai's ‘Strangers’ starring Jimmy Sheirgill, Kay Kay Menon, Nandana Sen and Sonali Kulkarni were premiered at the Ninth Osian's Cinefan.
The Silhouettes section consisted of eight films from different countries, including two films from India. It had stories with women as central characters. Both the Indian films – ‘Maati Maay’ and ‘Kahani Gudiyaa Ki’ – were by Chitra Palekar. The regular sections were Cross-Cultural Encounters, Frescoes (of Asian and Arab films), In-Tolerance and Indian Mosaic for the best of the previous year's productions.
The scenario of the festival apart, the award for the Best Film in the Asian-Arab Competition went to ‘Desert Dream’ directed by Zhang Lu for the conviction with which Zhang Lu depicted the contemporary crisis of our time. Lotfi Abdeli received the Best Actor award for his role as cinematographer cum director in Nouri Bouzid's Tunisian film ‘Making Of’. It was so for managing to be fragile, vulnerable, stubborn, confused and cocky, all of which were conglomerated to create a character of immense complexity. The film also proved lucky enough to win the Special Jury award.
Cherry Pie Picache received the Best Actress award for her portrayal of the character of Thelma, the foster mother with a performance that managed to make even a fictional story look very much like a slice of life! ‘Foster Child’ from Philippines directed by Brillante Mendoza, is about orphaned children who are sent to foster homes before adoption.
The Iranian film ‘Lonesome Trees’ by Saeed Ebrahimifar subjected on the loneliness of senior citizens was awarded the Special Jury Award in the Asian Arab Section for its very quiet and lyrical depiction of a family that is trying very hard to capture memory and history. It shared the award with the film “Making of”, which won it for its bold theme dealing with the issues of fundamentalism and terror in a manner that is personal yet reaching out to the world in an extremely original way.
In the Indian Competition section, the Award for the Best Indian film went to the Tamil movie ‘Paruthiveeran’ directed by Ameer Sultan. It got selected for its strong narrative that allowed reality to be played out cinematically and rendered with visual energy to connect with a wider audience. Priyamani bagged the best actress award for that film for an intense and vivid portrayal of a character driven by obsessive love and also for her prowess in a broad range of acting.
Kay Kay Menon won the Best Actor award for his role in ‘Shoonya’ for his searing and restrained presentation of a character whose struggle to overcome personal vulnerability becomes an allegory of a nation in search of its conscience and values. ‘Shoonya’ explores the guilt, honour, and paranoia of a cricketer.
The first feature-length film, ‘Frozen’ (Hindi), to be shot in the icy and hostile regions of Ladakh, received a Special Jury Award for pushing boundaries on various levels including cinematographic, political, psychological and geographical to create an excellently innovative cinematic experience that has universal appeal.
Since Festival President Aruna Vasudev felt it "would not be fair to put first features in a competition which has films by veterans", a three member International Jury was separately constituted for First Feature films. ‘Woven Stories of the Other’ about an inter-tribal war and the threat of extinction won the Best Film Award for debutante Sherad Anthony Sanchez of the Philippines.
The First Features Jury also made a Special Mention for the Iraq-Kurdistan co-production ‘Crossing the Dust’ made against the backdrop of the American intervention in Iraq by Shawkat Amin Korki .
The Network for Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) Jury chose the Malaysian film ‘Dancing Bells’ by Deepak Kumaran Menon, which look at social and urban issues confronting ethnic Indians who also face racial segregation, as the Best Film for portraying the multifarious reality of life of a marginalized metropolitan community in a simple linear cinematic narrative constructed through scrupulously captured segments of the daily routine of a single parent family and its close associates.
The International Critics Award by the FIPRESCI jury has gone to Thailand's ‘Ploy’ by Pen-ek Ratanaruang from the Asian-Arab Competition section which is a psychological tale of persons locked inside one hotel room for its subtle and beguiling representation of fantasy, sexuality, risk, and renewal in a contemporary urban context evoked with great skill.
-Jyothi Venkatesh (SAMPURN)