The 25th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) that was inaugurated on November 8, is buzzing with the excitement of cinephiles. Celebrating its silver jubilee, the festival will for the first time be screening films on celluloid by reintroducing 35 mm projection system.
The 25th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) opened its curtains on November 8 with a star-studded inaugural event graced by the presence of Bollywood actor and brand ambassador of West Bengal, Shah Rukh Khan, former Indian cricket captain and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly accompanied by yesteryear Bollywood actress Rakhee Gulzar, Bollywood film maker Mahesh Bhatt along with foreign film personalities including German filmmaker Volker Sclöndorff, Slovakian filmmaker Dusan Hanak and American actress Andie MacDowell.
The inauguration also saw the release of the festival brochure and launch of a website on 100 years of Bengali cinema. The inaugural movie of the festival was Satyajit Ray’s digitally restored Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne which is celebrating its 50th year.
“Celluloid is so important for our times. It should be restored and kept as museum quality art. Particularly Ray’s films, which I’m so grateful to have been exposed to,” said MacDowell at the inauguration.
On the second day during a press conference for a masterclass she expressed, “I am very fortunate to attend the 25th Kolkata International Film Festival. I had a long time dream to visit India. I felt like I had a connection to this country. I have watched lots of documentaries about your country. I watched Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy and The Music room and Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara.” She also spoke on how it is important for people to recognise the importance of this art form, the power of cinema as she says, “for instance when I watch Ray’s movies, I learned about what it feels like to be a woman in India, what it feels to be in a family in India in the past. And if you watch Bollywood movies now , you understand the present time and I think these messages are really important for us to understand each other too and make positive connections.”
Focus country: Germany
The silver jubilee celebration of the festival has once again Germany as the focus country as it had in its first year. With a bouquet of 42 films, there are nine categories with one being on early Indo-German co-productions; The Adventure of Prince Achmed, the oldest surviving animation film from 1926 and German classics like Nosferatu, Dr Mabuse and Metropolis.
“Germany is a world leader in technology. One of the nine categories is early Indo-German co-productions. Shiraz: A Romance of India (1928), Prapanch Pash: A Throw of Dice (1929) and Achhut Kanya (1936) will be shown,” said Vivek Kumar, director general of KIFF and principal secretary of the information and cultural affairs department. “Some of the oldest Indian films were shot by German filmmakers Osten and Josef Wirsching who were part of the core team that started Bombay Talkies,” said Friso Maecker, director of Goethe Institut.
The most intriguing section of the festival named Retrospective also features legendary German director Alexander Kluge along with another Slovak director Dusan Hanak.
Future of the Individual
The celebrated Satyajit Ray memorial lecture at the KIFF 2019 saw the noted Indian filmmaker Kumar Shahani, who is a pioneer of the ‘Indian New Wave’ and was responsible for the development of the ideology which was vastly different from the aesthetics of mainstream cinema, speak on ‘Future of the Individual’.
He shared his views regarding cinema and how the future of the individuals may be threatened. “Making of films is always an act of courage, without that you can’t make a film. You can at best narrate something visually but that is not enough,” he said. He recounted how at his recent visit to Pingyao International Film Festival in China, he noticed that the young generation are more sensitive to questions of cinema.
Speaking about Bengali cinema, he says, “My memories about Bengali cinemas are too extensive to be summarised. But one thing that keeps occurring to me is that the potential is so great as they have been brought up on these great artists like Tagore. I look at Kolkata and always go back crying as not enough is being done for this.” He also spoke about Pather Panchali which he first watched when he was in school and later it presented to him the idea of alternative to mainstream cinemas. He extensively mentioned about the influence of noted Bengali filmmaker and script writer Ritwik Ghatak, his mentor.
Speaking about the future of individuals, he says, “People have to be free, their imagination needs to be allowed to wander especially the young people. Young people have a right to imagine and make a new world for us. So young people need to be freed, they should be empowered in every way to dance freely.”
The eight day festival (November 8-15) is screening 366 movies from 76 countries at 17 venues across the city. It includes two 3D movies to be shown at KIFF for the first time along with 10 films of 35 mm projection format and eight restored classics celebrating their 50th years.