We all used
to think that John Lennon was a dreamer. After all, how can you
"imagine there's no countries"? Well, it's not that far-fetched.
In the last months before he died in Sept 2003, Palestinian academic
and commentator, Edward Said, gave an extensive interview which
resulted in the film, Selves and Others: A Portrait of Edward
Said. In it, Said argues that one should stop thinking about borders
and nationalism. He points to himself, born a Palestinian, lived
a lot of his childhood in Egypt and who made his home in America.
His view of the world is that everyone is still arriving, migrating
and crossing borders. So imagine humanity instead of countries.
Said revealed that he stopped
giving TV interviews after 9/11.
He said that the longest TV interviews
lasted three minutes and you always
only had less than a minute
to answer some stereotypical,
I have been
tracking this film for the last two years and kept missing it
everywhere I went. At the 7th Osian's CineFan Asian Film Festival
(July 15-24) in New Delhi, the audience felt that way as well.
The first screening took place half-an-hour before the scheduled
time (due to a misprint). Yet the cinema was packed. Then it was
repeated the next day in a larger hall to accommodate the fans
and it was packed yet again. Cinema-goers were taking notes as
if they were attending a lecture.
Fawzi's I Love Cinema
definitely one of the great minds before his untimely death and
his warnings about the world today resonate even in this film.
Director Emmanuel Hamon spent several weeks with Said and covered
his nomadic childhood, his groundbreaking book, Orientalism, and
the ongoing Middle-eastern crisis. Interestingly, Said revealed
that he stopped giving TV interviews after 9/11. He said that
the longest TV interviews lasted three minutes and you always
only had less than a minute to answer some stereotypical, nonsensical
question. He also had this reminder for the mass media: "The role
of the intellectual is never to justify power. The intellectual's
role is to challenge power with alternative models and perspective."
Kanungo's Reaching Silence
film was only one in a larger sidebar on Arab Cinema called Arabesque,
which this festival has championed. Others included Oussame Fawzi's
brilliant I Love Cinema, which through the eyes of a boy growing
up in '60s Cairo, humorously tells us the changing attitudes towards
freedom of expression and religion. Yasmine Kassari's The Sleeping
Child, looks at an archaic Morroccan Muslim practice of keeping
a pregnancy from reaching its full cycle. It's a challenging look
at the price women pay in a patriarchal society.
also had a very large selection of new Indian films, both in and
out of competition. In fact, many of the 23 titles were premieres.
The Best Indian Film went to Jahar Kanungo's Reaching Silence,
about a yuppie who suddenly cannot tolerate noise and then begins
a search for silence. Among the interesting non-winners were Rajkumar
Bhan's Behind the Mirror, which looks at a grandmother's influence
on a young boy to become a traditional painter and Santosh Sivan's
eye-opening Nine Emotions which reveals a traditional festival
Bhan's Behind The Mirror
also dominated through a Tribute to the master filmmaker, Satyajit
Ray with a handful of restored prints. What is striking is that
even today, Pather Panchali drew a massive crowd with fans sitting
along the aisles and blocking exits. The Closing Film was Buddhadeb
Das Gupta's Memories in the Mist, which again extends the director's
humanist world view and mankind's capacity to love, but looks
like it will benefit from a re-edit. The film was completed just
in time for the festival's closing.
Sivan's Nine Emotions
120 features covering the length and breadth of Asian cinema including
a retrospective of Taiwanese master, Hou Hsiao-hsien, a focus
on Asian Martial Arts film (extending into even Indonesia), a
tribute to the European-Asian distributor, Fortissimo and a spotlight
on the Fonds Sud film fund for filmmakers in the South; the festival
also had time for a daily seminar series. Called IBM2 (Infrastructure
Building for Minds and Markets), the four-day panel series is
the brainchild of festival chairman, Neville Tuli, who wants to
explore the different cycles and processes that make up the film
the festival had its highest number of films shown and increased
its audience size. But its idealism remained intact. On the final
night, Festival Director Aruna Vasudev repeated her call that
film festivals in India should not be subjected to censorship.
The Chief Minister, who was in the audience, immediately offered
a meeting on the issue. It was a moment that Edward Said would
have been happy about.