A world of cinema

133 films from 53 countries. Plus, the Indian Panorama. Plus, Tamil films in competition. The 9th Chennai International Film Festival has it all.

Long before a film festival prints its official bulletin – that thumb-thick catalogue with glossy pictures and synopses to help you decide which 11 a.m. screening is likely to prove most rewarding – the committee prepares a rough-and-ready document for private consumption. Scrolling through this document is like leafing through an alphabetic atlas, from Albania (with a sole entry, Buyar Alimani’s Amnesty) to USA/Canada (Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, Gus Van Sant’s Restless, Brad Furman’s The Lincoln Lawyer, Larysa Kondracki’s The Whistleblower and Michael Greenspan’s Wrecked). The cinema is international in more ways than one – from all over the world, certainly, but also all over the place. The 9th Chennai International Film Festival, open from December 14 through 22, isn’t just a shrine for the meditative art movie. It also features a legal thriller starring Matthew McConaughey, who, as if in deference to the occasion, keeps his shirt on. Throughout. Finally we know what Kubrick meant when he called the screen a magic medium.

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More of the supernatural arrives via Dominik Moll’s The Monk, where the titular ascetic forswears his vow of chastity and finds himself dealing with Satan in female form. Wait a minute. This synopsis sounds almost – dare we use this word in the context of a film festival? – entertaining. Where are the films that are the equivalent of a day at a countryside spa, rejuvenating the mind and chasing away the toxins accumulated from the multiplexes the rest of the year? Those films arrive in the form of a Hsiao-hsien Hou retrospective. The polarising Taiwanese auteur (all those long takes with a static camera, signifying either nothing at all or the thrum of the universe itself) will be represented in the World Cinema section with A Summer at Grandpa’s; Good Men, Good Women; Goodbye South Goodbye; Daughter of the Nile; Café Lumiere –the first two are impossible to see anywhere but in film festivals.

The other retrospective honours the Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki (not to be confused with his brother Mika Kaurismäki, also a filmmaker, responsible for the irresistibly titled Zombie and the Ghost Train), with six films – Le Havre, I Hired a Contract Killer, Leningrad Cowboys Go America, Shadows in Paradise, Calamari Union and Rikos Ja Rangaistus, an adaptation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment. The Country Focus section will shine a spotlight on films from Egypt and Iran, and the other segments include focuses on French, German and Hungarian cinema. With so much to choose from, the audience can be left feeling like a hungry man at a smorgasbord of unfamiliar cuisine, but here’s a sampling of appetisers – Angelo Cianci’s Top Floor Left Wing (French), Asghar Farhadi’s A Separation (Persian), Ulrich Köhler’s Sleeping Sickness (German), the Dardenne brothers’ The Kid with a Bike (French), Lech Majewski’s The Mill and the Cross (English, Spanish) and Nani Moretti’s We Have a Pope (Italian). All you need to bring along is an appetite.

An edited version of this piece can be found here.

Copyright ©2011 The Hindu. This article may not be reproduced in its entirety without permission. A link to this URL, instead, would be appreciated.

11 thoughts on “A world of cinema

  1. I have a general questions about these festivals. If the grand objective is to promote/celebrate/share great art should’nt the audience be given sufficient time in between film viewings to digest/debate and let the experience sink in? Whereas with this kind of cramming, it is difficult to remember the finer points of the first film(unless you are religiously jotting down everything, in which case too you are losing out a bit on the experience) by the time you are finished with the third film. Kind of like dining at Saravana Bhavan, Sangeethas and Woodlands within a 8-hr span


  2. Of course I understand you cant screen 133 films over that many days, but still..they could trim it down a bit


  3. CIFF has got a pretty formidable line up, at least compared to BIFFES and considering they are not even 10 years old. (LA HAVRE? That’s rich. Even IFFK didn’t get that)

    Hoping to read a coverage later. BTW, I was expecting that you’d be attending IFFI. Did you? A recommendation or three to readers for CIFF or other upcoming fests would be beneficial.

    I miss Part of the Picture now more than ever. Sigh.


  4. vijay: I look at it as a way to have a bite from each dish in a lavish spread, so know what’s out there. What the style of filmmaking in Iran is. What this director is all about. What that actor is all about. Nobody can see ALL these films — just like nobody can work their way through an entire buffet. And once you get a taste, you come back and develop it on your own — as in, catch up with more films of that director, that actor. Actually I;m going to develop this thought in next week’s column. Thanks.

    JAFB: Nope. Couldn’t go to IFFI. I guess now that CIFF is here, IFFI becomes a bit redundant as a lot of the films overlap. Yeah, I miss writing Part of the Picture too :-)


  5. Wasn’t it The Hindu’s opposition that led to Sengadal being pulled out of the panorama?
    All self-respecting Tamils will boycott this elitist affair presented by the anti-Tamil, anti-Eezham, anti-Dravidian, anti-fishermen, pseudosocialist, pseudosecular, pseudowhatnot China worshiping Rajapakse fawner :evil:


  6. Hi
    I have been to Goa film festival and the official website of IFFI-Ga publish
    their daily bulletin in pdf format everyday.

    But in CIFF the website made the announcement (read below) saying that
    CIFF daily bulletin can be downloaded every day. But when you click the below link


    the bulletins were not found and I feet that it was not uploaded by the
    concerned who manage the website. I was also unable to bring this notice
    to concerned authorities of CIFF as there was no contact details / feedback
    forms available in the official web-site of CIFF

    9th CIFF Daily Bulletin

    The daily Bulletin CIFF DAILY will be available in all 4 venues during all 9 days of the festival. The Pre Fest Edition will be released during the 2nd Curtain Raiser press meet on the 12 Dec 2011. Students of the Dept of Visual Communication, The New College, work on this news bulletin which will also have a page in Tamil. Online copies may be downloaded here.


  7. @brangan…Could you kindly enlighten me why Aaranya Kandam is not included in tamil section . Did it make an appearance at the previous year’s festival , Considering it was released this year i guess its unlikely or it was over looked for commercial fare. Surprised Adaminte Abu also didn’t make the cut for a showing even though it was nominated


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