Kenyan film Rafiki explores the lesbian relationship between Kena and Zikki. As homosexuality is illegal in Kenya, the film was banned and it was after a spirited battle that filmmaker Wanuri Kahiu was able to get approval for its screening from Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB). Rafiki became the first movie from Kenya to be selected to the Cannes Film Festival and now movie buffs in Thiruvananthapuram can look forward to watching it as the 23rd International Film Festival of Kerala kicks off today.
There was a question mark on the festival after the state decided to do cost-cutting but the Kerala Chalachitra Academy decided to go ahead with the fest minus the usual grand opening. It has put together an ensemble of over 160 films from 72 countries to be screened over the next six days. Out of 10,000 delegate passes prepared, 7000 have found takers.
Noted Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi, who is a familiar figure to festival buffs, brings his controversial film, Muhammad- The messenger of God that deals with the childhood of Prophet Muhammad to the fest. The film shot in 2015 film couldn’t be screened in the last edition after the Union Information and Braodcasting Ministry denied censor exemption for the film. Majidi will not only be the Jury Chairman for the International Competition category at this year’s IFFK but also will be honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
According to Kamal, chairman of the Kerala Chalachitra Academy, this year’s IFFK will begin by screening Everybody Knows, the Iranian film that opened the 71st Cannes Film Festival. “It is a Spanish psychological thriller directed by Asghar Farhadi. We chose this film taking into account his popularity among the festival crowd. He was the first filmmaker from Iran to win an Oscar for his film A Separation.”
Apart from the opening film, the IFFK will also become the venue for 25 films that will have Indian premieres and three Asian premieres. French film Foxtrot by Venice International Film Festival Golden Lion winner Samuel Maoz, Tel Aviv On Fire by Sameh Zoabi and Rojo by Argentinean filmmaker Benjamin Naishtat will be screened for the first time in India.
“As the delegates have paid `2,000 for the pass, it becomes our responsibility to ensure that they have a worthy visual experience,” says H Shaji, deputy director of the festival. “Compared with last year, we have more films this time in the World Cinema section. There was awareness about what Kerala went through, so we could collect the prints at affordable prices.”
The denizens of IFFK will have their usual share of Kim Ki-duk films besides quality films from Asameese, Bengali and Iranian languages. The national award-winning film, Sinjar from Lakshadweep, will also be screened. On December 8, at midnight, fantasy horror film Tumbbad will be screened at Nishagandhi.
A special package, ‘Celebrating Ingmar Bergman’ with eight of the Swedish maestro’s films will be screened as the year marks his centenary celebrations. Another tribute will be to the Czech-American filmmaker Milos Forman, who passed away this year.
Theme of rebuilding
As reported by us earlier, rebuilding will be a theme of this year’s IFFK. Under ‘The Human Spirit: Films on Hope and Rebuilding’, a total of six national and international films will be screened. Director Jayaraj’s film, Vellapokkathil which is based on Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai’s short story of the same title, will form part of this section. The movie is set in the backdrop of the 1924 floods and is about a pet dog Appu who gets abandoned by his owner.
Unending queues of delegates has been a familiar sight at IFFK editions over the years. This year, the organisers have found a solution by facilitating a film coupon system for the delegates to watch their favourite flicks without waiting for hours.
Kamal explains how this will work: “In IFFK 40 per cent seats are unreserved. To get these, delegates have to wait for hours prior to the screening. Sometimes they go back disappointed. From this year, coupons will be made available two hours prior to the show so that those interested can procure them and get into the theatre without waiting.” Passes that are valid for three days will also be issued on the spot for those who couldn’t register in advance.