The Indian Indie in Eastern Europe: Transilvania International Film Festival
Boglarka Nagy, a film writer and festival programmer from Romania writes on Indian movies at the Transilvania International Film Festival, Cluj, Romania, 3-12. June 2011.
One of the major film events in Eastern Europe is the Transilvanian International Film Festival in Cluj, Romania, that throughout its existence of ten years has brought many highlights of the international film scene to a city of 3,50,000 people who may not have had another chance otherwise to welcome directors and actors like Catherine Deneuve, Wim Wenders, Michael Radford, Julie Delpy and Harvey Keitel. But these names are not the real value of this film festival for the Romanians, it’s rather getting to know about what goes on in the film industry across the world and to let the international professionals know about the lately more and more popular Romanian cinema – this is though generally valid for most big film festivals: they are a way of film distribution plus a promotion factor of the local film industry.
The fact of covering a Romanian film festival as a Hungarian/Romanian film critic for an Indian world cinema site should make me capable as a mediator to communicate something more and different about this event; and 2011 was the year to mark a change in comparison to earlier International Transilvania Film Festival editions from an Indian point of view. Usually TIFF’s international selection presents many (Northern and Western) European and South American productions, but Asia was mainly represented by South Korean and Japanese cinema, occasionally adding to the mix some movies from the Middle East. With the political turmoil related to the oppression of Iranian film makers and their freedom of expression, Jafar Panahi, Abbas Kiarostami and their peers got more popular in the festival circuit, but India well known for its Bollywood productions didn’t get much attention from the programmers so far.
There have been showcased a few productions like the Bollywood hit Om Shanti Om or Gabhricha Paus, representing the Marathi cinema or last year a 3×3 special on Anurag Kashyap’s work, but never a really consistent selection on the country’s art house or indie cinema. This year it happened for the first time that the locals got a taste of the “attack of the Indian indie” as a friend expressed. However, Indian cinema generally was represented in different sections of the festival: in the International competition of first and second features through Srinivas Sunderrajan’s The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project, in Supernova for directors and movies that have already get some prestige in the festival circuit through Sudhish Kamath’s Good Night| Good Morning and Vishal Bhardwaj’s 7 Sins Forgiven, in EducaTIFF – a film and media education project through I am Kalam by Nila Madhab Panda and in Wasted Youth – a new section containing movies of young directors that have chosen to tell a rebellious story of today’s youth through Q’s Gandu. It’s quite understandable that the Indian movies that participated didn’t form a separate category in the form of a Focus India (the festival focuses every year on two countries, this time it was Focus Portugal and Focus Belgium), since they were so different and powerful, but every one of them in a different way!
Of all the films Gandu might have got most of the attention; because Q didn’t come alone, he also performed a dynamic concert of the film score for the public. The movie might have disappointed those who didn’t take a closer look at its description and expected to enter a song-and-dance production. Actually there was music; hence the Gandu Circus concert, but it lacked all kind of romantic kitsch elements and idealistic scenery. Unexpectedly direct and funny, critical and plain-spoken, Gandu definitely was one of the most appealing movies at the festival.
The first Indian movie ever in competition in Transilvania, Srinivas Sunderrajan’s The Untitled Kartik Krishnan Project gave an extra understanding of guerilla film making and led the discussions into a more theoretical domain as the film explains what it could mean for a movie to be “larger than logic”: to be a movie, the making of it, and the interpretation of it, in one, all of these existing just as different levels of “reality” in the same story. It wasn’t meant to shock people, it was rather witty and funny and ironic that would touch most spectators.
Good Night|Good Morning won the sympathy of the public instantly. It might present the stereotypes of cinematic love stories and illustrate the eight phases that characterize any real love story, it might restrict the action part to a long night of telephone discussion, but the fast paced dialogues and the situation anyone could identify with didn’t leave any time for boredom.
If I were to find the common thread of these three independent movies, it might be the use of black and white and the restraint in using most storytelling facilities as to express an opposition to a cinema of exuberance and fakeness. They give a refreshing new take on a country well known for its film industry, changing the view of Romanians or other festival attendants on a rich and varied culture and cinema.
Now, if I would have the chance, I’d like to ask an Indian film critic to take the position of another mediator and give the other side of this exchange by giving a point of view on Romania and Romanian cinema as seen in the Transilvania International Film Festival or elsewhere.