For the first time at the Kolkata International Film Festival, a competitive section on films by women directors has been introduced. Thirteen exciting films by 13 directors, each from a different region, would fight it out for the Golden Royal Bengal Tiger statuette and a cash prize of Rs 51 lakh, the highest for any film festival in India.
A committee comprising director Sandip Ray and actor Dipankar Day shortlisted the 13 after viewing the 72 films which had been entered for selection. The chosen films are as follows:
Tales by the Iranian director, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad
Eyes of a Thief by the Palestinian director, Najwa Najjar
The Rice Bomber by the Taiwanese director, Cho Li
Italo Barocco by the Italian director, Alessia Scarso
Cure: The Life of Another by the Swiss director, Andrea Staka
Ciudad Delirio by the Columbian director, Chus Gutierrez
40 Days of Silence by the Uzbek director, Saodat Ismailova
Self Made from the Israeli director, Shira Geffen
Supernova by the Dutch director, Tamar van den Dop
Delight by the Czech director, Jitka Rudolfova
Maneater by the French director, Natalie Saracco
A Place Called Home by the Greek director, Maria Douza
Chhoti Moti Batein by the Indian director, Sohini Dasgupta
Tales: Tales is a film on seven lives and the kind of people who live under hard but not exceptional social conditions, similar to many other members of society. It's a story about men and women of every strata, about their passion and love, about their hopes to overcome life's difficulties – whether universal struggles or any other social or emotional issue. Their continuing fights bear a better future for them – a life that is full of love and enjoyment.
Scene from Tales; director Rakhshan Bani-Etemad
Eyes of a Thief: Tareq is released from an Israeli prison and returns to his hometown in Palestine, a place transformed by drastic changes and filled with secrets, to find his daughter. As secrets are uncovered, light is shed on the stifling nature of contemporary Palestinian society, revealing Tareq's hidden past.
Scene from Eyes of a Thief; director Najwa Najjar
The Rice Bomber: In the late 1980s, Taiwan officially joined WTO and therefore encouraged industrial development while putting less importance on country's agricultural production. This resulted in vast lands laid fallow and abandoned ones turned into industrial landfills. Ru, who has been witnessing all and fighting tirelessly going door to door with the hope of amending Taiwan's agricultural policies but in vain, decides to voice up in his own way: a rice bomb is found in a park in Taipei with a note attached – "Against rice importing. The government should look after its people."
Scene from The Rice Bomber; director Cho Li
Italo Barocco: Based on a true story, Italo Barocco vividly depicts the life-altering friendship between an extraordinary dog and a lonely child. One day, a good-natured stray dog by the name of Italo, wanders into the small Sicilian town of Scicli, where stray dogs are thrown into pounds. Only Meno, a precociously wise 10-year-old, who is as lonely and introverted as can be, takes him in. It will take all the unconditional love a special dog like Italo to force Meno out of his shell, leading him into a series of adventures that will teach him the difference between acting like a grown-up and actually becoming one.
Scene from Italo Barocco; director Alessia Scarso
Cure: The Life of Another: 1993, after the Siege of Dubrovnik: 14-year-old Linda has moved back to Croatia from Switzerland with her father. Her new best friend Eta takes her up to the forbidden forest above the city. They get entangled in an obsessive, sexually charged game of swapping identities that leads to a fatal fall. The following morning Linda comes back alone; slowly she begins to take Eta’s place in her family. Ivo, Eta's boyfriend, is drawn in as well. Linda threatens to lose her footing, entrapped in another world where Eta keeps coming back to confront her with herself.
Scene from Cure; director Andrea Staka
Ciudad Delirio: Javier, a Spanish physician, is exhausted of his life, when on a magical night he meets Angie, dancer and owner of a salsa school, who aspires to be a part of RAVE, the world's most famous salsa spectacle. Now between the two a seemingly impossible romance sets off, full of obstacles, in the world of salsa dancers in a town where dancing is the goal, the be-all and end-all of life.
Scene from Ciudad Delirio; director Chus Gutierrez
40 Days of Silence: Surrounded by high mountains in an isolated village of Central Asia, Bibicha is a young woman who suddenly refuses to speak, and conceals herself from villagers in the house of her grandmother Khanjarmomo. Khanjarmomo lives with her illegally-born granddaughter, Sharifa; they both support Bibicha in her vow of 40 days of silence, which she carries out in the hope of being rejoined by her recently disappeared lover. Yet Khanjarmomo doubts the girl's motives: is the vow really for the sake of her beloved, or is she trying to hide an illicit pregnancy?
Scene from 40 Days of Silence; director Saodat Ismailova
Self Made: Michal, a renowned Jerusalemite artist, is suffering from memory loss due to falling from bed. She orders a new bed that has a screw missing. She complains to the furniture factory, leading to the dismissal of Nadine, a young Palestinian woman, who works packing screws in plastic bags. Their fates cross once again uncannily, leading to a swapping of their lives, when secrets get revealed.
Scene from Self Made; director Shira Geffen
Supernova: Meis lives with her working-class parents and a silent grandmother in a dilapidated house surrounded by fields. A country road that makes a 90-degree turn right in front of their doorstep means they all are waiting for a car crash to happen. Meis dreams of a young car driver called Brad whom she would like to take care of and maybe have sex with. During one of Meis' forbidden, dangerous nocturnal visits to the half-bridge, her dream comes true.
Scene from Supernova; director Tamar van den Dop
Delight: The film’s main theme is obsession. An obsession with love, art, originality, copying, success, money and… with oneself. Sooner or later, if we lose our rational upper hand, we would let ourselves be dragged down to destruction. But in this course of falling, in spite of all the cuts and bruises, we find a unique DELIGHT, if only for a few short moments – and what else is life really about? It is like a drug – at first what seems to be weak and trivial is capable of expanding and growing into a serious problem that can appear to be absolutely incomprehensible and absurd to those who have never experienced anything like it.
Scene from Delight; director Jitka Rudolfova
Maneater: Jezabel is a young, seductive, free and rebel woman, who hungers for extreme life experiences until she finds herself very close to hitting rock bottom. She refuses to believe in the human and to be self-confident. As a real modern-day Mary Magdalene, she hides her fragility and her fear to love behind the fact that she constantly stretches the limits of transgression. Until the day her path bumps into David, a young priest.
Scene from Maneater; director Natalie Saracco
A Place Called Home: Eleni, a professor of cardiology in London, has been estranged from her father, Kyriakos, for many years. Kyriakos has never forgiven her for leaving her country. When Eleni's husband, Harris, is posted to China on an open-ended contract, she realises the danger of a new uprooting and decides to visit Greece and make peace with her father. But when she reaches home, nothing she finds is as she expected. Nina, a woman from Serbia, is living with Kyriakos, looking after him and his big estate. It seems Kyriakos has been keeping a few secrets of his own
Scene from A Place Called Home; director Maria Douza
Chhoti Moti Batein: Chhoti Moti Batein is a film inspired by a real-life incident where two unmarried sisters shut themselves up in their flat after their father's death. The film delves into the cocoon created by the sisters and how they start rediscovering the space, the time, relationships and themselves.
Scene from Chhoti Moti Batein; director Sohini Dasgupta
The jury for deciding the winner comprises five well-known international film personalities, of whom one is an Indian, the director and actor Amol Palekar. It is headed by the eminent Australian director, Paul Cox. The others are Niki Karimi, Iranian actress, director, and screenwriter, Na Renhua, Chinese actress and producer, and the Georgian director, Nino Kirtadze.
With the kind of stories and directors on show, this section promises to be a glorious feast, a well-curated peek into some of the best films by women directors in recent times. To go with the introduction of this competitive section on women directors, the theme for this year’s festival has been decided to be ‘Women in Cinema.’
L to R: Paul Cox, Niki Karimi, Na Renhua, Nino Kirtadze, Amol Palekar
Paul Cox: Madhyamam English
Niki Karimi: PressTV
Na Renhua: Chinese Films
Nino Kirtadze: Vimeo
Amol Palekar: YepMovie.com