The 20th chapter of the Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), which began on November 10, ended on the evening of November 17 with the award felicitation ceremony. Nazrul Mancha hosted the closing ceremony.
KIFF was a grand celebration of some of the best that world cinema has to offer. Films from all over the world, representing diverse genres, made their presence felt at the festival. Along with the films, many of the directors and actors of those films were also present at the festival, making it a worthwhile international event.
Guests of honour at the opening ceremony
A new dimension
Over the years, KIFF has grown into a moderately big film festival. Fédération Internationale des Associations de Producteurs de Films, or International Federation of Film Producers Associations (FIAPF), the organisation which regulates international film festivals, has mandated that November 10-17 every year would be the dates for KIFF, and so no other film festivals can be held on these days.
This year a new much welcome dimension was added to KIFF, in that it introduced a new international competition. Competition is a major attraction for any film festival, and one without any can often miss out on many films, because of the lack of producers’ interest to send fresh films to such festivals. The competition at KIFF has a special aspect to it, in that it honours the best films by women directors. This is something that very few film festivals have, and so this is another big reason that makes KIFF special. In the coming years, we can easily expect to see many other great films by women directors fight it out for the Golden Royal Bengal Tiger, which is the name of the award.
Golden Royal Bengal Tiger statuette
Six Golden Royal Bengal Tiger statuettes were handed out this year, including one for the best documentary.
The award for the Best Director was shared by two people – the Dutch director Tamar van den Dop, for the film Supernova and the Palestinian director Najwa Najjar, for the film Eyes of a Thief. The former is based on a lonely teenage girl’s fantasy while the latter reflects contemporary Palestinian society. The two split the cheque of Rs 51 lakh, which is the highest cash reward in any film festival in India.
The Golden Tiger for the Best Film went to the brilliant Iranian film, Tales, directed by Rakhshan Bani-Etemad. Rakshan Bani-Etemad had received the Best Screenplay award for this film at the Venice Film Festival this year. It is composed of seven short episodes, and portrays the characters’ passions and loves, and their hopes to overcome life's difficulties – whether universal struggles or any other social or emotional issues. The Jury Award (Special Mention) went to Shira Gaffen of Israel for her film, Self Made.
The award-winners for the best director and film, and the special jury award were all selected from the lot of films by women directors.
(L to R) Tamar van den Dop, Najwa Najjar, Rakhshan Bani-Etemad, Shira Gaffen
The awards were decided by an eminent international jury, composed of both veterans and well-known younger faces. It was headed by the Australian veteran, Paul Cox. The others included Niki Karimi, Iranian actress, director, and screenwriter, Na Renhua, Chinese actress and producer, Nino Kirtadze, Georgian director and our own acclaimed director and actor, Amol Palekar.
The jury: (L to R) Paul Cox, Niki Karimi, Na Renhua, Nino Kirtadze, Amol Palekar
Two other Golden Royal Bengal Tigers were also given out. In the Best Documentary and Short Film section, Sankhajit Biswas won for his documentary, Dui Dhuranir Golpo (In-between Days). This is a story of two young transgender friends from Kolkata, who had to drop out from school because of their feminine disposition. Hailing from poor and uneducated families, they confronted social castration from a tender age. However, it helped strengthening their bond as friends. The Bhutanese film director Khyentse Norbu won the NETPAC Award for the film, Vara: A Blessing, about a young woman’s transition into adulthood. NETPAC stands for Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema.
Sankhajit Biswas, Khyentse Norbu
All in all, it was a very successful festival. There was a huge footfall on almost all days, and the Nandan complex was chock-a-block every day. Of course, there was good food too, as some of the well-known restaurants and confectioneries of the city had set up stalls. The other venues were fairly full too. The rush during the weekend and on the last Monday reminded one of the crowds on Navami during Durga Puja, when everyone step out for the last sightseeings of the year.
The 20th edition was a turning point for the festival, in terms of the introduction of the competition section, that too in a unique category, the enthusiastic crowds, and hence the packed halls on almost all days, as well as the beautiful opening and closing ceremonies. In fact, many festival regulars from India as well as from outside India admitted that such a grand, culturally rich and varied opening ceremony is rarely seen at film festivals.
The KIFF logo
Guests of honour: IBN Live
Golden Royal Bengal Tiger statuette: KIFF
Tamar van den Dop: SinemaTurk
Najwa Najjar: Gulf News
Rakshan Bani-Etemad: Walker Art Center
Shira Gaffen: Filmweb
Paul Cox: Madhyamam English
Na Renhua: Chinese Films
Amol Palekar: YepMovie.com
Sankhajit Biswas: SRFTI
Khyentse Norbu: Zimbio