The Commonwealth Film Festival kicks of this week in Manchester (28th April - 8th May), with a series of new feature films and short movies from around the world. It includes Pink Ludoos, described as Canada's answer to Bend It Like Beckham. More here.
Chased by Dreams (gala presentation) is Bengali writer-poet-filmmaker Buddhadeb Dasgupta's third film to be presented in the Festival after 2002's The Wrestlers and 2003's A Tale of a Naughty Girl. The allegorical road movie looks at a nation's concerns for its future by examining the intimate hopes and fears of its protagonists. Dasgupta will present the screening.
Two other Bengali films: Yours Truly Srikanta from India and Shankhonad from Bangladesh, 'offer meditative reflections on the wisdom one acquires later in life and the effortless relationship between man and his natural environment'.
Mathieu Ravier, the film festival's director says: "Beyond the ever popular cinema of Bollywood there is a fantastic range of diverse and entertaining South Asian films that rarely make it to our shores. For a limited time we bring you an exclusive sample of what this year’s best South Asian filmmakers are up to."
On the lighter side, Pink Ludoos is about how one Indo-Canadian girl, caught between old traditions and new lifestyles, is hell-bent on making the best of both worlds. Billed as Canada’s answer to Bend It Like Beckham, it stars Shaheen Khan again as the mother. She will co-present the film alongside Canadian director Gaurav Seth.
In a nod to women filmmakers from the Commonwealth, Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid will present her bold investigation into the role played by women in cementing democracy and furthering social progress in Saudi Arabia, the world’s most conservative Muslim nation, in The Women of the Holy Kingdom.
Other desi films include:
: Dance like a Man
...story of Ratna and Jairaj, a couple of dancers of Bharatanatyam, the ancient form of Indian classical dance. Now middle-aged, they are left with doubts about both their career and their relationship. Having left the stage for good, they can only re-experience the crucial moment of a dancer’s debut through their only daughter, Lata (played by Ravi Shankar’s daughter Anoushka). Is Lata really committed to dance or is she doing it to fulfil her parents’ dream? What has been their own motivations for choosing such a difficult career? Have they really stayed true to childhood ambitions?
This profound family drama mines complex issues of family duty, social prejudice and the sacrifices dancers make in dedicating their lives to the art. The dance scenes, capturing the drama, sensuality and mysticism of ancient Indian traditions, are truly inspiring.
: Hari Om
...romantic adventure through Rajasthan which sees the unlikely pairing of a happy-go-lucky rickshaw driver and a beautiful French woman. When Isa and her husband accidentally get separated during a luxury train ride, she resorts to the help of Hari Om (and his colourful rickshaw), himself on the run. Together they travel through postcard-perfect landscapes while coming-to-terms with what they really want out of life.
This cross-cultural romantic comedy unfolds amidst the stunning backdrop of some of India’s most gorgeous locations, turning into a buoyant road movie in the process. The presence and charisma of Vijay Raaz (Monsoon Wedding) in the lead and his on-screen chemistry with French actress Camille Natta make for a convincing mismatched couple. Nitin Sawhney’s upbeat score is also a perfect fit for this charming feel-good movie, Indian style.
: The Dusk (short film)
A small crowded boarding house in the suburbs of Pune. The home of, among others, an old man on the verge of becoming senile. Caught in a time warp, he is slowly losing touch with reality. He is lonely but everyone around him has had enough of him. As time stands still for him, for the others life goes on.
: Elephant Boy (short film)
A Scottish woman's act of charity inadvertantly sends a disabled Indian beggar boy from the streets of Mumbai to an ancient hill top temple. BAFTA nominee 2005.
: Yaanam - Beautifully photographed river trip along the waterways of Kerala
Bharathan and Damodharan are two boatmen who take pride in their work, transporting goods along Kerala’s elaborate network of waterways. Wooden sailboats such as theirs were once the lifeline of riverside dwellers, but the age-old trade is now threatened by alternative means of transport. The life is tough and traditional work is highly labour intensive - a reason for the strong Communist sympathies of the rural community. The men’s encounters along their metaphorical journey progressively illustrate the end of an era, but used to a life of hardship, the boatmen never abandon hope.
LA Based software engineer Sanjay Nambiar’s second film is a love song to one of the most stunning regions of India. Narrated by the boat itself through beautiful folk songs, Yaanam is a celebration of the spiritual bond that unites these men, their work, and the river which provides their sustenance.
: Legend of Fat Mama (short film)
The sad-happy story of the chinese community in Calcutta, India and their migration to Toronto, Canada in the aftermath of the Indo-China war in 1962.
: Yours Truly Srikanta
... based on the novel by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, renowned author of Devdas. Set in Bengal at the turn of the century, the film follows the travels of Sri Kanta, a man torn between two women, two ideals of womanhood: the attractive and unknowable Kamallata, who lives in an ashram, and the seductive courtesan Rajalakshmi. Sri Kanta’s quest for inner peace and freedom from any form of social convention puts him at odds with the strict beliefs of the time. It follows the skilled director (Stroke And Silhouettes’ Anjan Das) to explore issues of secularism in India in the face increasing religious fanaticism.
“Anjan Das' powerful ability to portray intimacy between people, as well as the magical camera of Sirsha Roy and the music of Bikkram Ghosh, keep the audience in a kind of trance until the very end.” - Rotterdam International Film Festival
: Projecting Peace - Stanford graduate Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid wants to voice her own bit on terrorism. Her current feature - Reinventing the Taliban is a brave effort who ventured into dangerous pockets along the Pakistan-Afganistan border for the project: