Saturday, October 30, 2010

Mumbai Film Festival: Best Director for Anocha

Anocha Suwichakornpong continues to pick up prizes as she travels the world with her debut feature Mundane History (Jao Nok Krajok, เจ้านกกระจอก), most recently picking up the Best Director Award at the Mumbai Film Festival.

It's another busy month for Anocha and her film, which has also played in the East Meets West Film Forum and Festival in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, and is among a bunch of Thai films in Warsaw for the Five Flavours Film Festival, where there's a special program dedicated to her Electric Eel Films.

Mundane History was also featured this past week at the first Doi Saket International Film Festival in Chiang Mai.

It's also playing in the Sao Paulo International Film Festival and on Sunday, it will screen in Washington, D.C., at Freer and Sackler, the Smithsonian’s Museums of Asian Art.

Mundane History has previously picked up prizes in Rotterdam, Transylvania and Wroclaw.

Lekha Shankar was in Mumbai for Anocha's win, and she sent this report.

Story and photos by Lekha J. Shankar

Anocha Suwichakornpong won the Best Director award at the 12th Mumbai Film Festival, which concluded on Thursday. Anocha’s Mundane History was one of 14 entries from as many countries, in the International Competition, which focuses on the first films of directors.

The top award was won by Majority from Turkey, an award-winner from the prestigious Venice festival. Other award winners were R from Denmark and Blackfield from Greece.

The young group of filmmakers in the competition seemed to share a great camaraderie, and all agreed that it was the highlight of their one week’s stay at the fest. Anocha, the only woman in the group, was extra popular.

The Mumbai festival, popularly known as MAMI, because it’s organised by the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI), has evolved into a mega festival after being supported by India's largest congomlerate, Reliance Industries, which has moved into film production.

This year, the festival boasted of a record 215 films from 60 countries. These included the award winners of top festivals like Cannes, Berlin and Venice, such as Certified Copy, Biutiful, Poetry, Somewhere and Faith.

Mundane History, which has been to nearly 30 festivals, evoked mixed responses from the Indian audiences as well as the jury.

"Interesting but strange," said a film student named Nitin. "I hear that the Cannes award-winning Thai film Uncle Boonmee is the same,” he added.

Festival Director Srinivasa Narayanan described Anocha’s film as “unique and excellent”, and said he hoped to screen more Thai films in the future.

Well-known Indian actress and director Suhasini Maniratnam who was on the jury confessed it was not her first choice.

But Oscar-nominated director Jane Campion, who was the president of the unique all-women jury, said she enjoyed "the sensitivity of the drama and the unique cinematic expression".

The other members of the Jury were Iranian actress-director Samira Makhmalbaf and South Korean actress Yoong Jeong-hee.

The latter fractured her arm the day she arrived in Mumbai, but that did not stop the vibrant actress from partaking in her jury duties.

Samira, from the famed Makmalbaf filmmaking family, confessed it was a tough time for her family, living in Paris, as they had to move from Iran last year, thanks to the restrictions clamped by tough new regime in the country.

As for Campion, she said she had enough film projects to last her the next 10 years! A long-time India-lover, the renowned New Zealand director said she had been to India many times. Infact she had even shot a film there, her 1999 drama Holy Smoke!

As for Thailand, she said "I was there many years back, when I was only 21 years old!"

India’s film festival circuit shifts into top gear after the Mumbai Film Festival.

The Third Eye Asian Film Festival, which is currently the only festival on Asian cinema in the country (the famed Osian's Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema was not held this year, although many hope it will be held next year), opened in the city immediately after the MAMI festival, and this writer is totally relishing watching some intense Asian films in the grand, old-world Plaza cinema complex. (I’m also serving on the NETPAC Jury of the Third Eye fest.)

The two Mumbai festivals are as different in size and character as the Bangkok International Film Festival and the World Film Festival of Bangkok.

The Kolkata film festival will be held from November 10 to 17, and will screen one Thai film – the hit of 2009, Bangkok Traffic (Love) Story.

The country’s biggest film festival, the International Film Festival of India, runs from November 22 to December 2 in the beach town of Goa.

The IFFI, which did a retrospective on Nonzee Nimibutr last year, has GTH’s Dear Galileo on its film list this year.

A major highlight of the IFFI will be a specially curated section on the best films of this year’s Cannes Festival, headed by the Palme d’Or winner Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.

Boonmee director Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who is intensively travelling around the world, from Vienna to Buenos Aires to Dubai, with his film, will not be able to attend the Goa festival, but his editor Lee Chatametikool, may attend.

However, Joei will attend the Kerala International Film Festival, which will hold a retrospective of his films.

It will be the last festival of a tumultous year for Thailand’s most-talked-about contemporary director, who said he was looking forward to “relaxing and enjoying” Kerala, the Indian state often referred to as "God’s own country".

At the Mumbai fest, organized by Reliance Big Entertainment Initiative, gave Lifetime Achievement Awards to Hollywood director Oliver Stone and Bollywood hero of yesteryear, Manoj Kumar.

Stone told this writer that Bangkok was the best city in the world!

Indian actor Manoj Kumar said what he remembered most about Bangkok was a review of his 1975 film Roti Kapda Aur Makan in a Bangkok newspaper, describing him as the "Victor Hugo of the Indian masses"!

"I'm still trying to get a copy of this article. Can you help me?" asked the 76-year-old actor with his characteristic simplicity.

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