Ten-year isn’t a long time in the life of public event like a film festival. However, in less than a decade, the Pune International Film Festival (Piff) has acquired a cultural significance which is rare even in a city like ours, the culture capital of Maharashtra. That the festival was honoured as the state film festival, only adds to its significance.
The city is no stranger to film culture, what with two major film-related institutes — FTII and NFAI, gracing the landscape. But then, FTII is academic while NFAI caters mostly to serious movie-buffs. The annual film festival on the other hand, democratises the access to films, talking along both the aforementioned institutes.
As the 10th edition of the festival opened on Thursday, the delegate passed have already sold out, and the organisers expect a full house at all its venues spreading across the city. What is this allure of Piff?
“Piff is not just a film festival, says Sikha Singh, a self-confessed film aficionado. “I call it a whirlwind world tour, around the world in eight days, to be precise. Piff is a celebration of cinema and what cinema can offer us. Piff gives you a chance to see the world via celluloid. The festival gives us a chance to view and understand the changing scenarios of the world, in a span of eight days, within a single platform. It offers you a chance to travel to other parts of the world, something you cannot do personally. The festival is unparalleled for this very reason, if nothing else.”
“I wait for Piff every year, just to see the Marathi films,” says Omid Verzandeh, a PhD students from Iran at the University of Pune. “It’s the only time I get to see a local film with subtitles, which is amazing.”
The rise of Marathi cinema in the last few years also owes a portion of its success to Piff, since most of these award winning films, from ‘Valu’ to ‘Garbicha Paus’ premiered at the festival.
This year’s logo of the festival is itself telling. The silhouette of a boy and a girl running reminds us of the iconic scene from Satyajit Ray’s ‘Pather Pachali’ where Apu and Durga runs across the fields to see a trains. For them, the train is a object of wonder. For the delegates, Piff offers a world of wonder.
While there are people who likens Jabbar Patel, director of the festival with American filmmaker Martin Scorsese, for their love for cinema as a medium of artistic expression and how they have encouraged others in the process, and how Patel has steered the festival from strength to strength over the years, Piff has its fair share of distractors. One of the recurrent complaint is the lack of planning and that the festival is not equipped to handle the pressure of such a large number of delegates. The complaint is not unjustified. There were times when the catalogues and schedules were not ready till the last moments. However, as Patel said these lapses are not uncommon for a festival which is fairy young, and Piff is learning via trial and error. So it seems. Thus, this year, the list of films to be screened at the festival has been uploaded to the festival website well in advance, whereas the complete schedule remains elusive.
Here’s what in offer at Piff this year, an itinerary from all over the world.
The World Competition sections have films from Albania, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, China, Germany, Iran, Poland, Spain and Russia. Among them, the Iranian film ‘A Separation’ (2011), which is tipped to win this year’s Oscar for best foreign film, is a must see. So are German film ‘The Albanian’ (2010), and if you are a fan of French actress Isabelle Huppert, ‘My Little Princess’ (2011).
This year, the country focus is Germany and you have almost all the documentaries by inimitable Warner Herzog. It’d be impossible to catch all of them, but, his trip to the Antarctic in ‘Encounter at the End of the World’ (2007), and the film on the Sahara tribe Wodaabe, “Herdsmen of the Sun’ (1989) are not to be missed. Also must see is compatriot Wim Wenders’ ‘Pina’, a tribute to dancer itself. Also showing is his tale of an angel in Berlin who yearns to be a human, ‘Wings of Desire’ (1987).
In Global Cinema section, France is represented by two auteur, not very well known perhaps, but extraordinary talents. Claire Denis looks at Africa from the point of view of a white woman in ‘White Material’ (2010), while Bruno Dumont’s ‘Hadewijch’ (2009) untangles the link between religion and terrorism. Another notable entries include, Bangladeshi film ‘Guerrilla’ (2011), Colombian film ‘The Colors of the Mountain’ (2010), Estonian film ‘Letters to Angel’ (2010), Hungary’s ‘The Lover of the Soil’, Korea’s ‘Mother’ (2009), Canadian 'Night #1' and Roberto Rosellini’s much-talked-about ‘India: Matri Bhumi’ (1959).
Last year, Japan was the country focus and aficionados complained about lack of Japanese master Yasujiro Ozu. This year we have a retrospective of Ozu, with films such as ‘Floating Weeds’ (1959), ‘End of Summer (1961), and classic ‘Tokyo Story’ (1953). Another master in retrospective is Taiwan’s Hsiao-Hsien Hou. Aficionados may miss the recent classics like ‘Flight of the Red Balloon’ and ‘Three Times,’ must watch are ‘Cafe Lumiere’ (2003) and ‘Good Man Good Woman’ (1995). Other two luminaries in the retrospective section are Ashok Kumar and Iranian Rasul Aadr Ameli.
In the Indian cinema section, we have Kerala’s ‘Abu Son of Adam’ (2011), India’s official entry to the Oscars. Another notable film is Santosh Sivan’s historic actioner ‘Urumi’ (2011).
While Marathi cinema in competition include Umesh Kulkarni’s ‘Deool’ Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar’s ‘Ha Bharat Maza’ and Ravi Jadhav’s ‘Balgandharva’, among others, the The Marathi Cinema Today section include films such as ‘Khel Mandala’ and ‘Yada, Yada Hi Dharmasya’.