From the Arno to the Ganges: in December, Florence will be hosting the 9th River to River. Florence Indian Film Festival, coming up this year with a retrospective on the wistful genius of Guru Dutt.
From 4 to 10 December, 2009, Florence will be hosting the 9th River to River. Florence Indian Film Festival, established and directed by Selvaggia Velo. The Festival, under the Patronage of the Indian Embassy to Rome, will be held at Odeon, the beautiful 1920s theatre right in the centre of the city, under the aegis of Mediateca Regionale Toscana-Film Commission as part of the Cinquanta Giorni di Cinema Internazionale a Firenze.
FIRST EVENING AND OPENING FILM
Friday 4th December will be the opening night of the Festival, beginning at Museo Marino Marini in Florence with the exhibition Raja Ravi Varma, the artist who changed the facet of gods curated by Giovanni Aprile, on the great Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma (1848-1906), who showed his unconventionality in his life and work, upsetting XIX-century India.
Later on, at 8.30 pm, Cinema Odeon will host the Italian preview of the Opening Film of the Festival, telling the story of painter Raja Ravi Varma: Rang Rasiya (Colours of Passion) by world-known Indian director Ketan Mehta, who will meet the audience after the screening, along with actress Nandana Sen, one the main characters of the film. Rang Rasiya tells the life of the famous Indian painter: from the love story with his muse Sugandha to the fundamentalist reactions to his paintings, regarded as immoral portraits of the gods of Indian mythology.
This year’s retrospective will be devoted to the wistful genius of Guru Dutt (1925-1964), one of the great directors of the Golden Age of Indian cinema, who died prematurely at the age of 39, whose works are often imbued with a feeling of loneliness as well as great appeal.
Three of his masterpieces have been selected for the Festival and will be screened in their original 35mm. format, with the support of the Directorate of Film Festivals in New Delhi: the French-style detective movie Aar Paar – This or that (1954), the troubled love story of Mr. and Mrs. 55 (1955), and the autobiographical and poignant Kaagaz ke Phool – Paper Flowers (1959). A documentary about his life, In Search of Guru Dutt by Nasreen Munni Kabir, describing Dutt’s unique, multifaceted personality, will be screened afterwards.
Entries to the River to River Digichannel Audience Award will include the latest feature films, short films and documentaries produced by India’s movie industry, telling stories and real-life experiences which reflect a multifaceted, colourful and ever-changing society which is playing an increasingly important role in the Western world.
Filmmakers, actors and producers will be there to illustrate their films.
FEATURE FILMS IN COMPETITION
• The powerful and evocative A Heaven on Earth, the last film by famous director Deepa Mehta (Fire, Earth and Water), in which Chand, who has moved to Canada for an arranged marriage, will find a way to escape the sense of isolation that surrounds her.
• With an exceptional cast including Violante Placido, Barah Aana by Raja Menon tells the story of three men in a contemporary Mumbai who have to face daily problems and are inadvertently involved in a crime.
• Kaminey, the last firm by Vishal Bhardwaj (director of Maqbool which has been screened at River to River), is a Tarantino-style pulp movie in which two very different twins raised in the slums of Mumbai are separated, then find each other again and together face politicians, scoundrels, drug pushers and corrupted policemen.
• The sophisticated, highly visual Khargosh by Paresh Kamdar, in which the overwhelming love story between a boy and a girl is told and lived through the eyes of a child acting as a go-between.
• Sooni Taraporevala, Mira Nair’s award-winning scriptwriter, directs Little Zizou, in which eleven-year-old Xerxes Khodaiji, a fan of Zinedine Zidane, depicts a funny tapestry of the Parsee community of Mumbai in which he lives.
SHORT FILMS IN COMPETITION
• Rites of passage and revelations: a twelve-year-old who feels humiliated by a ritual he has to undergo (Vitthal di Vinoo Choliparambil), control over water as a metaphor of social interaction in an Indian village (Boond di Abhishek Pathak), and cynical – and Hindu – glance at a romantic conception of eternal happiness (A Hindu’s Indictment of Heaven di Dev Khanna).
• Poised lives and encounters of different cultures: a young woman who has to choose between freedom and a reassuring normality (Andheri di Sushrut Jain), a Hindu child who crosses the border between Pakistan and India (Topi – The Cap di Arjun Rihan), and the debate on the Islamic scarf in a city like Paris (Français langue étrangère – French for Foreigners di Kartik Singh).
DOCUMENTARIES IN COMPETITION
Contemporary India, between today’s poverty and desperation and traditional customs and habits:
• Children of God by Yi Seung-jun, a moving portrait of Nepalese street children forced to rob corpses to survive.
• The moving story of an Indian child born with a deformed nose like that of the Elephant God in Ganesh, Boy Wonder by Srinivas Krishna.
• The ancient tradition of the kavad, portable wooden shrines that portray the feats of the founders of the local communities, told in Makers of Tales by Nina Sabnani.
• Wagah by Supriyo Sen shows how in this borderland between India and Pakistan thousand of people attend the same rite every day. Two stories in which India interacts and has to reckon with the rest of the world:
• The strong bond between the mad cow phenomenon, the crisis of small farmers and the problem of world hunger told in Mad Cow Sacred Cow by non-vegetarian Indian director Anand Ramayya.
• The Aryan Saga by Sanjeev Sivan reveals outrageous news on the relations between some inhabitants of Ladakh, the last descendants of the Aryan race, and young German women.
The Closing Film of the Festival, Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley, will be screened on Thursday 10 December. In this hilarious animation film, three puppets tell the ancient and modern tragicomedy of the Ramayana. The goddess Sita, forced to live far from her beloved husband Rama, sings her love pains in blues style, while director Nina has to face a separation from her partner who has moved to India.
Other than the films in competition, the Opening and Closing Film, and the Guru Dutt retrospective, the Festival this year will have three special sections.
• Confirmed the partnership with 1takemedia.com in the second Advantage India award 3-minute short film competition, with the winning works screened during the River to River. Florence Indian Film Festival.
• The new animation works from Anifest India 2009 organised by the Animation Society of India and from the Ahmedabad National Institute of Design.
• The four best student films from the Film and TV Institute of India and Whistling Woods International Institute for Film, Television, Animation & Media.
The feature film directors Ketan Mehta with actress Nandana Sen (Opening Film Rang Rasiya -Colours of Passion), Raja Menon (Barah Aaana) and Sooni Taraporevala with actress Iyanah Bativala (Little Zizou) The short film and documentary directors Dev Khanna (A Hindu’s Indictment of Heaven), Kartik Singh (Français langue étrangère – French for Foreigners), Sanjeev Sivan (The Aryan Saga), and Shakir Kadri (co-writer of the student film Lihaaf by Rohan Sonawane).
• 3 December at 8 pm – Palazzo Tornabuoni – Florence Gala Dinner by invite
• 4 December at 11 pm – Party by invite, Babylon (ex Doris), Via Pandolfini 26r – Florence
River to River Florence Indian Film Festival Opening Party by invite, with a dj set of bhangra and bollywood music
• 6 December at 11.30 am – Tea talk – Odeon cinema
The songs in Guru Dutt: the modernity and innovation of production. Conversation with Paolo Scarnecchia
• 8 December at 11.30 am – Talk – Odeon cinema
India: women, men, sex, gender.
Moderator: Fabrizia Baldissera, Florence University
Speakers: Franco La Cecla, anthropologist, EPFL of Lausanne
Antonella Rondinone, Siena University
Neelam Srivastava, Newcastle University