September 16, 2019
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    Films through the South Asian eye...

    July 07, 2019

    The SAARC Cultural Centre continues its tradition of bringing a wider recognition to South Asian films, presenting the 9th SAARC Film Festival 2019. The SAARC Film Festival had been held every year since 2011 and this is the ninth consecutive time that Sri Lanka is hosting this prestigious film festival.

    The agenda of the Festival is all about bringing unity through diversity. The South Asian region can be identified as one of the most diversified regions in the world in terms of language, culture, nationality, tradition, etc. Although there are tremendous differences, it is interesting to note the similarity in the human emotions that have been captured in almost every film presented at the Festival. That is a main reason for the importance of this film festival which occupies number one position in the SAARC Cultural Centre calendar.

    The inauguration of this year’s SAARC Film Festival was held on July 2 at the National Film Corporation with the participation of almost every filmmaker who submitted films, as well as many film enthusiasts and movie fanatics.

    The closing ceremony of the festival will be held today (7) at the National Film Corporation. This year there will be 12 main awards, such as the Special Jury Award, Best Cinematography, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Short Film, Best Sound Designer, Best Original Score, Best Director, Best Editor, Best Actor and Best Feature Film.

    The SAARC Cultural Centre functions as an important focal point for the artistic communities of the eight member states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

    Each member country can submit five films, consisting two feature films, two short films and one master film. The master film is not entitled for the competition and is a retrospective for a master filmmaker of the respective country.

    “This time we are pleased to receive 34 films in total for the festival and almost every filmmaker is taking part in the festival. Therefore, the SAARC Film Festival has now become the meeting point for every filmmaker in South Asia.

    “Although the Maldives doesn’t have a strong film industry it is a good sign that they show their interest by attending the SAARC film festival and are eager to collaborate with Sri Lankan filmmakers, actors and crew. It’s time for us to think about collaborative work within the region without looking for opportunities in Europe or America,” Dhanushka Gunathilake, Consultant, SAARC Film Festival 2019, said.

    “The selection process of films for the SAARC Film Festival is very much diplomatic as the Cultural Affairs Ministry of each member state selects the films and sends them to the SAARC Sectarian in Nepal through the respective Foreign Affairs Ministries.

    “As the curator of the SAARC Film Festival, although I do not select the films, I am responsible for curating the film package we receive from the member state. We have the liberty to select the jury and we always make sure to get a jury from outside South Asia thereby creating the opportunity for Sri Lankan and South Asian filmmakers to get foreign knowledge and experience on filmmaking, especially, through Master Class Programs,” said Dhanushka.

    Jury of the Festival

    The jury of this year’s Festival consists three well-known names outside the South Asian regional cinema. The head of the jury is Hassan Nazer, an award winning British film director of Iranian origin.

    Hassan’s feature films were released in Iran and internationally, such as, Back Day, Here Iran, Utopia, The Check Post, and Winners. They are mostly collaborations between UK and Iran as well as India. The film Utopia was an official entry for the Academy Awards 2015 and the Golden Globe, and has won more than 18 awards nationally and internationally.

    Emmanuel Dela Cruz, a Philippine Film Director is a versatile and sought-after creative personality in the film and TV industry in the Philippines. Milana Majar, is a film director from Bosnia and is also a journalist and screenwriter specialised in documentary films.

    Speaking about the judging criteria of the SAARC Film Festival Hassan Nazer said, 50 percent count the technical aspect of the film and the balance 50 percent for the theme, which also depends on the message the film festival has to convey to the world. “It’s important to understand the cultures, traditions and politics of the different countries. “There can be minor differences though there are many similarities too. That is the beauty of the cinema,” he added. “I’ve been part of the jury for three local film festivals held recently. The selection criteria is totally different from one to the other. In selecting, what I consider most is the originality of the soul of the film.

    “There could be European, American, Indian influences, but what matters is the heart of the respective culture of the filmmaker and how much he can inter-relate with the world,” he said. Nazer said that nowadays there’s a huge influence made by Netflix and other entertainment platforms into the cinema, and through this new medium of entertainment the audience has widened and expectations run high. “It’s encouraging to see a mix of entertaining films with strong themes,” he added.

    “A South Asian film can be differently read at a European Festival, and given totally different interpretations. As a filmmaker from a European country, I believe it’s important to have a film festival for its own region with its own kind of reading without a European eye,” said one of the jurors, Milana Majar.

    Master Class

    Master Class is a key event in the SAARC Film Festival, grabbing much attention, especially, from young filmmakers of the country. This year’s theme was, ‘Why do we need funding for independent cinema’ conducted by the jury members, Hassan Nazer, Emmanuel Dela Cruz and Milana Majara, moderated by Dhanushka Gunathileke. It was held on July 5 at the Colombo Film and Television Academy.

    The speciality of SAARC Film Festival is that it opens doors to witness other parallel art house cinemas in the region besides European, American and Indian main stream cinema. According to Dhanushka unlike previous years they received more art house films from countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal this year, although the trend was main stream films in the previous years.

    Dr. Soumya Manjunath Chavan, Cultural Specialist – Programs, SAARC Cultural Centre, said “The cultural ministries of member states have now realized the importance of promoting meaningful cinema to the festival which has travelled around the world.

    “The main purpose of establishing the SAARC Cultural Centre is to promote cultural cooperation within the region, enhance cultural understanding and harmony among the people of South Asia and share the distinct cultural identity of the region with the world.”

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    Soul (Short film / Maldives) Ali Seezan started his career as an actor who pinned his name on top of the actor’s list with Hiyy Edhenee which won him the best actor at the 3rd National Film Awards in the Maldives. Having a successful career as an actor, Ali stepped into filmmaking which was his childhood dream. He has created nearly 25 short films and won many national awards, and is well recognised in the international film festival arena. His short film Soul is to be a co-production of the Maldives and Sri Lanka. “The SAARC film festival is something we all look up to. This is the first time that I did a collaborative work with a foreign cast and I’m really excited about it,” he said.

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    “I’m really excited and it’s a great honour to participate in this year’s SAARC Film Festival. Our film Bul Bul was well received by the audience. The Q & A session was really good and I’m impressed by the Sri Lankan filmgoers and their critical reading of the film,” said Swastima Khadka the main actress of the film Bul Bul from Nepal.

    Bul Bul is a film about women empowerment. According to its synopsis it is also described from a psychoanalytic perspective. It is a story of unmet desires and other core issues. Binod Paudel, the director of the film couldn’t attend the festival as he had to participate in the Nepal – America Film festival in USA.

    Talking about the culture and the film aesthetics of Nepal and Sri Lanka, Swastima believes there’s no major difference in the two countries. “This is my first visit to Sri Lanka and I see a lot of similarities in terms of culture, hospitality, human behaviour, etc. I watched almost every film at the festival and it is an amazing experience to know more about South Asia and its cinema,” she added.

     

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