Cross-cultural productions make it to IFFI 2007

Panaji (Goa), Nov 22: IFFI, the International Film Festival of India that opens in Goa this Friday (ED: Nov 23, 2007) will showcase some interesting cross-cultural productions, organisers of the event being held in this coastal state for the fourth year running said.

Among these are Mira Nair’s `AIDS Jaago’ and Richie Mehta’s `Amal’ which will be having their international premieres here, and Chris Smith’s `The Pool’ which will make its Asia premiere in Goa.

IFFI currently has a section called the ‘Film India Worldwide’, being curated by casting director Uma da Cunha. It was introduced into the event last year.

This year Film India Worldwide has three films, each made in 2007, and show the way in which film-makers from diverse cultures interact with India.

Directors chosen range from a nationality other than Indian; of Indian origin settled elsewhere; and an Indian film icon using his or her magnetism and filmic skills “to make cinema’s glamour and impact work as a social weapon of disseminating awareness,” the IFFI organisers said here.

This year’s films are as follows:

Chris Smith’s The Pool (USA): Geoffrey Gilmore, longtime director of the sought after Sundance Film Festival in the US, chose `The Pool’ to compete in its 2007 January edition, where it won the Special Jury Prize.

This 104 minute American film has been shot entirely in Panjim, Goa by 36 year old Christopher Smith and co-scripted by Smith and Randy Russel. What sets the film apart is that it is an American film made entirely in Hindi, a language that its director does not know at all.

The film follows a village boy Venkatesh (Venkatesh Chavan) who arrives in Panjim and finds a job as a hotel housekeeper. His close friend is Jahangir (Jahangir Badshah). The two make extra money selling plastic bags to pedestrians.

One day Venkatesh climbs up a mango tree and from its branch sees the swimming pool of a large, seemingly deserted house. Fascinated by the shimmering pool, he makes it a habit to gaze on it almost every day.

The more savvy Jehangir tells him, “The closest you’re going to get to that pool is cleaning it.” Venkatesh gets to meet the owner, a well-to-do man from Mumbai (Nana Patekar) and his edgy, taciturn daughter Ayesha (Ayesha Mohan).

He starts working in the house when he finds time. Both father and daughter take to him in their different ways.

Watching their encounters provides an insight into how they differ socially and culturally and yet manage to mingle. They learn home truths about each other, and in the end, each affects the other’s polarized world in some way.

Director, writer and cinematographer Chris Smith, is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is a former engineering student from Michigan. He is known for his introspective documentaries that tend to look with benign understanding at the spaces occupied by the rich and poor and sharing the insights they provide.

His previous films include his debut feature `American Job’ (1996), and his documentaries, `American Movie’ (1999, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance), `Home Movie’ (2001) and `The Yes Men’ (2004). The Pool is his second feature film.

Richie Mehta’s Amal (Canada-India): Toronto-based Richie Mehta’s debut film (it featured in Toronto festival’s Canada First section) has been co-scripted by him and Shaun Mehta. It tells the story of an auto-rickshaw driver, Amal (Rupinder Nagra) who is content and at peace with himself and his life.

When a little street girl (Tanisha Chatterjee) after stealing the purse of his regular customer (Koel Purie), runs away and is hit by a car. Amal takes her to hospital determined to ensure that that she recovers. One day he drives the eccentric billionaire G K Jayaram (Naseeruddin Shah), disguised as a vagabond, who is looking for the one humane person he can leave his wealth to.

But, his greedy family members want his wealth at any cost. The unsuspecting Amal is caught in this quagmire. The film asks the important question of what success means to each individual and finally reveals that sometimes the poorest of men are the richest.

Filmed in New Delhi, the film is in Hindi and English, and its durestion is 101 minutes. Other actors featured in the film are the Canadian Vik Sahay and from India, Seema Biswas and Roshan Seth.

Produced by David Miller and Steven Bray, the film is a Poor Man’s Productions Ltd film in participation with Telefilm Canada, and in association with Chum Ltd, TMN Movie Network, Movie Central, and is distributed by Seville Pictures. Its India distributor is USA-based Harish Vanjani.

Mira Nair’s AIDS Jaago: USA-India, 35 mm, Colour, 71 minutes, Hindi/Kannada Director/s: Mira Nair; Santosh Sivan; Farhan Akhtar, Vishal Bhardwaj

Joining hands with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mira Nair and her company, Mirabai Films, collaborated with three of India’s most cutting-edge directors to each helm a short narrative film about HIV/AIDS, set in different parts of the country. Nair has utilized the culture of cinema worship in India to address the country’s alarming rate of increase in AIDS cases, second only to South Africa in numbers.

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