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Delhi's own Film Fest comes of age!

- Manohar Khushalani

The Osian's-Cinefan: 6th Festival of Asian Cinema ran at New Delhi from 16th to 25th July. It was announced that the Asian Film Festival -Cinefan and Cinemaya Magazine, both founded by Aruna Vasudev, had merged Into Osian's which is an Archival house of Art. The festival has achieved a dimension that can rival the International Film Fest organized by the central government at New Delhi. Like the IFFI this fest focuses on the Asian Cinema. While the IFFI is held across a number of auditoriums so does the Cinefan fest, which has roped in Audis close to each other, namely; Siri Fort II, IIC, IHC, and the French Cultural Centre which has moved to Lodi Estate next to IIC. This is just in time, now Delhi audiences will not miss the IFFI if it moves to Goa. Unlike the IFFI there are no fastidious officials doling out passes as favours to the needy. Here the entry is free and genuine film buffs land up to lap up the films.

The Halls are packed and the enthusiasm is contagious. The Cinefan fest had over 90 films from 30 countries and the invited international visitors and guests exceed one hundred including Heads of International Film Festivals from around the world such as Amiens, Cairo, Cannes, Estonia, Hong Kong, Las Palmas, Kiev, Pusan, Manila, Munich, Singapore, Thessaloniki, and Vienna among others.

This year The Festival Of Asian Cinema was divided into Ten Sections: The Competition; Asian Frescoes; Tribute to Guru Dutt; India Bazaar, Tribute to Iran's Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Family; Arabesque: A Focus on Arab Cinema; Tribute to Wong Kar Wai (Hong Kong); East-West Encounters; Films from the Hubert Bals Fund; and Special Screenings of Political Documentaries such as S21.
While it may not be possible to review the entire lot of films, but I will just briefly discuss two: Ae Fond Kiss, directed by Ken Loach, is about how sparks fly in Glasgow's south side when a young Asian man enters into a relationship with a Caucasian woman. The movie has won a special prize during the 54th Berlin Film festival. Although the film is from UK it is part of an East West Encounter section. Casim (Atta Yaqub) the only son of first-generation Conservative Muslim from Pakistan is engaged to his cousin Jasmine. Casim is resigned to his fate, until he meets Roisin Hanlon (Eva Birthistle), a music teacher. Roisin is lively, beautiful and independent and above all a white and a Catholic. Despite the fact that his marriage is around the corner Casim proceeds to fall in love. Although Ken’s latest film is positioned in an upper middle class environment it raises some hard questions about religion, race and immigration in ‘multi-cultural’ Britain in a scenario which is post-9/11 and post-Iraq War- so it is absolutely contemporary.

The spine chilling and nauseating documentary S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine, Written and directed by: Rithy Panh, unravels the personality of ordinary prison officers responsible for torture and murder in one of Cambodia's most dangerous political prisons- Phnom Penh's S21 prison - now a museum remembering those who were tortured and killed in cold blood. The perpetuators of these crimes look like anybody else you would see on Cambodian streets, and they are unrepentant; brandishing excuses for their atrocities, which they can still describe in dispassionate detail.

The Competition Jury includes: film star Shabana Azmi (President), Manila Film Festival Director Amable 'Tikoy' Aguiluz VI; Pusan Film Festival's Kim Dong-Ho; Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf; Syrian filmmaker Oussama Mohammad; Cannes Film Festival (Director's Fortnight) Director Oliver Pere; and filmmaker Aparna Sen from India.