IFFI 2017

Goa Film Festival

Abhijit Ghosh-Dastidar

The International Film Festival of India at Panaji (Goa) of November 2017, was a rich visual tapestry of cinema engulfing cinema of the world, country focus Canada, a tribute to Atom Egoyan, Restored Classics and Indian Panorama.

Andrey Zvyagintsev’s ‘‘Loveless’’ (Russia/France/Belgium/Germany, Russian language, colour, 127 mins) begins with a forward track of students rushing out from school, banging sounds, tall trees without leaves and snow covered land. The protagonists introduce themselves through dialogue. A teen aged boy, Alyosha (Matvey Nobikov) trudges home from school. There is a close-up of the boy at home, while children play outside the apartment block. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Alexey Rozin) are a couple whose marriage is over. The mother conducts people visiting the apartment, which is for sale, and Alyosha resents. The mobile phone obsessed Zhenya is a social climber, who would prefer boarding school for 12-year-old, neglected son, Alyosha. Newscasts on TV present the Russian authorities keen to stop apocalyptic propaganda, whipping up public hysteria and war in Ukraine. Repressed emotions surface in the parents’ train rides to offices. Zhenya is having an affair with a wealthy divorcee. Boris gets his younger mistress, Masha (Marina Vasilyeva) pregnant, who fears Boris might leave. His office company prefers baptism, and stable family profile.

Marital quarrels and domestic problems leave Alyosha alienated. His school informs that Boris did not attend school for two days. Police arrive to investigate the missing son, and find no foul play. The parents drive to Zhenya’s mother’s residence. They quarrel over smoking in the car. The police co-ordinate in Alyosha’s disappearance with searches in hospitals, morgues, river banks and woods and subways. A volunteer group also search for the boy. The parents breakdown, the old flat is being renovated, and windows overlook snow covered fields, with trees without leaves. A small child roams in Masha’s apartment. Alyosha is still not found in 2012. Zvyaginstev’s film is filled with symbolism, and the parents remain ruthless and fatalistic. Cinematographer Mikhail Krichman displays a relentless visual style, with varied mobile shots.

Village Rockstars
The village milieu in Assam, with small individual features, is closely observed in Rima Das’s ‘‘Village Rockstars’’ (Assam, colour, 87 mins). A girl toils in a paddy field, and an old woman and girl sell candles in the village market. Dhunu (Banita Das), a ten-year-old girl, attends a music programme in the village. Teenagers play in the band, sing and dance. She works in a bamboo plantation, and climbs trees to pluck fruit. Villagers walk back to their homes at sunset, after being transported in boats. Children are jealous of another boy, who cycles to school. Dhunu is pulled up by her teacher for reading comics in class. In the village field, Dhunu and the children sing and dance with cardboard cutouts of musical instruments. She looks after a goat, and learns to cycle. Children submerge in water covered paddy field. The rock band performs Assamese folk songs. For raising money to buy a guitar, the children catch fish in the village river. Dhunu’s widow mother also teaches her to swim. Storms flood fields and submerge huts. Dhunu’s earnings from harvesting betel nuts are pooled. She reaches puberty, and village women instruct her not to climb trees and run around with boys. A guitar is purchased by Dhunu’s mother, and Dhunu plays the guitar, while other boys run and frolic. Rima Das’s prosaic visual style captures the rural aesthetics. The narrative is never overloaded, and the camera blends the rural elements seamlessly.

Vol. 50, No.28, Jan 14 - 20, 2017