The 24th Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) came to an end on October 12. Showcasing a total of 303 films from 85 countries over 37 screens at 6 theatres over a 10 day period, BIFF opened with a Kazakhstan-Japan co-production The Horse Thieves. Roads of Time and closed with Korean film Moonlit Winter.
145 films (121 feature and 24 short films) had their World and International Premieres at the festival. Amongst these were a number of Indian films that found a receptive audience at the festival.
Indian films have not been major players at the Busan International Film Festival in the past, with few entries being sent from the country. However, this year saw as many as 18 Indian films being screened at the gala cinematic event, with many having their world premieres. Three films by Canada-based Deepa Metha were also screened as part of a special retrospective and the festival also saw the latest works of Gurvinder Singh, Shonali Bose and Alankrita Srivastava amongst others.
Here’s a look at the Indian films that were screened at the recently-concluded 2019 Busan International Film Festival:
Dolly Kitty and Those Twinkling Stars
Alankrita Srivastava’s third feature film, starring Konkana Sen Sharma and Bhumi Pednekar had its world premier at Busan. This marked the festival debut of Ektaa Kapoor’s Balaji Telefilms, which has produced the film. “It’s great to be a newcomer somewhere,” remarked Kapoor.
Pednekar also won the Face of Asia award for the film. "I am humbled that my work has resonated with audiences and critics in Busan. It’s my first international win, so I am proud,” said the actress.
The Sky is Pink
Making its Asian debut was director Shonali Bose’s The Sky Is Pink, starring Priyanka Chopra, Farhan Akhtar and Zaira Wasim. This was an outdoor screening as part of the Open Cinema program section.
Musical 99 Songs was the second Indian film which had an outdoor screening. Directed and scripted by Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy, the film is co-written by AR Rahman who also makes his debut as a film producer. Rahman also presented a piano recital ahead of the screening on October 9.
Another world premiere was Market, directed by two-time national-award-winning Pradip Kurbah. The film documents Iewduh in Shillong - the liveliest market of North-Eastern India. The Khasi film in fact went on to win the second highest award at the festival - the Kim Jiseok Award.
National Award-winning filmmaker Suman Ghosh presented his film Aadhaar - a comedy-drama about a resident of Jharkhand who becomes the first in his village to have an aadhaar card.
Gitanjali Rao’s debut animated feature Bombay Rose was also screened at the festival. Bombay Rose tells the love story of two flower sellers in the city of Mumbai, set against the backdrop of the Hindi film industry.
Made by Lijo Jose Pellissery, who has directed acclaimed Malayalam films like Ee. Ma. Yau and Angamaly Diaries, Jallikattu was also screened at the festival. The film’s story is set in a remote village in Kerala where a buffalo escapes and causes chaos and violence.
Directed by Gurvinder Singh, Bitter Chestnut had its world premiere at the festival. The film is the director’s account of the time he spent in the town of Bir in Himachal Pradesh, examining migration and reverse migration in Bir, Barot and Baragraan.
Maadathy, An Unfairy Tale
Documentary filmmaker Leena Manimekalai’s Maadathy, An Unfairy Tale, had its world premier at BIFF. The documentary tells a tale of oppression, following the lives of the Puthirai Vannar women, considered to be the lowest in the caste hierarchy.
Roam Rome Mein
Tannishtha Chatterjee directed and wrote the script of her debut feature, Roam Rome Mein. Starring Nawazzudin Siddique and Chatterjee herself, the film follows the story of a brother who travels to Rome to look for his missing sister.
The Wayfarers had its world premier at Busan. The film is directed by national award-winning Bengali director Goutam Ghose, and tells the story of two strangers, perpetually on the fringes of survival.
Vijay Jayapal’s horror feature was selected in the 2018 Busan Asian Project Market and had its world premiere at this year’s festival. The film follows a suicidal boatman who capsizes his boat and emerges as the lone survivor. Racked with guilt, he flees to become the caretaker of a Himalayan resort and is shocked to see his victims checking in.
Just Like That
In the international competition section was Kislay’s Just Like That - a widow’s journey of self-discovery through her attempts to break free from the societal expectations of widowhood. The film received a ‘Special Mention’ from the jury under the ‘New Currents Award’.
Knock Knock Knock
Sudhanshu Saria’s Knock Knock Knock was the only Indian short film to be selected and had its world premiere in Busan. A psychological thriller, the film follows the relationship between a Nepali boy and his grandfather.
A Deepa Mehta Retrospective
The 2019 Busan International Film Festival also featured a special section called “Gaze and Memories – Asia’s Leading Women Filmmakers”, showcasing a retrospective of three renowned female Asian filmmakers. Canada-based Deepa Mehta was featured from India, with the screening of her Elements Trilogy.
The trilogy opened with Fire, a groundbreaking story which portrayed a lesbian relationship between two housewives in suffocating arranged marriages. Then came Earth, set during the 1947 partition of India. Water, a film that explores the forced exile of widows based on orthodox Hindu scriptures, concluded the trilogy.