Indian films find pride of place at the 24th Busan International Film Festival

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

The 24th Busan International Film Festival, Korea screened movies on 37 screens at 6 theatres. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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

Bhumi Pednekar in Alankrita Srivastava’s Dolly Kitty and Those Twinkling Stars, Ektaa Kapoor's Balaji Telefilms debut film at the festival. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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

The Sky Is Pink, based Aisha Chaudhary's book ‘My Little Epiphanies’, published a day before her death, was showcased in BIFF's outdoor theatre. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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.

99 Songs

Premiering in Busan, 99 Songs is about the power of music and love, set to AR Rahman’s beautiful music. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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. 

Market

Market, whose original title is ‘Iewduh’, tells the story of Bara Bazaar market in Shillong. Photo courtesy: BIFF  

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. 

Aadhaar​

BIFF marked the World Premier of Aadhaar, a comedy that progresses into a social drama. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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. 

Bombay Rose

A debut film by Gitanjali Rao that was six years in the making, Bombay Rose captivates with its beautiful drawings and colors. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@BFI
A debut film by Gitanjali Rao that was six years in the making, Bombay Rose captivates with its beautiful drawings and colors. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@BFI

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.

Jallikattu​

Lijo Jose PELLISSERY’s directing captures the chaotic scenes of a "Jallikattu', a ritual or a game in India’s Tamilnadu, similar to a rodeo where who stays longest on the back of an ox is considered the winner. Picture Courtesy: BIFF  

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.

Bitter Chestnut

Bitter Chestnut examines the slow-paced life of a boy in the Himalayas who wishes to migrate to a fast-paced city. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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

Director and poet Leena Manimekalai focuses on the sanctity found in the uncleanest of all things in Maadathy, the Unfairy Tale which had its World Premier at Busan. Photo courtesy: BIFF
Director and poet Leena Manimekalai focuses on the sanctity found in the uncleanest of all things in Maadathy, the Unfairy Tale which had its World Premier at Busan. Photo courtesy: BIFF

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

Starring as Reena, director Tannishtha Chatterjee performed the role of producer and actor for Roam Rome Mein. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@romacinemafest
Starring as Reena, director Tannishtha Chatterjee performed the role of producer and actor for Roam Rome Mein. Photo courtesy: Twitter/@romacinemafest

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 

The Wayfarers, an ironical yet poetic movie about urbanisation had its world premier in Korea at the Busan International Film Festival. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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. 

Nirvana Inn

Nirvana Inn, a psychological thriller depicting guilt, fear and reincarnation is directed by Vijay Jayapal, whose previous film Revelations was invited to Busan in 2016. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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

Just Like That director Kislay shows the oppressive nature of virtue that elderly women face, when enjoying life and living for oneself is seen as selfish and unethical, especially for a widow. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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

Busan International Film Festival saw the world premier of Sudanshu Saria's short film full of suspense and mystery. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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

Deepa Mehta's Earth from her Elements Trilogy, featured under Asia's leading women filmmaker's showcase at BIFF. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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. 

Deepa Mehta's Fire from her Elements Trilogy, featured under Asia's leading women filmmaker's showcase at BIFF. Photo courtesy: BIFF 

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.

Deepa Mehta's Water from her Elements Trilogy, featured under Asia's leading women filmmaker's showcase at BIFF. Photo courtesy: BIFF

 

Author
Lakshmy Iyer
Lakshmy Iyer – Senior Correspondent, ASEAN & Entertainment

Lakshmy has been contributing regularly as a freelance writer since 2012. Her writing has been an amalgamation of the language, literature and rich cultural experiences of India as well as South East Asia. An Instructional Designer by profession she is passionate about lifelong learning. Art is her medium of reflection. She participates in art exhibitions thus contributing to the local art scene and using this platform, supports social causes in Singapore as well.

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