44th IFFI sees foreign films make the mark

MUMBAI: NEW DELHI: Tiny island nation East Timor’s first ever feature film Beatriz’s War directed by Bety Reis and Luigi Acquisto won the prestigious Golden Peacock Award for the Best Film at the forty fourth International Film Festival of India (IFFI) which concluded in Panaji in Goa over the weekend.

The award for the best film carried a Golden Peacock, a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 40 lakh. In her passionate acceptance speech at the closing ceremony held on the banks of River Mandovi, Reis said, “One of the world’s oldest and biggest film industries has reposed faith in the world’s newest and smallest film industry in East Timor. Since its independence in 1999, we have not just been fighting for the rights of women, the rights of children and the right to rule ourselves, but also our right to tell our stories.”  Beatriz’s War is a passionate story of one woman’s conviction to remain true to the man she loves.

The film’s jury was unanimous in their decision selecting the film from East Timor, which succeeds in intricating intimate relationships between women and men during the hard years of continuous violence against East Timorians.

The best director award was given to Kaushik Ganguly for his film Apur Panchali, his tribute to stalwart master craftsman Satyajit Ray. He received Rs 15 lakh, a certificate and a Silver Peacock.

Thou Guils't The Even, a Turkish film by Onur Unlu won the special jury award of a cash prize of Rs 15 lakh and silver peacock

The best actor (male) award went to Alon Moni Aboutboul for his performance in the Israeli movie A Place in Heaven where his performance as a cruel and sensitive character was applauded. The best actor (female) award was presented to Boczarska Magdalena for her performance in the Polish film In Hiding. Both these awards carried a Silver Peacock, a certificate and a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh.

The special centenary award of IFFI instituted in the 101st year of Indian cinema was handed to director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee of Bengali film Meghe Dhaka Tara by legendary actress Asha Parekh. The film is a tribute to Bengali off-beat cinema master Ritwik Kumar Ghatak. The centenary award carries a cash prize of Rs 10 lakh and a silver peacock.

The chief guest Michelle Yeoh expressed delight at being part of the ceremony and among incredible moviemakers. “I congratulate you for the movies you’ve made, and the incredible stories you’ve told. It is truly my honour to be in this room”, she said, adding: “The world is a smaller place than ever. A movie made in India reaches London or a film made in Singapore or Goa travels worldwide.”

On the occasion Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said the 44th IFFI was a celebration of freedom of the human spirit, liberated from the mores of conventionalism. Talking about the initiatives taken over the past one year, he said, the single window mechanism that the Ministry has put in place will help streamline the whole business of producing films in India. He said the same mechanism has been extended to domestic film producers as well. Tewari said the government had also taken the initiative to replace the archaic Cinematograph Act 1952 with a completely new legislation, the draft of which is on the Ministry’s website for public consultation.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said the host state has promised a bigger and better IFFI going forward. “IFFI saw a huge number of delegates this time. We will plan a grander IFFI going forward. IFFI is one of the most celebrated festivals,” Parrikar said at the concluding ceremony.

Speaking on the occasion Ministry Joint Secretary (Films) Raghavendra Singh said, "This time we have had a concentrated dose of Indian and World Films. I hope the hangover of watching great films would last at least for a few days”.

Singh said that media reports about the event had been flattering, which he said must have in turn made the jury’s job of picking a winner tougher.

“This time we witnessed a 30 percent rise in the number of delegates that was 12000,” he said suggesting that the number of auditoriums at the venue had to increase.

“The response from North East cinema was terrific and Japan sent a great contingent,” he said.

Rohit Shetty, who was felicitated at the closing ceremony professed his love for Goa, which, he jokingly said, even rivaled his wife.

“Eighteen or 19 years ago I had told my wife I love you. Now this goes out to Goa.  I love you Goa. When we were shooting for an action sequence for Singham in Goa, a man looked at me and suddenly stopped in the middle of the road and said, ‘where did you disappear for so many days?’ This shows how hospitable and friendly people of Goa are,” a visibly touched Shetty said.

Justin Chadwick’s film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom was the closing film of the festival. The film chronicles Nelson Mandela’s his life from his childhood in a rural village to his emergence as the first democratically elected President of South Africa.

Earlier, Goa's noted singer Remo Fernandes enthused the 2,000 strong audience with his performance ranging from his popular Hindi film numbers of Hamma Hamma to a rendition of one of his classical Indian compositions.

With this, the 11-day extravaganza of films, master classes, discussions and press conferences on films came to an end.

A total of 325 films from 76 countries, which included 15 Oscar nominees, were screened during the festival.

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