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India’s Qissa to compete at Vesoul Filmfest in France

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NEW DELHI: The Indian film Qissa by Anup Singh, which has already won accolades on the international festival circuit, will one of the nine Asian films in competition at the 20th Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie.

The Cinemas d'Asie which is a specific festival for developing film industries in Asia will be held from 11 to 18 February in Vesoul in France next month.

There are two films from Japan, both receiving their European premiere, and one each from China, India, Iran, Philippines, South Korea, Thailand and Turkey in the Festival. Five of these nine films were also screened at last year's Busan International Film Festival in South Korea.

Qissa was also the opening film of the 43rd International Film Festival at Rotterdam from 22 January to 2 February and this marked the European premiere of the film. It won the Audience Award at that Festival. 

The award comprising Euro 10,000 (INR 9 Lakh Approx) is given to the most voted film supported by the Hubert Bals Fund.

Qissa which received the Hubert Bals Fund for Script & Project Development in 2004, was made with further support from the Netherlands Film Fund, and was co-produced by Dutch company Augustus Film.

Set in post-colonial India, the film stars Irrfan Khan as a Sikh who has fled his village to escape ethnic cleansing at the time of partition who tries to start a new life for his family.

The choice of opening slot for the drama is part of the 25th anniversary celebration of the festival's Hubert Bals Fund, which had supported the Indian film's script development ten years ago.

The festival will also host a retrospective, Mysterious Objects: 25 Years of Hubert Bals Fund, including a screening of the fund's first recipient, Chen Kaige's Life on a String (1991).

Qissa is represented internationally by Germany's The Match Factory GmbH. The film had its North American and Asian premieres at the Toronto International Film Festivaland Busan International Film Festival respectively.

Earlier, the film added one more feather in its cap when actor Tillotama Shome won the Best Actress award in the New Horizons competition at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival.

In Qissa, Shome plays the youngest daughter of Umber Singh (Irrfan Khan) who decides to raise her as a boy.

Shome made her screen debut with Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding in 2001 and went on to play roles in Florian Gallenberger’s Shadows of Time and Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai.

Qissa earlier won the Silver Gateway Award in India Gold competition at the 15thMumbai Film Festival  and the NETPAC (Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema) Award for Best Asian Film at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival where it had its premiere.

Set amidst the ethnic cleansing and general chaos that accompanied India’s partition in 1947, this sweeping drama stars Irrfan Khan as a Sikh attempting to forge a new life for his family while keeping their true identities a secret from their community.

Beautiful, timeless, and touching the deepest of human impulses, Qissa carries the spirit of a great folk tale. Although it's set in a particular time and place — the Punjab region that straddles India and Pakistan in the years immediately after partition — it is both deeper and broader than any one moment. As this eerie family drama progresses, it cuts to the heart of eternal desires for honour, empathy, and love.

"Qissa" is originally an Arabic word meaning folk tale. Both the word and the idea migrated from the Gulf into the Punjab, still connected by the ancient oral narratives handed down in communal settings. Working within this tradition, director Anup Singh gives his film both the grand themes and elemental emotions of classic storytelling. As Umber's daughter is raised as a boy, the characters are propelled with greater and greater urgency towards their inevitable fates.

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