Small films make big impact at Piff

PUNE: Independent filmmakers from Central Asia and Europe are making their presence felt in the World Competition category at the 10th Pune International Film Festival (Piff) with films reflecting powerful themes. Be it thse semi-mythical Saha by Ilgar Safat (Azerbaijan) or an identity-crisis addressed in Yan Wang-produced Diago (China) or the challenges of inter-personal relations in Irish-Spanish director Paco Torres' The Magic of Hope, these small-budget directorial ventures are prominent features of film festival staple.

Wang calls Diago an art film. Based in Macau, the film portrays the protagonist sensing his Portuguese-Macanese roots and his connection with his stepfather and sister, just before the handover of Macau and Hong Kong by the British to Mainland China. "Before the handover, he was Portuguese and now, he is Chinese; he tries to find a middle ground in his identity. There are several such examples in Macau itself," Wang said.

A co-production between mainland China and Macau made at a budget of 120,000 yuans, Diago is an example of arthouse Chinese cinema that has found its niche. "However, independent filmmaking is still a challenge and there exists difficulty in finding funds to do art movies in China now," Wang said.

For someone who continues to make such films, she has found her way around. "I use two years to plan a television series. Once written and ready, I sell them to TV stations and then I have money to make films. Also, now, it's easier for Chinese films like mine to go to international film festivals," Wang said.

Film festivals are an important platform for filmmakers like Safat, who directed Saha entirely in Azerbaijan at a budget of one million euros. A mythical tale of a photographer specialising in nudes, grappling with a life-and-death situation when he meets with a road accident while in the company of his fiancee, the riveting film is woven with a non-linear narrative, with elements borrowed from real life.

"Saha is a co-production between Azerbaijan and Georgia. The cast are from Georgia, Russia and France. Azerbaijan makes around ten films every year, with most of them funded by the ministry of culture. Fortunately, around 70% of these films are rated very good and receive positive reviews at film festivals," Safat said. He is also a documentary filmmaker, poet, and rock-singer. More importantly, he wants his films to show the bright side of his country.

Dublin-based Torres says his film is very positive. A mother's love and support to her leukaemia-affected ten-year-old daughter, The Magic of Hope is a gripping tale of human realities. "As a filmmaker, I try to strike a balance by telling a socially relevant story in positive light. The Magic of Hope is inspired from real life and is backed by Irish and Spanish musicians," said Torres, who shuttles between Dublin and Seville in Spain.

Throwing light on Ireland's filmmaking potential, Torres said, "It's a small country but has a vibrant culture and is a melting pot for filmmaking. A lot of co-productions take place, with Ireland making around 50 films per year. Several Irish actors are big names in Hollywood now. A lot of Irish people go to cinemas to watch films."

His film, too, enjoyed generous government-funding. "We shot it one million euro-budget. Various government institutions support art and culture in Ireland with generous funding. Irish band and film projects, including mine, enjoy almost 100% government funding," said Torres, who is also finalising his second script: based on a Palestinian man in Ireland helping an Irish boy.

Laxmi Birajdar, TNN 2012-01-18