Thiruvananthapuram: The 24th International Film Festivsal of Kerala (IFFK) got off to a thoughtful start on Friday evening with the screening of the inaugural film 'Passed by Censor', the debut of Turkish filmmaker Serhat Karaaslaan.
The movie, about a prison officer tasked with monitoring the letters of convicts, is a gut-wrenching meditation on the dangers of censorship.
It was with a sense of political triumph that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan spoke about the inaugural film. "The IFFK is also a cultural protest programme," the Chief Minister said here.
He also took great pride in declaring that the 24th IFFK featured a retrospective of the spunky Left-leaning Argentinian auteur Fernando Solanos. "It was he who created the concept of Third World cinema," Pinarayi Vijayan said.
Pinarayi was referring to the Grupo Cine Liberación (The Liberation Film Group) that was created by Fernando Solanas, Octavio Getino and Gerardo Vallejo in the 1960s and became closely linked to Left politics in Argentina. The group pioneered anonymous films, and collective authorship, as a way to hoodwink political repression. They had also advocated violence against repressive regimes.
Given Solanos's strong Left leanings, the Chief Minister made it seem that the choice of Solanos for Lifetime Achievement was the CPM-led government's political statement against what he termed "fascist tendencies".
Though the Chief Minister was clearly using the IFFK platform to make a statement against fascism and its mean sidekick censorship, an irony was clearly lost on him.
Two years ago, on the very stage, finance minister T M Thomas Isaac had made an apology. The Russian legend Alexander Sokurov, who won the Lifetime Achievement award in 2017, was on stage. Isaac turned to the Russian legend and said: "We apologise for what happened in 2001." Isaac did not elaborate further.
A quick Google check was enough to reveal that Isaac was apologising for what happened at the Kolkota International Film Festival in 2001. Sokurov's 'Taurus' was one of the films screened. The second film in his 'tetralogy of power' series, based on the last days of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, was subjected to some vociferous criticism in the CPM-ruled West Bengal.
Jyoti Basu, who by then had retired, and Biman Bose said the movie should not have been shown. "'From where has Sokurov found that Lenin was anti-Semitic? There is no such reference in the Russian archives," Basu had then thundered. 'Taurus' is set in 1923, one year before Lenin's death and six years after the Bolshevik Revolution. At that time Lenin had undergone a debilitating operation to remove a bullet from his neck. He is also shown as being kept in a sort of house arrest by the Politburo. He is allowed no telephone calls, no post and no contact with the outside world. He contemplates suicide, rants against Jews, visits prostitutes and is treated as an insignificant figure by Stalin.
Sokurov, who was then 50, was amused at the irritation of the Bengali Left. "The film shows him struggling hard with his illness, struggling for his independence. Still, he is a strong, proud and clever man. Only, perhaps, a not very kind one," Sokurov had said. Leonid Mozgovi, the actor who plays Lenin, was blunt. "Lenin is not such a hero in Russia. He made errors too."
But Isaac, both wounded and strengthened by what happened in 2001, also made a promise in 2017. "We will sustain the right to dissent and defend it unmindful of the consequences," he had said. The 24th IFFK will therefore showcase films from some of the msot repressed countries in the world. Besides a Solanos retrospective, there will also be seven films that capture life after the balkanisation of Yugoslavia.
In all, 186 films from 73 countries will be showcased in 14 cinema halls during the eight-day IFFK. Perhaps the msot popular section is the Competition Section featuring 14 films from Third World countries, especially Asia, Latin America and Africa.
The five-member IIFK jury will have Fatemeh Motamed-Arya, the noted Iranian screen and stage actor, Egyptian filmmaker Khairy Beshara, Kazakh filmmaker Amir Karakulov, Marathi fillmmaker Nagaaraj Manjule and Tamil filmmakera nd cinematographer Rajiv Menon.
More than 50 films will have their premiere at the IFFK. The 24th IFFK will also showcase the works of 27 female directors.
The World Cinema section has a line up of 92 films, including comedy-thriller Korean Parasite directed by Boong Joon that won big at this year's Cannes. The film festival will again have a special midnight screening of South Korean thriller drama film, Door Lock directed by Lee Kwon and the much feted documentary film about the Argentine footballer Diego Maradona.