Movies that have been showcased and have won praise and honours – many, the top prize for best movie – at film festivals recognised by International Federation of Film Producers Associations grace the International Cinema category. The line-up includes:
Dheepan – Palme d’Or at Cannes
Jacques Audiard underscored his reputation as the premier contemporary French director by winning the Palme d’Or at the 68th Cannes Film Festival for his seventh feature, Dheepan. Drawing inspiration from Montesquieu’s Persian Letters and starring former Tamil Tiger child soldier-turned-novelist Antonythasan Jesuthasan, the film is the story of three Tamil refugees in France. Dheepan was also shown in the Special Presentations section of the 2015 Toronto International Film Festival
Taxi – Golden Bear, FIPRESCI Prize at Berlin
Jafar Panahi’s Taxi premiered in competition at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival where it won the Golden Bear and a FIPRESCI Prize. The latest entrant in the classic subgenre of Iranian cinema virtually invented by Abbas Kiarostami: shooting an entire film with a car dashboard camera, Taxi is described as “a portrait of the modern Tehran”. The premise of the movie, made despite Panahi’s 20-year ban from filmmaking and travelling issued in 2010, is that the celebrated Panahi is now reduced to driving a cab. His niece Hana Saeidi, who also appears in the film, collected the awards on his behalf.
From Afar – Golden Lion at Venice
Jaws dropped as this low-profile film from Lorenzo Vigas, a hitherto unknown Venezuelan debutant director, took home top honours, the Golden Lion, at the 72nd Venice International film festival’s top prize. Desde Allá (From Afar) is a dark drama about the relationship between a middle-aged gay man and a violent young street tough was not considered a frontrunner – or even, to be in the running – for the top prize. But it has plenty going for it, including a wonderful performance from Alfredo Castro, the Chilean actor who has become something of a cult star over the last few years.
Right Now, Wrong Then – Golden Leopard
A playfully dark romantic comedy by prolific South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, Right Now, Wrong Then won the coveted Golden Leopard at the 68th Locarno Film Festival. A mischievous meditation on social niceties and missed chances with the same romantic scenario playing out over and over with markedly different results, the film is described as one of “minute observations rather than grand revelations, less concerned with butterfly-effect consequentiality than with the variable human foibles that can turn a bad day into a good one”.
Lead Jung Jae-young won Best Actor honours in Locarno. The wins give the film a healthy profile boost as it heads to the IFFK, following fest appointments in Toronto and New York
The Night Watchman – Golden Goblet, Shanghai
French director Pierre Jolivet’s Jamais de la Vie, also known as The Night Watchman, won the Jin Jue (Golden Goblet) award at the 18th Shanghai International Film Festival.
The story of a once-skilled, now redundant worker whose life has turned to unwelcome drudgery as a shopping mall security guard, and who grabs an unexpected opportunity to regain some control over his life, The Night Watchman stars Olilier Gourmet, Valerie Bonneton and Marc Zinga (who accepted the prize on Jolivet’s behalf).
Price of Love – Grolsch People’s Choice Award nominee at Toronto
A taxi driver and a beautiful prostitute fall in love while struggling to exist and survive in the harsh warrens of Addis Ababa, in this gritty drama from Ethiopian writer-director Hermon Hailay. Nominated for the Grolsch People’s Choice Award nominee at the 40th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, Price of Love continues Hailay’s style of not backing down from unpalatable street truths and their underlying causes. In this, her third, feature, Hailay shines an unwavering light on the murky underbelly of Ethiopia’s capital, its rampant flesh trade and its many victims.
Nahid – Promising Future Award at Cannes
An unsparing chronicle of a divorced, single mother’s attempts to maintain both her independence and custody of her child, Iranian writer-director Ida Panahandeh’s Nahid makes for a most convincing companion piece to similarly-themed 2011 Oscar winner A Separation. Though focused on a different milieu, much of that crushing atmosphere carries over in this fraught study of Iran’s labyrinthine laws and social stigmas concerning divorce and remarriage. With painterly visuals, Panahandeh tells of Nahid’s fight to pay the monthly rent and her attempts to devote attention to her wild teenage son and her new boyfriend. Little surprise then that Nahid won a Promising Future Award in the Un Certain Regard category at Cannes.
The Project of the Century – Tiger Award at Rotterdam
Cuban director Carlos M. Quintela’s feature flows easily between realism and surrealism in its faithful portrayal about a country stagnating in stalemate. Winner of the Tiger Award at the 44th International Film Festival of Rotterdam, La Obra del Siglo (The Project of the Century) is the story – told in stark black-and-white – of three generations of Cuban men in an apartment in the workers’ quarters at a half-built Soviet nuclear power station. Chockfull of archival footage, the nostalgic euphoria of which contrasts with the dreary present, the film speaks for generations of Cubans who simply ‘carry on’ as the world around them moves on.
Immortal – Best film (New Currents), FIPRESCI Critics award at Busan
The only film in the list to make it to the IFFK’s strong competition section, Immortal (Mamiroo) is the second feature from up-and-coming Iranian filmmaker Hadi Mohaghegh. Already a winner for Best film in the New Currents category at the 20th Busan International Film Festival as also a FIPRESCI Critics’ award, Mohaghegh has less than five minutes of actual dialogue but creates a visual structure to tell its story. Images, not words, allow viewers to share in the loneliness of its elderly protagonist as he battles against his guilty conscience and looks to take his own life. The reasons are as fleeting as they are immaterial.
IFFK 2015, Kerala’s premier film festival, runs from December 4-11.