Monday, October 24, 2005
The Asian Film Festival Pune, 2005 – Day 2Posted by Aditya Bidikar | 9:11 PM
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Day Two was shorter than Day One, with only three films, and only one of them any actual use.
The three films I saw were: God’s Sandbox (Israel – Doron Eran), Eashwar Mime Co. (India – Shyamanand Jalan) and Tokyo Noir (Japan – Naoto Kumazawa & Masato Ishioka).
God’s Sandbox is a somewhat commercial yet intelligent movie about female genital mutilation (which is usually given the euphemism female circumcision). I was actually in two minds about watching this film after I researched it on the net – on one hand, it had won many awards, and on the other, it was about a horrifying subject, and I expected I would be watching many parts of it with my hand covering my eyes (which I actually didn’t). An old lady and her daughter who have come to a Sinai beach on a holiday listen to a storyteller tell a story about a beautiful young woman who fell in love with a native many years ago. The love story that forms the first part of the film is not as affecting as it should have been, mainly because you never like that native fellow, but the second part, where the focus is on the young woman, is carried off mainly by the wonderful performance by Meital Dohan, as well as the sensitive direction. Overall, the film is not as melodramatic as it could have been (yes, even the part where she hits him on the head with a boulder isn’t actually overblown), and the message comes across well.
Eashwar Mime Co. is an odd film about the dynamics of power in a mime company. In parts, it strives to be experimental, but it ends up being a somewhat weird mixture of normal and experimental cinema. The script, by Vijay Tendulkar, is competent, but nothing more. I wasn’t bored, but I wasn’t impressed either. The huge potential of using mime in cinema, however, has not at all been tapped, so I deem the movie more-or-less a failure. By the way, this film had a kiss that was almost as bad as the one in 36 Chowringhee Lane.
Tokyo Noir is an utterly senseless movie about what I can only call shiny happy prostitutes. It is made up of three different stories (all about high class prostitution), and I stayed all the way through only because I hoped one of them might turn out to be good. The film runs through all the clichés about prostitution – they enjoy sex with their customers; prostitution, if done apart from one’s day job, gives one confidence and satisfaction; and, above all, prostitutes are fulfilled and happy. Only one of the three prostitutes is vaguely dissatisfied, and only one customer turns abusive, and even he turns out to be someone who only wants to be loved. The saturation of these clichés made me suspect, some of the time, that they were trying to subvert the apparent conclusions, but I probably thought that only because I didn’t want to believe someone would make such a movie. Therefore, my suspicion probably isn’t true. This movie only reinforces all the typical stereotypes – women exist to pleasure men, men should be able to get sex without obligations and all that. And the worst thing is that it is shot in such a soft, almost tender, manner, that it makes it all seem acceptable – it doesn’t even let you make your own decision about it.
After God’s Sandbox, as I was waiting for the next movie to begin, a man of about thirty-five or so came up to me and we started discussing the movie. After a few moments, I realised that he hadn’t actually understood what they did to her in the film (the circumcision, I mean). So I explained it, and then I realised that he didn’t know what a clitoris was – a thirty-five years old, probably married, man! I explained it, and then I explained why female circumcision is actually worse than what is generally called circumcision. The hypothetical male analogy I gave him made him cringe, and I believe it was then that he actually got why she had been so adversely affected by it.
The festival was about as empty and unenthusiastic as on the first day, and the projection problems were much worse. I watched God’s Sandbox entirely without subtitles. (I know that this was a projection problem because it took the projection chap ten minutes to find the ‘play’ button.) This wasn’t that much of a problem though, because, for one, half of it was in English, and, for another, I already knew the story. And the lack of subtitles made it easier to focus on the film itself. The projection on Tokyo Noir was entirely awful. The image was shaking slightly the whole time, and, for a large part of the second story, the upper and the lower halves of the image would alternately get blurred, for reasons unknown.
The worst thing, however, was that I wasted three hours on Tokyo Noir, which was actually a two-hour-long film. It was supposed to start at 9 p.m., but I waited there (in the empty auditorium) till ten, and there was no sign of the film. I went outside and asked the theatre crew, and they said the film was going on perfectly fine. I patiently explained to them that I had just come from the auditorium, and my more-or-less fine, if myopic, eyes could detect no sign of the film. It turned out that the whole crew had forgotten to start the movie. Ain’t folks wonderful?
And I would also like to note the awfulness of the catalogue of films distributed at the festival. It is well-printed, but it is incomplete, has some photos missing, some synopses are badly-written, and some of them aren’t even complete – they just stop mid-sentence. As a couple of examples of this, the synopsis of Tokyo Noir mentions only one of the three stories, and the synopsis of God’s Sandbox does not make any mention of the subject of female circumcision, except to note that the film was adapted from a book called Castration, which could easily have been a metaphorical title (I originally took it that way). Couldn’t they even get an editor? It would hardly have been a day’s work. Or were they just too shy to give details on such subjects?