Kolkata film fest to raise toast to Hollywood classics

Kolkata: The 21st edition of Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), India’s second oldest film festival, that begins here on Saturday, will raise a toast to Hollywood classics and shine the spotlight on cinema in relatively unheard Indian dialects.

As many as 149 films by 137 directors from 61 countries will be screened across 12 venues in the week-long extravaganza organised by the West Bengal government. The fest concludes on November 21.

Adhering to tradition, the fest will have a star-studded opening with megastar Amitabh Bachchan inaugurating the event.

His wife Jaya, actresses Vidya Balan, Sharmila Tagore and Moushumi Chatterjee will also grace the occasion. However, superstar Shah Rukh Khan, a regular at the opening ceremony, will not be present due to film commitments.

State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will preside over the ceremony. An innovative musical performance titled “Maestros of Bengal” will headline the event.

The films have been divided into 15 segments. The ‘Focus Hollywood’ section consists of a line-up of seven Hollywood gems spanning 1920 to 1970s.
These include Clyde Bruckman’s silent comedy film “The General”, Michael Curtiz’s romantic “Casablanca”, William Wyler’s historical drama “Ben-Hur” and Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins’s musical “West Side Story”.

And as tributes to these evergreen movies, organisers have tweaked the logo of famed Hollywood studios to give an Indian, rather a Kolkata look.

So the roaring lion in the MGM logo transforms into a Royal Bengal tiger while the lady in the Columbia Pictures logo is replaced with the Angel of Victory that tops the central dome of the iconic Victoria Memorial. Another icon, the Howrah Bridge substitutes the mountains in the Paramount Pictures banner.

Hoardings showcasing these modified logos dot the main venue at Nandan as well as major arterial roads and have become the talking points of the fest.

The rich filmmaking tradition of Europe will not be forgotten at the KIFF amid Hollywood glamour.

Six films each by French maestro Jean Renoir and Portuguese filmmaking legend Manoel De Oliveira are set to draw world cinema enthusiasts.

To make it relevant to the youth, KIFF’s Facebook page and Twitter are peppered with trivia connecting Jean Renoir and Indian auteur Satyajit Ray and the Frenchman’s maiden visit to the eastern metropolis way back in 1949.

But the fest is also well into the present as a majority of films are those that released in 2015.

With new sections like ‘Films on Sports’ and ‘India Unheard’, it’s foraying into variety catered to youth and human interest issues. ‘India Unheard’ will showcase films in Ladakhi, Nepali and Konkani languages among others. Three films will be shown in the ‘Bengali Panorama’ section.

The festival is budgeted at Rs.8 crore. This year for the second time, the KIFF is a competitive event. The competition focuses on films helmed by women filmmakers.

Headed by Tagore, the jury comprising well-known Chinese-American actress Bai Ling, Polish director Filip Marczewski, Israeli filmmaker Samuel Maoz and Sri Lankan actress Swarna Mallawarachchi, will select the Best Film and Best Director from 14 short-listed movies.

The prize, the Royal Bengal trophy will be awarded to the Best Film (Rs.51 lakh) and the Best Director (Rs.21 lakh).