Women directors lead Indian cinema at 77th Cannes Film Festival


Sunday, 12 May 2024 (15:40 IST)
Cannes: Women-led and women-centric movies dealing with gender justice and equality represent Indian cinema at the 77th Cannes Film Festival beginning on May 14.
Mumbai-based filmmaker Payal Kapadia leads the Cannes festival's official selection from India this year with 'All We Imagine As Light', the first Indian film in the festival's prestigious competition section in three decades.
The last Indian film in Cannes competition was 'Swaham' (My Own) directed by Malayalam filmmaker Shaji N Karun in 1994.
The story of two Kerala nurses working in a hospital in Mumbai, the Hindi and Malayalam language 'All We Imagine As Light' will vie for the festival's top prize, Palme d'Or, along with such cinema legends as 'The Godfather' director Francis Ford Coppola and Canadian director David Cronenberg.
Kapadia's 'A Night of Knowing Nothing', which was part of the Directors' Fortnight parallel selection in Cannes in 2021, had won the Golden Eye Award for Best Documentary at the festival.
'All We Imagine As Light' was Kapadia's project in development at the Cannes festival's Cinefondation Résidence programme for young directors working on their first or second feature films. Launched in 2000, the prestigious Résidence programme's previous participants include Lebanese actor-director Nadine Labaki, who made the Oscar-nominated 'Capernaum', and Hungarian László Nemes, who won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film for 'Son of Saul'.
British-Indian debutante director Sandhya Suri's 'Santosh', another women-centric movie set in Mumbai, is part of the festival's Un Certain Regard section for new voices and trends in the world of cinema. Suri's short film, 'The Field', also set in India, won the Best Short Film Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2018.
'Santosh', starring 'A Suitable Boy' actor Shahana Goswami, is about a widow appointed into her husband’s job as a police constable in rural India suddenly finds herself pulled into an investigation into the rape of a low-caste girl.
Kannada filmmaker Chidananda S Naik's 'Sunflowers Were The First To Know', based on a Banjara folk tale, will compete in La Cinef section for film schools around the world. 'Sunflowers Were The First To Know' is Naik's end-of-course short film at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune.
Both Kapadia and Naik are FTII alumni along with Ladakh-based Maisam Ali, also an FTII alumnus whose debut feature, 'In Retreat', is part of the parallel selection, ACID (Association for the Diffusion of Independent Cinema) run by French filmmakers at the festival.
Set in Ladakh, 'In Retreat', a Ladakhi and Hindi language production, tells the story of a community's discomfort with the return of a man who had left his roots decades ago.
"There are three films made by FTII alumni in Cannes this year. It is a matter of great pride for India,” says Ali, who studied direction at FTII, Pune.
"The Pune film institute is a temple of learning," says Naik, who lives in Mysore, Karnataka. "It was built around the erstwhile Prabhat Studios and legendary cinematographer V K Murthy ('Pyaasa', 'Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam', 'Kaagaz Ke Phool') shot movies in Prabhat Studios," he adds.
Kolkata-born British-Indian artist Poulomi Basu's virtual reality film 'Maya: The Birth of a Superhero' is among the entries from worldwide in the inaugural Immersive Competition section at the Cannes festival. Co-directed with British artist CJ Clarke, the film, which stars British-Indian actor Indira Verma, is the coming of age story of a South Asian girl in London and the awakening of her sexuality.
Veteran director Shyam Benegal's 1976 film, 'Manthan', which was India's entry to the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, is among restored movies from around the world in the Cannes Classics section.
It is the third successive year a restored Indian film is in the Cannes Classics category. In 2022, the year India was the Country of Honour at Marché du Film, the Cannes film market, the 1970 Bengali film, 'Pratidwandi' ('The Adversary') by Satyajit Ray and G Aravindan's Malayalam film 'Thampu' ('The Circus Tent') were part of Cannes Classics. Last year, Manipuri director Aribam Syam Sharma's 1990 Meitei language film, 'Ishanou' ('The Chosen One'), was the only Indian restored film in Cannes Classics.
'Sister Midnight' by London-based Indian director Karan Kandhari will premiere at the Directors’ Fortnight parallel selection this year. Set in Mumbai, the film starring Radhika Apte and Ashok Pathak is about a small-town misfit navigating her newly arranged marriage.
Un Certain Regard section includes 'The Shameless', a film by Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov set in India and partially shot in Nepal. The film, which is about a sex worker on the run for the alleged murder of a policeman in a Delhi brothel, striking a friendship with a young girl condemned to prostitution in a small town in North India. The film stars Kolkata-based actor Anasuya Sengupta and Mumbai-based Omara Shetty.
French director Quentin Dupieux's comedy 'Le deuxième acte' ('The Second Act'), a comedy about actors in a doomed film production, will open the Cannes festival on May 14.
American actor, screenwriter and director Greta Gerwig heads the competition jury this year. Among the contenders for Palme d'Or along with Kapadia's 'All We Imagine As Light' are 'Megalopolis' by Francis Ford Coppola and 'The Apprentice', by Iranian-Danish director Ali Abbasi, which portrays the early years of former US president Donald Trump as a real estate tycoon.
The Cannes festival will run up to May 25.

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