Chennai: The Seven Islands International Film Festival, which began in Chennai on Friday, brings 50 films from across 18 countries including Belgium, Estonia, Greece, Italy, Romania, Egypt, France and Japan. Stories of women — painful, heartening, inspiring and chilling — lie at the core of the festival. The theme of the four-day annual touring festival, which was launched at the Cannes Film Festival in May this year, is ‘Women Rising, Against All Odds’.
Last year, especially, saw women rise against socio-political and economic odds —from participating in the Arab Spring revolution to taking charge of the opposition party in Myanmar. In India, a ‘Missile Woman’ is being celebrated as the new face of its Defence Research and Development Organisation, says Festival director Sakshi Ojha. So, she says, it was only fitting that the festival should celebrate the spirit of the woman.
Apart from international, national and regional feature-length movies, the festival also brings documentaries and short films. One of them is about the first stuntwoman of India — ‘Fearless Nadia’ who challenged all stereotypes, wore body-hugging clothes, ran on top of trains and jumped from horse carts. Fearless: The Hunterwali Story, the 1994 documentary by Nadia’s great grandnephew, Riyad Vinci Wadia, brings, among other things, archive footage of the legendary Greek-Australian stunt actress.
There is more of India at the festival. Aditi Chitre’s Journey to Nagaland offers a glimpse into the ancient folk songs, practices and beliefs of the Ao Naga tribe from the Northeast.
Leila Albayaty’s Berlin Telegram, the opening film at the festival, will also be its India premiere. The closing film, Sudipto Chattopadhyay’s Shobhna’s Seven Nights — a bold story of a seductive socialite - will also be screened for the first time in the country. Independent cinema, says Albayaty, is an art and it’s an outcome of an individual. “I created my life out of independent movie,” she says.
Director and screenwriter Dibakar Banerjee, who inaugurated the festival along with actor Kalki Koechlin, agrees. “I wouldn't have been what I am, if it wasn’t for film festivals,” he says, adding it’s only through these festivals that individual voices and talents are showcased. At a time when 90 per cent of cinema is experienced through films, the response to such a platform created for auteur cinema is extremely encouraging, Banerjee adds.
Among the other Indian films that will be screened at the festival are Manjari Makijany’s The Last Marble, Girish Kasaravalli’s 2008 Kannada film Gulabi Talkies, Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar’s Ek Cup Chya, Aparna Sen's 36 Chowringhee Lane and Revathy’s Red Building Where The Sun Sets.
In association with the National Film Archive of India, the Seven Islands International Film Festival is also organising ‘Women in Cinema’, a poster exhibition of women-centric films, celebrating 100 years of Indian cinema.
Among the posters on display are those of the Tamil movie Achamillai Achamillai and Hindi films Rihaee and Fire. They are all movies where women take centrestage and the heroine is the hero.