Liar’s Dice enthralls Vladivostok audience

Films from 15 countries participated in the festival’s competition program. Source: Itar-Tass

Films from 15 countries participated in the festival’s competition program. Source: Itar-Tass

The Geetu Mohandas-directed film, which is India’s official entry for the 2015 Oscars, was highly appreciated by the audience at the Pacific Meridian Film Festival.

Liar's Dice, a road drama film written and directed by Malayalam film actress Geetu Mohandas, was screened to a jam-packed and appreciative audience at the 12th Vladivostok International Film Festival of Asia-Pacific Countries, also known as the Pacific Meridian festival.

The ethnographic film provides a foreign viewer with the opportunity to learn more about modern Indian culture and society.  Audiences in Vladivostok got a glimpse of problems that plague India, such as social inequality, low standards of living in the country’s agrarian regions, and the lack of security for Indian women. 

Liar's Dice was shown twice at the festival, at 10 in the morning (for the jury) and in the evening.  There were many people in attendance even at a morning session held on a weekday, and the hall was completely full in the evening. The audience was delighted and stayed long afterwards. They wanted to ask the creators of the film questions as is the custom at film festivals. But, unfortunately, the director and actors were not present at the festival.

The film won two India National Film Awards including, Best Actress for Geetanjali Thapa and Best Cinematography for Rajeev Ravi. It has not yet been released in India, although it premiered at the 2013 Mumbai Film Festival.  An India-wide commercial release is expected in November, by the PVR group, under its independent film category, PVR Director’s Rare.

Independent Indian cinema

Hindi films were very popular in the Soviet Union. Indian films like Disco Dancer were dubbed and shown in movie theatres throughout the country. There are still many fans in Russia to this day. There is a well-established distribution network and there are special cable channels for Indian cinema. Many films are translated into Russian.

However, independent cinema in India, which – like in all of Asian cinema – is flourishing at the moment, remains largely unknown in Russia. The people want classics that meet expectations perfectly. So, such festivals like the Pacific Meridian provide the Russian viewer a rare opportunity to see what modern Indian filmmakers are creating. And the viewer is definitely taking an active interest.

One of the Indian guests of the festival, director, producer, and screenwriter Sidharth Srinivasan spoke to RIR about the opportunities and problems are faced by Indian cinema today.  At the Pacific Meridian Film Festival, Srinivasan served as the chairman of the jury for NETPAC (The Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema), an organization engaged in studying and popularizing Asian cinema.

As the chairman of the jury, he did not have the right to discuss the films in the competition line-up. However, he talked about how independent filmmaking survives in India: “In India, there is absolutely no state sponsorship for independent films other than one agency called the National Film Development Corporation. It produces a maximum of ten films a year, which is a very small number compared to the one thousand films that independent filmmakers make each year.”

The Snow Maiden

The fact that Indian films are very popular and in demand at international film festivals notwithstanding, at home they face problems with distribution, Srinivasan says. “In terms of production, you have an explosion of independent film production. They are getting a lot of support globally. They are really traveling to all the big festivals – Cannes, Toronto and so on. The problem happens when they come back home because Indian distribution is very difficult. No matter how much your film was made for – 5 dollars or 5 million dollars – distributors have the same requirement; they no longer take a risk on the release.”

Today, independent directors from various countries are often financing their own films.  Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who was a member of the jury at the Moscow International Film Festival last year, held a workshop in Moscow on the theme of How to make movies cheaply. He then bewailed the fact that because of the cheapness of shooting, movies have started to multiply exponentially and finding something of worth in this rising tide is becoming more and more difficult.

“It has become an instant information society,” Srinivasan said. And if it were not for such festivals as Pacific Meridian, for which the selectors screened a large number of films, many very interesting works, including those of Indian filmmakers, would not find their audience.

Vladivostok’s annual film festival

Films from 15 countries – Russia, Japan, South Korea, China, India, the United States, Canada, Mexico, Ecuador, Chile, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Singapore, the Netherlands, and Taiwan – participated in the festival’s competition program. The concept of life as a journey, social vulnerability, and lack of education were the key themes at this year’s event.

The festival’s venue – Vladivostok, the capital of the Primorye Territory in Russia’s Far East, near China, both Koreas, and Japan – puts a focus on the global crossing of cultures. The city’s unique location has afforded it some specific characteristics, such as the predominance of Japanese cars with the steering wheel on the right side (whereas the European part of Russia is dominated by cars with the steering wheel on the left side), an abundance of goods that would be unfamiliar to Muscovites and residents of European Russia, and signs advertising supermarket chains and insurance companies that do not exist in Moscow.

Several big names were also present at the Vladivostok festival thanks to the efforts of Pacific Meridian’s founder and director, Efim Zvenyatsky, who invited internationally renowned celebrities to the event. This year, the festival was attended by Oscar winner Adrien Brody, Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin, and one of Quentin Tarantino’s favourite actors, Michael Madsen, who was a member of the jury. It was quite an unusual sight to spot a sleepy-looking American celebrity in the screening room at 10:00 every morning. 

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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