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Films To Look Out For At This Year’s Chennai International Film Festival


The 16th edition of Chennai International Film Festival starts today and will end on December 20. Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy is expected to attend the opening ceremony at Kalaivanar Arangam, 6.30 pm this evening.

The festival is being organised by Indo Cine Appreciation Foundation (ICAF), with the support of the Tamil Nadu government, South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce, and Film Federation of India.

Till date, the Tamil Nadu government has given Rs 3.25 crore as subsidy for conducting film festivals in the city. In 2011, for the ninth edition of the Chennai International Film Festival, the government announced a subsidy of Rs 25 lakh. This was later increased to Rs 50 lakh, and remained so until last year.

The festival director Thangaraj told Silverscreen, “This year, the government has increased funds, and we have been allotted Rs 75 lakh.” The CM announced this at a function held at the Secretariat recently, when a cheque was handed to the director.

It was earlier reported that foreign diplomats from Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai will attend the festival, representing their countries. Film professionals Resul Pookutty, director Shilpa from Singapore, Abu Shahed Emon, a director from Bangladesh, and Naina Sen from Australia will be attend. However, Tangaraj clarifies that not too many from the industry are expected.

With 150 films from 59 countries, the festival will run for eight days across six venues. As a special addition this year, a Tamil film competition has been organised.

The edition will see premiers of award-winning films like Touch Me Not (Romania), Cold War (Poland), Dogman (Italy) and Yomeddine (Egypt), At War (France). The country of focus for the year is Brazil; four films including City of God from Brazil will be screened.

While we look forward to all screenings, especially the first-time entries from Zambia, Costa Rica, Ladkah and other countries, there are a few films that you must not miss at the festival.

Rafiki – 14 December, 9.30 am, SDC Anna Theatre

Based on the award-winning short story Jambula Tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko, Rafiki premiered at the Cannes Film Festival under the ‘Un Certain Regard’ section, making it the first Kenyan film to do so. Directed by Wanuri Kahiu, the film features two women protagonists and is about the love blossoming between them. The movie was banned in its home country for promoting homosexuality, a criminal offence in Kenya. Shot in both Swahili and English, the movie was given temporary clearance by a Kenyan court making it eligible to compete at the Oscars.

Woman At War – 15 December, 4.30 pm, Devi Theatre

This film is by Benedikt Erlingsson, the Icelandic director who is well known for his 2013 film Of Horses and Men. Woman At War premiered at the Critics’ Week section of the Cannes Film Festival this year. It is also Iceland’s official entry for the Oscars. Halldóra Geirharðsdóttir, the central protagonist in the movie, plays an eco-activist who protests against the growth of energy corporations in the country. A conflict of interest that arises in her life when faced by a radical change, forms the plot of the movie.

Dogman – 16 December, 4.30 pm, Devi Theatre

Competing at the Cannes Film Festival for the Palme d’Or, this Italian film won its lead actor Marcello Fonte an award for best actor. It is directed by Matteo Garrone, and is about a man who is a dog-groomer by day, but moonlights as a coke dealer. A gangster customer who never pays bullies him into selling him cocaine. He also strong-arms him into taking part in one of his burglaries. Left without a choice, Garrone’s character, who always secretly wished to be part of a burglary, agrees to tag along. The movie deals with the brutality, addictions and the sycophancy of gangsterism.

Rojo – 17 December, 11 am, Devi Theatre

Rojo, the third film from the Argentinian director Benjamin Naishtat, has been described as his most accessible one. It features Dario Grandinetti who is best known to us for his role in Pedro Almodovar’s movies like Julieta and Talk To Her. This film too has been pitted for a commercial audience. Rojo is a period drama, a tragicomedy about a lawyer who gets embroiled in adverse situations. It’s a Spanish film laced with symbolism. It was showcased at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Cold War – 18 December, 4.30 pm, Devi Theatre

Cold War won Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida fame) the best director award at the Cannes Film Festival, and the Golden Lion Award at the Gdynia Film Festival. It has been nominated by Poland as its official entry for the Foreign Film Category at Oscars. Cold War is set in post-war Europe, and is about a couple who keep falling in and out of love. The protagonists are based on the director’s parents lives, who, he says, “are the most interesting dramatic characters I’ve ever come across… both strong, wonderful people, but as a couple a never-ending disaster.” The movie was voted No 9 on the list of 50 best films of 2018 in the US.

A Family Tour – 19 December, 4.30 pm, Devi Theatre

Director of this film, Ying Liang, has been living in exile since his 2012 movie When Night Falls was opposed by the Chinese government. A Family Tour has a filmmaker protagonist, and is partially based on the director’s own experiences. He depicts the plight of an artist combating government oppression. He even makes fun of himself in the movie when a cab driver accuses the protagonist of making boring films with long shots (something he is usually criticised for). A Family Tour showcased at the New York Film Festival.

When The Trees Fall – 20 December, 11 am, Devi Theatre

When The Trees Fall is a debut film by 31-year-old Ukrainian filmmaker Marysia Nikitiuk. Considered an art house film, it is known for its elements of steamy sex, brutal violence and fantasy. The film is set in the Ukrainian city of Lozova. It’s male protagonist is an ex-soldier and ex-convict, the female protagonist is his girlfriend. Two cinematographers and three editors have worked on this film. It has symbolism, magical elements, and its title is said to be inspired by the director’s love for environment. Her other short films are In TreesMandrake and Rabies.

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