Utpal Borpujari

January 23, 2015

My film shows democracy has to be imbibed: Makhmalbaf

By Utpal Borpujari

Panaji: Many have seen shades of real life characters in his satirical “The President”, which had opened the 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI), but legendary Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf says the film is not about any particular character but about the way the word “democracy” is facing threat in many parts of the world.

“It is my way of saying that democracy has to be imbibed, and cannot be gifted by bombing and attacking a country,” says Makhmalbaf, a retrospective of whose films was a major highlight of the just-concluded 45th IFFI.

“Syria, Egypt and Libya, all of them had revolutions but the results have not been really positive. That is why in The President, I have shown how one has to imbibe democracy and cannot get it gifted through bombing and attacking a country.

Democracy needs education and development,” says the director, who has been living outside Iran for many years now after his strongly-political films ruffled feathers of the Iranian ruling class.

As compared to Iran and many other countries, Makhmalbaf says, India has imbibed the values of democratic practices much better. “The diversity in culture, philosophy and languages in India is because of the kind of democracy being practiced here,” he says.

All films and books by Makhmalbaf, who was jailed as a 17-year-old for his political protests against the then Shah regime, are banned in Iran, and he was forced to leave Iran ten years ago. Since then he has made London his home but continued to make films with stories based in Iran.

“In prison I realised that our political problems have roots in culture. That’s why I started making films and writing books to change the minds of people. When I was young I used to follow Che Guevara’s ideals but in jail I learnt about Gandhi’s non-violent principles. Making political films is risky but there is no other way,” he says.

In his film “The President”, a despotic president of a fictitious country is shown to be forced to go into hiding as a common man with his grandson following a coup, which is when he finds how much people hate him. This brings a change in his mindset. Through satire, Makhmalbaf makes a strong comment about the situation in many countries of the world in this film.

“I watched my his first film when I was 22. Cinema’s impact on me was like a blind suddenly getting vision. That’s when I decided to use the power of this medium to serve the people,” he says. About the philosophy behind his latest film, he says, “Killing the dictator does not solve the problem as it kills individual but not the dictatorial tendencies. My film stresses that the need is to change the mindset of people.”

45th IFFI showcased this very journey of Makhmalbaf, screening films like “Daddy’s School”, “The Day I became a Woman”, “Kandahar”, “A Moment of Innocence”, “Salaam Cinema”, “Sex and Philosophy”, “The Silence” and “Time of Love”.

(Published in Eastern Chronicle, http://www.easternchronicle.net; 04-12-2014)

Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai mood at IFFI

From: Utpal Borpujari

Panaji: With films like Aamir Khan-starrer “3 Idiots” becoming big Box Office hits in China and an Indo-China Audio-Visual Co-production Agreement having been signed last September, all eyes are on the large Chinese contingent at the 45th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) in Goa.

While several acclaimed Chinese feature films are being screened at the festival, a high-profile delegation, comprising actress Zhang Ziyi and actor Tony Leung among others, are enjoying the sights and sounds of Goa. Incidentally, Ziyi stars in Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar Wai’s film “Grandmaster”, which is the closing film of the festival.

The Chinese films, being screened at Kala Academy, the largest auditorium of the festival, have proved to be a big draw here.

The fact that films by top directors like Peter Hu-Sun Chan (“American Dreams in China”), Gao Qunshu (“Beijing Blues”), Chen Kaige (“Caught in the Web”), Charlie Yeung (“Christmas Rose”), Jing Wang (“Feng Shui”) and Xue Xiaulu (“Finding Mr Right”) are part of the focus section is in itself proof of the high importance China has bestowed on IFFI.

Quite clearly, the Indian side is highly excited about this new cinematic “Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai” mood. “Indian and Chinese movies are very popular amongst the masses so we thought we should understand the best of technologies of both the countries. We have got together to understand each other so that we operationalise the (coproduction) agreement,” says Information & Broadcasting Ministry Secretary Bimal Julka.

Responding with positivity, Chinese Information Minister Tony Gong says, “I believe we should proceed first with the coproduction of films. The two parties can hold mutual film exhibitions to show each other and help the audience learn a lot about Indian and Chinese films.”

Actress Zhang Ziyi too is excited by the turn of events, and she believes that Bollywood’s song and dance sequences could be combined with Chinese martial arts to attract movie goers in both countries.

“We are honored to be here. We thank all for giving great opportunity for all Chinese filmmakers to showcase their works here. I love the beautiful dances and songs of Bollywood. I’ m just thinking if we could combine Indian dance and songs with our martial arts in future,” says Zhang.

“The Lunchbox is a beautiful film, and 3 Idiots is so popular in China,” she says. “Whether it is about songs and dance sequences, or the way love stories are handled, we love Bollywood.”

(Published in Eastern Chronicle, http://www.easternchronicle.net; 28-11-2014)

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