1st South Asian Film Festival Maldives 2007

Film Trust India (FTI), a non-profit organization promoted by a group of filmmakers and critics to share the incredible richness of Indian and South Asian cinema with film lovers across the world, is proud of the successful execution of its collaborative effort with the National Center for Arts (Government of Maldives), the Maldives Film Association and the Bangladesh High Commission in Male to organize the first-ever international film festival in the island nation.

Going by the enthusiastic response to the festival ? christened the ?South Asian Film Festival Maldives 2007? ? and its success in bringing together a number of interesting films from the South Asian region and disseminating knowledge about South Asian cinemas with filmmakers of the country who do not have much exposure to the rich variety of cinemas of the region (barring the ubiquitous Bollywood films and their Bangladeshi counterparts, apart from, of course, locally made digital films) it is likely to become an annual affair.

The Ministry of Information & Culture of the Maldives Government, under whose jurisdiction the National Centre for Arts fall, actively helped the organization of the festival.

The festival was held in Male, the capital of the Maldives, from May 8 to 12. The film shown at the festival were curated by FTI, whose representatives, filmmakers Anwar Jamal and Sehjo Singh and film critic Utpal Borpujari, also conducted a workshop (coordinated by Sehjo Singh) on the reflection of identities in the filmmaking experience in South Asia for local filmmakers and film enthusiasts.

The festival screened the following films: ?Dweepa? (Kannada, by Girish Kasaravalli), ?Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara? (Hindi, by Jahnu Barua), ?Swaraaj? (Hindi/Rajasthani, by Anwar Jamal), ?Kol Kathayen? (documentary, by Sehjo Singh) and ?Dead End? (short film by music director Sandeep Chowta) from India, ?Heylaa? (Dhivehi language, by Ali Shifau & Muuin Fuwad) and ?Futtaru? (Dhivehi, by Aminath Najeeb) from the Maldives, ?Osama? (by Siddiq Barmak) from Afghanistan, ?Nirontor? (Bengali, by Abu Sayeed) from Bangladesh, ?Numafung? (Limbu language, by Nabin Subba) from Nepal, ?Shah Rukh Khan Ki Maut? (Urdu, by Ehteshamuddin) from Pakistan and ?Ira Madiyama / August Sun? (Sinhalese, by Prasanna Vithanage) from Sri Lanka.

Several other films, including ?Uttara? by Buddhadeb Dasgupta, ?Cyanide? (Kananda) by A M R Ramesh, ?Manasarovar? (English, by Anup Kurian), ?Iqbal? by Nagesh Kukunoor, ?Nishabd? (Bengali, by Jahar Kanungo) and ?Amu? (English, by Shonali Bose) were shown in the film workshop that ran concurrently with the festival. Bangladesh?s High Commissioner in the Maldives, Mr Mijarul Quayes, who is also an academician and film historian, also shared his views with those attending the workshop.

The aim of the workshop was to familiarize the Maldivian filmmakers and viewers with the aesthetic experience of a film, the socio-genesis of its construct and its power to shape opinion. Beyond being a film appreciation course, it will also help prepare them to be more demanding of the medium. There would also be a more hands on workshop with potential and practicing filmmakers.

The Festival was inaugurated by the Foreign Minister of Maldives, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, who underscored the relevance of such events in promoting a people?s SAARC. ?It is very important that this festival is being held just before the Maldives assumes the SAARC presidency,? he said inaugurating the festival. He appealed to filmmakers from the region to create a feeling of understanding and brotherhood by making films that focus on issues concerning the region and its peoples.

The focus of the festival was about the South Asian experience and how it is reflected in the narrative or story telling around the region. The theme covered diversity of experience; diversity of narrative; and diversity in the story line.

Leading filmmakers and actors of Maldives participated in the workshop to exchange ideas and views with the visiting FTI representatives. Among them were directors Aminath Najeeb (of ?Futtaru?), Ali Shifau & Muuin Fuwad (of ?Heylaa?), Ahmed Saeed, Mohamed Sayeed and Ahmed Shakyb, leading actress Nashidha ?Naakko? Mohamed, storywriter Mariyam Moosa and producer Ahmed Shah.

FTI, which has filmmakers Anwar Jamal & Sehjo Singh, film critics Utpal Borpujari & Saibal Chatterjee, and film programmer Therese Hayes as its promoters, plans to host similar experiences of South Asian cinemas in Lahore in Pakistan by 2007-end and Dhaka in Bangladesh in early 2008, apart from other places in the Subcontinent with local collaborators. Meanwhile, it will work towards making the South Asian Film Film Festival in Maldives a bigger and better one after the exploratory nature of the festival this year.