Asian film fest opens cheering film criticism

By Hindol Sengupta, IANS
7/17/2004 12:00:00 AM
Amid exuberant claps and cheers, and a special tribute to film criticism, the world's only Asian film festival opened in the Indian capital. 

Veteran Indian film critic Chidananda Dasgupta was presented the Lifetime Achievement Award at Osian Cinefan Film Festival that opened for the sixth time in capital on Friday evening.

"He (Dasgupta) and his writings have been a beacon of light for film lovers around the globe for centuries," said festival director Aruna Vasudev.

When the 83-year-old critic walked slowly on to the stage, walking stick in hand, neatly dressed in traditional cream kurta-pyjamas, a wave of applause engulfed the Siri Fort auditorium, the venue for the inauguration.

"I'm getting this award at a time when film criticism is almost dying out in India," said Dasgupta, who, with legendary Indian director Satyajit Ray, founded the Calcutta Film Society in 1947.

"We spent our lives teaching people the value and worth of cinema. When we first asked for government help, the official at the ministry said, 'Film society, what's that?'"

"Thankfully, lots of things have changed since then," said Dasgupta, very softly, as his daughter actress-director Aparna Sen looked on.

Sen is part of the seven-member jury of the festival, which also includes Indian actress Shabana Azmi and celebrated Iranian auteur Mohsen Makhmalbaf.

Jailed during the Iranian revolution, Makhmalbaf started the cinema revolution in Iran. Today, he runs one of the world's greatest cinema learning centers with his wife and three children - all filmmakers - and together renowned as the House of Makhmalbaf.

Eight films made by members of the Makhmabaf family are being screened as a special tribute at the festival.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit who inaugurated the festival said she rejoiced in the festival because it would continue Delhi's heritage as an arts and culture hub.

"It is delightful, this fest," said Dikshit. "After the venue of the international film festival of India was shifted from Delhi, we felt quite deprived.

"Now this is Delhi's very own festival."

The festival opened with "Head-On" by German-Turkish director Fatih Akin, a violent tale of love where star-crossed lovers Cahit and Sibel try to change their destinies and discover undying bonds for each other.

This year, Cinefan has a bouquet of 90 films, with special sections for Arab cinema, the films of Hong Kong auteur Wong Kar-Wai and Indian maestro Guru Dutt.