By Mónica Delgado
Pingyao faces yet another year of growth, and the last one where they receive municipal and national subventions. But despite the possible elimination of this support, the festival has made a name for itself in China as a space for encounter and for visibility of the work from new generations, in a country that works like a continent and which didn’t have a place for the exhibition of an independent cinema far from the formalities and restrictions of other local similar events. Like a colleague journalist told me “Pingyao is different, the films are different and the ambient isn’t boring like in other festivals on China”
That’s because censorship and limitations of the current event of cultural control in the aesthetic and contents in films could turn any festival or film event in the world into a boring venture. But Jia Zhang-Ke and Marco Müller knew how to deal not only with this lock, but also decided to pose an interest for the Chinese community, specially the students, about what’s happening in cinema nowadays, and what’s happening with their own filmmakers, who seem to be in debt or quite influenced by the sixth generation of filmmakers of this country (Jia Zhang-Ke himself, Lu Xuechang or Lou Ye, or even more recent ones like Hu Bo or Bi Gan).
If Pingyao is a window for independent Chinese cinema of promising youth, this window if found in the section Hidden dragons, dedicated to first and second features and in the projects that they give to produce new works in progress. And there’s also the section Made in Shanxi, that seeks to give visibility to the filmmakers in the region. We’ve written about some films and precisely the winner of Fei Mu award, Wisdom Tooth, made by a young filmmaker that doesn’t come from the classrooms of some film school marks a new route, maybe more amateur than before, but not loosing the level of production. This is the same case than A trophy on the sea, whose filmmaker is a visual artist who also didn’t set foot on any film school. A casual message that the festival celebrates and that could be a tendency and motivation for young people interested in cinema.
It has been a polished and tidy edition, that has been concerned about informing the espectator about the state of the matter through some films presented already in Toronto, Venice, and Cannes specially. An edition which presents a complete panorama of Chinese filmmakers (where, despite this, the lack of access for women filmmakers in directing jobs is evident).
Two topics we want to talk about:
The latinamerican winners
“Despite this festival being labeled as “international” it is mainly an event for Chinese people, for them to be connected, for example, with latinamerican cinema. In the projection of Nuestras Madres, when asking the audience if they knew where Guatemala (the country of the César Diaz, the filmmaker) was, nobody knew how to answer. People new nothing about central america and the film, somehow allowed to deepen in other realities, beyond even the realm of cinema”, told Marco Müller to Desistfilm.
In this edition A febre by Maya Da-Rin (Brazil) and Nuestras Madres by César Diaz (Guatemala) won both the Roberto Rossellini award for best film and best director, respectively. Both films were in competition in the Crouching tigers section (a title honoring the Ang lee film), dedicated to first or second features of an international selection. They got this recognition in a race alongside films of Georgia, China, Czech Republic, Japan or India.
What’s the meaning behind the awards to these two films in the most important section of the festival? On one side, the interest of the jury to highlight a cinema that could seem like somewhat peripheral and that shows very different realities: missing people in Central america’s internal war, or the situation of territory and uprooting in Manaos jungle. On the other, to highlight narratives that dialogue with the new tendencies in latinamerican cinema, tendencies that, yes, certainly have the marks of festival formula, but also stands out for its special sensibility, specially in the remarkable A febre. The jury decision was unanimous for both films.
New Indian Cinema: A retrospective
A milestone in the history if cinema. This retrospective recovers twelve productions between 1957 and 1978 in restored and remastered versions of New Indian cinema, which was very influenced by the new waves (specially the French one) and the historical context of Mahatma Gandhi and the independence from the British rule.
The necessity to differentiate from the industrial cinema from this corpus of 20 years is quite clear. Industrial cinema in India was successful and popular already in the fifties, marked by a cinema of genres and oriented to entertain the masses, specially from this classical tragicomic mix that characterized Indian cinema historically (before the already known effervescence of Bollywood musicals).
This retrospective starts with The pathetic fallacy (Ajantrik, 1957), of the father of New Indian Cinema, Ritwik Ghatak, which sets a clear rupture with the more canonical and popular comedy, full of gags and exacerbated and absurdist slapstick that ruled that country’s cinema in those years. In this film, Ghatak takes this stereotype, following a sort of Laurel and Hardy, in a trip to a community, after reluctantly renting a taxi. Suddenly, Ghatak leaves this two characters to give light to the real protagonist of the film, a cab driver that is in love with his car, a very old vehicle which is barely standing. The film plays like a big road movie, where this driver goes from town to town, driving escapees, or being blanketed in a tribal party (here Ghatak uses an observational ethnographic touch).
A high point in this selection appears with the works of Mani Kaul (with the brilliant Duvidha (1973) and Uski Roti (1969)) and Govindan Aravindan (Uttaraynam (1974) and Thampu (1978)), works which are examples of creative liberty and great poetic sense (from Mani Kaul) and political affront (from Aravindan), ready to support the pre-independence reflection.
Let’s hope this retrospective founds a place in some latinamerican festival or showcase, since it’s by all means essential.