OSIAN’S Cinefan Film Festival from 27th July in New Delhi

PremBabu Sharma

Showing films from the history of cinema that stand out as landmarks in the battle cinema has waged against censorship and intolerance, along with a focus on bold contemporary films that push the envelope in cultural matters, will form the main framework and thrust of the 12th Osian’s – Cinefan Film Festival (27th July – 5th August 2012) to be held in the Capital in collaboration with the Government of the NCT of Delhi.

To the main festival venue of the Siri Fort Complex is added the new Kila Complex (opposite the Qutub Minar) which includes the long awaited Osianama – (Osian’s new art and film museum) and the contemporary rock & pop center – The Blue Frog.

“The past few years have seen unusual and ferocious assaults on free public expression in India and all over the world. Idioms of free expression in the arts, cinema, academia, politics and many other areas of cultural expression that were taken for granted until recently have come under threat from all kinds of forces – liberal governments, reactionary forces, opportunist vested manipulations and at times the general public.

Free cultural expression is the basis of any healthy civilization. Repression causes the human spirit to wilt and turn away from the positive and self-critical values of life. With this loss of confidence and dulling of our inner creativity, follows a spiral of compromise, until each and all are offended and wary of offending. Soon silence meets all injustice, and so authoritarian dictates become more palatable and acceptable, leading to the inevitable erosion of democracy and meaningful intellectual and creative activities and traditions. Underground movements become more prevalent, necessary and frustration and violence is encouraged in most activities.

Today’s charged atmosphere of intolerance finds greater fire amid an environment of growing economic uncertainty, heightened religious difference, major ecological disorders, cynicism with romantic and idealistic frameworks, technological influences which are radically lessening the thresholds of human concentration and patience on all matters, as lines between information and knowledge blur without replacements daily.”

In this context, much of the film programming will reflect the values of a new youth culture both in terms of the cinema shown and the new related musical programs which provide another exciting dimension and energy to Osian’s – Cinefan, given the Festival’s association with Blue Frog. The focus will be on the spirit of the youth to rebel so as to define a different future from the past.

In line with the programming for this section, amongst the festival guests this year will be Professor Hamid Dabashi of Columbia University who has been invited to be member of the Indian Competition jury. Professor Dabashi who has been on the jury at the Locarno Film Festival is an expert of Iranian cinema and the foremost analyst of the events of Arab Spring events of last year. In addition to his jury duties Professor Dabashi will participate in discussions about censorship and cinema and above all in the sessions dedicated to the Arab Spring. The section will screen three films made during the events across the Arab world.

Besides, there will a focus showing solidarity with incarcerated Iranian filmmakers Jafar Panahi and Mohammad Rasoulof and screening of Panahi’s acclaimed film It’s not a film.

Another highlight of this section will be the presence of Bengali filmmaker Rituparno Ghosh with his new film Chitrangada which will have its India premier at the festival. The film is one of the most radical explorations in Indian film about the freedom to choose one’s gender and sexual orientation. The sharpness of Ghosh’s portrayal of the Third Sex cultural position comes from his own path-breaking insistence over the past decade in exerting his right to make choices when it comes to sex and gender. Chitrangada is a contemporary reworking of Tagore’s famous dance drama of the same name which depicts the love story of Arjuna and the warrior-princess of Manipur, Chitrangada. Ghosh plays ‘Chitrangada’ to Jisshu Sengupta’s ‘Arjuna in this modern allegorical tale about the fuzzy nature of gender and sexuality.

“Freedom of expression has always been Osian’s – Cinefan’s core concern since its inception; and naturally the overwhelming principle in all activities for Osian’s. As the pioneering infrastructure-builder for the arts and culture, the cornerstone of all we do is rooted on the integrity of the human mind to explore freely while receiving the full intellectual blessings of our material civilization. When this conflict heightens the creative idealism needs to be transformed into a new action. Cinema can indeed be at the vanguard of this struggle, though India has rarely led this struggle in the past. Yet today the opportunity lies before her and it will be interesting to follow her choices” states Neville Tuli, Chairman of Osian’s, as he drives forward OCFF with the Core Expert Programming Team of Indu Shrikent (Director, the Osian’s – Cinefan Film Festival); Kaushik Bhaumik and Raman Chawla (Deputy Directors of OCFF).