Karlovy Vary IFF Trailers Over the Years

Established in 1946, the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival has come to be “the largest film festival in the Czech Republic and the most prestigious such festival in Central and Eastern Europe. It is one of the oldest A-list film festivals (i.e., non-specialized festivals with a competition for feature-length fiction films), a category it shares with the festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Venice, San Sebastian, Moscow, Montreal, Shanghai, and Tokyo. Among filmmakers, buyers, distributors, sales agents, and journalists, KVIFF is considered the most important event in all of Central and Eastern Europe. The Karlovy Vary festival is intended for both film professionals and the general public, and offers visitors a carefully designed programme, excellent facilities and a broad range of other services” (KVIFF). “Although first conceived as a bridge between East and West )presenting entries both from the domestic industry and the US, France, the UK, and Sweden), was remodeled following the consolidation of communist power in 1948 as a showcase for a socialist film production from the Eastern Bloc, awarding a variety of prizes to movies from communist countries” (Deshpande and Mazaj). Karlovy Vary commissions festival trailers featuring prominent filmmakers and actors. The following YouTube playlist contains 34 videos of such trailers from the 29th annual film festival to the 52th.  

Bornila Chatterjee’s The Hungry (2017)– IFFLA- U. S. Theatrical Premiere, April 13

Revenge was never so cruel Adapting Shakespeare from the setting of Roman power struggle to contemporary India is a good fit since corporate greed extracts just as much blood in full sunlight. Bornila Chatterjee reworks the bard with polish appropriate for corporate India. It is a film that would make any producer of commercials envious but scriptwriters less so. The Hungry (2017) boasts an impressive production design, luminous presence of major stars (Naseeruddin Shah, Tisca Chopra, and Neeraj Kabi) unleashed across glossy screen, luscious skin-tones, and pleasurable close-ups. The film depicts a bloody rivalry between two families vying for some abstract “contracts” that would add to what appear to be already overflowing fortunes. We hit a bargain here, relish the performances of Shah and Chopra in return for a narrative that is strewn with dead bodies, blood streams, daggers, guns, and gory close-ups. Little is revealed in terms of the mechanism that makes humans heat up in anger or give in to the bodily passions. A young man is found dead in a bathtub, deemed to be a suicide. His mother’s (Tulsi Joshi) instincts say otherwise. When the family’s business partner, Tathagat Ahuja (Naseeruddin Shah), returns from a minor, unrelated prison sentence, she plots revenge. The setting is a marriage between Tulsi and Tathagat’s bumbling son, Sonny. Tulsi’s other son comes in town and in a fit of anger and vengeance, brutally attacks Tathagat’s favorite child, his daughter, Loveleen. The spiral of violence intensifies, consuming nearly everyone. Tulsi holds her ground, raging with revenge but straining to compose herself in each encounter with rabidly off-track family. It is battle between a vengeful woman and a powerful man but in Chatterjee’s adaptation, Tulsi comes off as more sympathetic than Tathagat. Chatterjee leaves little doubt that the aristocratic families lust for more[…..]
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Konkona Sen Sharma’s A Death in the Gunj (2016)– IFFLA 2017

  The setting of the story is a familiar one. A family goes on a visit with grandparents to welcome the New Year. Their friends join in too and slowly the fabric of their relationships unravels until it reaches a critical crisis. This is director Konkona Sen Sharma’s first film, based on a story told by her father, writer Mukul Sharma. With a distinguished film pedigree in the family and an accomplished record as an actress in Indian cinema, she marshals all the resources she can to manage an ensemble cast, recreating a late 1970s middle class family, which, with little trigger, is ready to spill its neuroses when they spend time together. The film is set in McCluskiegunj in Jharkhand, once known for its Anglo-Indian community. The considerable social status of the family is evident in the leisurely lifestyle of drinking and hunting while the house owned by the uncle OP Bakshi (Om Puri) and Anupama (Tanuja) has the old Victorian class. Younger generation speaks English, with convent-school-shaped accents. Language and gestures speak of the 1970s-middle class generation, before it was entirely taken over by the neoliberal ethic. Sen Sharma has recreated the period with delicate touches, colors are tinged with a rural brown without excessively spilling into the frames. When Nandu  (Gulshan Devaiah), wife Bonnie (Tilotama Shome) and their daughter Tani arrive with their cousin Shutu (Vikrant Messey). Bonnie also brings along her friend, Mimi (Kalki Koelchlin). Their other two friends Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) and Brian (Jim Sarbh) join in as well. We learn that Shutu, the reclusive and reserved cousin, after recently losing his father, appears to wear more than grief on his sleeves. He is emotionally distant from others, particularly from the bullyish Nandu as he is slow to catch on to the pressures of his[…..]
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Alankrita Shrivastava’s Lipstick Under My Burkha (2016)–IFFLA 2017

This year’s IFFLA programming boasts of a number of women filmmakers: Konkona Sen Sharma, Ananya Kasaravalli, and Alankrita Shrivastava, Bobby Sharma Barua, Shirley Abraham, and Sonejuhi Sinha. It is a rare, celebratory, and well-deserved programming accomplishment, a tribute to the unseen but vibrant part of Indian cinema. That this year’s program opens with a film in which four women, different backgrounds, ages, and desires, is also a momentous event. The very title of Alankrita Shrivastava’s film suggests something rebellious, laced with a slightly transgressive gesture. It is that and more too! Four women mark their arrival in a new era of rebellion against patriarchy and orthodoxy on many levels of Indian life. The narrative is a roller-coaster of four-pronged narratives that do much less to transgress as to show the un-expressed desires that prohibit women from taking command of their own lives. If you isolate the scenes and images that appear transgressive, or in the eyes of the Indian Censor Board prohibitive, then you are good at isolating women from their contexts. That is, you are merely reducing their lives to select gestures of your own choice, a standard hallmark of patriarchal power. If you notice a language yearning to come out from these scenes, from how women want to break the mold of codes imposed on them, then you are doing justice to the film. It may not be an easy exercise, but an essential one. The film is an omnibus of sorts, four narratives woven together in which women take steps to show the initial conceptions of freedom in a repressive culture. Shirin (Konkona Sen Sharma), a Muslim mother of three tends to her family by working as a sales girl with a grit, innovative and bold in her moves to make certain she is successful. When her[…..]
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Kothanodi/The River of Fables: an exercise in magic and the occult! IFFLA 2016

Bhaskar Hazarika’s debut feature received funding from Busan’s The Asian Cinema Fund and premiered at the BIFF in October 2015. The film is an important event for Assamese cinema, which remains less visible on the landscape of multiple language cinemas in India. For the film’s narrative, Hazarika went to the folk tales of Assam, particularly a collection compiled by Laxminath Bezbarua in 1911, called Buri Ai’r Xadhu (Grandma’s Tales). Weaving four tales together, he attempts a bold experiment in narrative construction. Presented on a tableau of imagery in Assamese culture, where the objects are culturally specific and timelessly continuous, Hazarika’s film gives much to ruminate about style and relevance of tales of magic, superstition, evil and the occult. All four stories are about women. Devinath (Adil Hussain), a merchant leaves his wife Senehi (Zerifa Wahid) at home with her stepdaughter Tejimola. Senehi hates the existence of Tejimola and plots to kill her on the advice of her demon lover. Her abuse occurs in the presence of visitors and neighbors but they offer no resistance, as if to recognize the power of the abuse or the authority of the mother. In his travels, Devinath meets a weaver woman Keteki ((Urmila Mahanta) who is beset with an intriguing phenomenon of an outenga (a sour fruit from Assam) animatedly following her wherever she goes. Devinath believes the outenga is Keteki’s child and offers to bring it to life. In a village nearby, a rich woman Dhoneshwari (Seema Biswas) is preparing for a wedding of her daughter to a python, believed to be a prince in disguise ready to bring riches to the family. The fourth woman, Malati (Asha Bordoloi) is attempting to save her newborn from her husband Poonai (Kopil Bora) who, under the spell of his uncle’s advice, killed three of their[…..]
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Vetri Maaran’s Visaaranai (Interrogation): Popular Cinema of Intervention- IFFLA 2016

I have been watching police thrillers made by John Woo and Johnnie To for a while now. They have reinvigorated the police-crime dramas by instilling into them a cinematic style and finesse of mise-en-scène. They inspire filmmakers from around the world, Martin Scorsese among them. The trope of police corruption is quite common in cinema and in their films, it is elevated to an art form, graced by popular film stars and narratives of loyalty, betrayal, and violence. The trope descended from the screen into our lives quite some time ago and in the U. S., it has become a flashpoint for struggles of racism, militarization and institutional corruption. Violence on the screen remains remote, still the realm of fascination for millions while little changes in corruption and violence of everyday lives. Vetri Maaran’s film, Visaaranai (Interrogation) is different. It is miles away from the romantic stylization of the films in 1970s and 1980s. Ground began shifting after Anurag Kashyap’s Ugly and the spate of films influenced by the trends in realism in Indian cinema. In Visaranai, there is no stylization and glorification of violence as in the films of Woo, To, or Scorsese. It takes a step beyond Kashyap’s but remains in the realist lexicon to deliver the strongest punch we see on screen against police corruption and brutality. The narrative has a relentless pace, overpowering one scene of brutality over another and for us, moving from one tragedy to another. With such naked reality in our face, does anything change?   The film introduces us to the plight of migrants from Tamil Nadu to Andhra Pradesh, seeking low-paying jobs. Clash is inherent in their stories on many levels, languages, cultures and ethnic hatred from the Telugu toward the Tamil. Three of the four laborers are rounded up by[…..]
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Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair’s Ottaal (The Trap): Tragic, Wise, and Dignified! IFFLA 2016

  Anton Chekhov’s short story, Vanka, is a memorable portrait of an orphan who longs to return to his grandfather and the early days of childhood. Nine-year old Vanka finds cruelty in the labor for a local shoemaker. The trappings of Moscow appear to him too cold and inhuman. His village back home breathed life, where the skies smiled gently in the night and grandpa towered over all of it like a graceful guardsman. Chekhov paints an image of a gentle heart residing in orphan’s body helplessly facing a fate ruled by the ruthless men in the city. The short story is about the plight of orphans as it is about the precious memories that make souls yearn for gentleness and love from the elders. Now take that short story and place it in the pristine, moonlit waters of Kuttanad in Kerala (“Venice of the East”), where rhythms of time and space are synchronous with the lives of all creatures. After the burden of debt claims his farming parents by suicide, Young Kuttappayi joins his grandfather (no name, known here as Vallyappachayi) to tend to flocks of ducks in flooded waters, fishing, playing around and telling stories. Kuttappayi has a desire to learn and a gift to create. His organic intimacy with nature endows him with gifts to create objects and projects. His friend’s high station in life gives him access to school but without the aptitude to absorb what is offered to him. As time moves slowly but surely, grandpa feels the weight of his old age and sees his feeble body fully capable of giving up one day. Worried that Kuttappayi doesn’t have much future in the village and must pursue learning, he trusts his boss to take him to a fireworks factory in the city. Vanka and[…..]
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Island City: A Prelude to a Future We’ve Already Lived Through!

Ruchika Oberoi’s debut feature is a three part anthology, a bold move that broadens the palette to portray the deep seated alienation and schizophrenia of life in Bombay. In varying style and narratives, she deepens the pain of the prosperous future we see and the suffering that never leaves us. The film speaks to the natives of a land ridden with contradiction of suffering and hope of future. It also speaks of the bold currents that have now taken hold in Indian independent cinema. Premiering tonight at the Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), Island City is a film that invites absorption and rewards with lessons in potency of anthology films which can deliver multiple critiques on issues at hand. Three short films are woven together in their narratives and in our interpretive approach to them. The three construct a whole that is greater than the sum of their parts. The first of the three stories is set in a rote corporate setting of “Systematic Statistics,” easily identifiable for office workers of any era, where control is invasive and work a matter of survival. The space reeks of lifeless objects, while the humans are recognized by their servile mobility. The corporation encourages employees with nonsensical rewards to boost their productivity, such as “employee of the month,” and coupons to purchase more consumer goods. It is a perfect stage to watch capital perform its marriage with control over humans. We follow Mr. Chaturvedi’s day of celebration as he is forced to enjoy the award by stepping out of one meaningless setting to the vacuous pleasures of a shopping mall and consumer goods. Filmed as a sad satire of the corporate world in which the new working class wallows day-after-day, Oberoi empties out the spaces of capital with listless colors while[…..]
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Anup Singh’s Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost (2013)

One of the earlier passages of Walter Benjamin’s elegiac meditation on the art of storytelling captures the essence of the cherished art form.   The fourth “stanza” of that piece begins with an observation: “An orientation toward practical interests is characteristic of many born storytellers.”  The pragmatic dimension of narrative is not reduced to providing explanation, Benjamin remarks, but to move it from “living speech” to think of possible transformations, to explore “epic truth.”  Mainly known for its lament about the loss of story-telling in the age of fragmented information, Benjamin’s essay reminds the reader that a story awakens the truth through its imaginative trajectories, inviting the listeners to explore new thresholds, to see “a new beauty” in the forgotten past and to be open to new forms of truth.  The gift of crafting imagination without trapping it in given forms sets storytelling apart from the succeeding forms including the novel and the media. In the traditions of North Indian cultures, from the Pathans to Punjabis, the art of storytelling acquired a unique etymology in qissa.  For the Punjabi culture, qisse became the oars for navigating the complex waters of life. Many a family gatherings or a yaaro’s ki mehfils were enlivened with the qisse pumping through the veins.  Qisse contain the potency invested by Benjamin in storytelling.  They evolve, mold, and follow uncharted paths, from the everyday to the profound.  They adapt to the practical contingencies of life.  Qisse grow and transform with the pulse of their times and their imaginative powers.  Qisse can draw margins but they can also open up and expand thoughts.  In their essential spirit, they keep thinking alive. Anup Singh’s Qissa is draped simultaneously in a tale of a Punjabi man, the social realities of gender issues, and in the figure of a ghost that[…..]
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