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Focus on socially relevant issues

NAVEEN NAMBOODIRI

A festival in Palakkad proved to be a platform for films that tried to focus on new issues and themes.

Low or no returns, dwindling sponsors and takers - all's not well with serious cinema. But a new breed of filmmakers and organisations are now making a last ditch effort to save it.

An international film festival, organised by Swaralaya recently, came as a whiff of fresh air for film buffs in Palakkad. The five-day festival saw many upcoming filmmakers hog the limelight for their sensitive treatment of various social issues.

Inaugurating the festival, noted filmmaker K.G. George said that 57 years after the country became independent, Indian cinema was not yet free. "We tend to shy away from depicting bold themes. But thanks to film societies, we are able to watch films by world famous directors like Tarkovsky and Felline," he said.

Some 18 films from across the globe, eight documentaries, four short films and six Malayalam films were screened in all, most of them from the huge DVD collection of film star Raveendran.

Sex, love and violence have always dominated Pedro Almodovar's films. And `Live Flesh' is no exception - the Spanish flick, based on a novel by Ruth Rendell, is a study of the human psyche and how emotions can get the better of you. `Whale Rider' is about the spirit of the Maori community in New Zealand. The community is threatened by modernisation but the people still believe in their culture.

Radio and gays came under the spotlight on the second day. Vipin Vijay's `Hawamahal, a 55-minute documentary, chronicles the history of the radio. Shiny Jacob Benjamin's `Avan' is a glimpse into the world of gays. `Without a Trace,' a Mexican-Spanish film by Maria Novaro, is a thorough entertainer full of twists. No two women could be more unlike than Marilu (Aitana Sanchez - Gijon), a smuggler of Mayan artifacts and Aurelia (Tiare Scanda), a housewife fleeing from her drug dealer husband after stealing his money. Yet, they become travelling companions and must learn to depend on each.

The documentary `Oru Mazhuvinte Dooram Matram,' directed by Sarath Chandraprasad and Baburaj, provides a bird's eye-view of the eco-rich Silent Valley, and how man is killing nature. In `Neela Niramulla Pattam' (The Kite), Sandeep Pampally handles child labour with extreme sensitivity.

In `Penma,' he takes on the media in Kerala for its way of covering sex scandals. `Snehayanam' by Mustaffa Deshamangalam is a tribute to auto driver Radhakrishnan, who set a shining example for social workers.

A social activist and director, Manilal fired the imagination of viewers on the third day with `Injustice in Camera.' The movie dwells on the social conditions in Kerala, with its focus on the Suryanelli sex scandal. `Goodbye, Lenin' directed by German director Wolfgang Becker is set immediately before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Taking wry pot shots at monolithic ideologies of communism and capitalism, Becker turns this family's crisis into a symbol of Germany's own attempt to heal old wounds and rebuild itself.

The festival also featured Malayalam films such as Pradip Nair's `Oridam,' Pramod Payyanur's `Tankam,' Blessy's `Kazcha,' Kamal's `Perumazhakkalam,' T.V. Chandran's `Kathavasheshan,' and `Kanne Madanguka' by Albert.

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