The largest privately run film festival in India, the 12th Osian’s Cinefan Festival of Asian and Arab Cinema, heralded the start of a new era by highlighting Freedom of Creative Thought and Expression along with social objectives as its hallmark.

As a mark of this tribute to creative thought, the Lifetime Achievement Award named after the Festival’s founder Aruna Vasudev was presented to renowned Egyptian critic Samir Farid who is also to give a lecture at the Festival.

Samir Farid

The Festival was given a cinematic start with Osian’s Chairman Mr Neville Tuli and Festival Director Ms Indu Shrikent lighting the traditional lamp at the gaily lit Siri Fort One auditorium which was filled to capacity.

The 12th Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival being held from 27 July to 5 August will screen as many as 175 films from around 38 countries from India, Asia and the Arab world.

The Festival is being held at the Siri Fort Complex and the Osianama and Blue Frog at the Kila Complex, New Delhi, in collaboration with the Government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. It will have 15 World premieres, 8 International premieres, 104 Indian premieres, and 13 Asian premieres. The screenings include 61 shorts.

Earlier, the event began – after a brief introduction by presenter Angira Arya – with a tribute to India’s first superstar Rajesh Khanna who passed away recently with the showing of clips from some of his best films including popular song sequences.

Ms Shrikent said in her opening remarks that it had been a daunting task to come back after a hiatus of two years with a bigger and better festival. She said an eclectic and stimulating programme had been drawn up with films from the Asian and Arab world, including from some countries which had seen tumultuous times in recent years.

In this connection, she paid her tributes to Jafar Panahi – whose film This is Not a Film is being screened at the Festival. She also referred to the special attention being given to films on the environment in a package titled 7.4, and animation films. She also said a tribute was being paid to the renowned Mani Kaul, who had also worked on the OCFF in 2009.

She referred to the changes in technology with digital cinema packages replacing the conventional tape and even the DVD.

In his address, Mr Tuli said passion and enthusiasm were the only tools to build new infrastructures and so OCFF had been restructured with a greater purpose and goal. He said it was unfortunate that most people felt that development of the arts was something that should be left to non-governmental organizations or art bodies. This was not true as the corporate world was growing and re-inventing itself and ‘active, cultural minds have to take advantage of this’.

He said the Festival this year had many innovations and there was a growing collaboration with the Tourism Ministry’s Incredible India campaign, the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, the External Affairs Ministry and Indian Council for Cultural Relations, and the Delhi Government which along with the Chief Minister Mrs Sheila Dikshit had collaborated with OCFF since its inception.

He also announced the collaboration with Blue Frog, thus introducing the element of music in the Festival, from this year.

He said the aim of the separate section on environmental films was to come back next year with a major festival dealing with man-made threats to the environment. 

Neville Tuli, Samir Farid, Indu Shrikent

Accepting the award as ‘a great honour from a great country’, Farid said he loved cinema and film criticism was an expression of this. He noted that Egypt had been facing bad times, and the arts were in danger in the hands of Islamic fanatics. But he said he would continue to fight for creative freedom as religion and art were two different things.

Born in Cairo, Egypt, Farid started his career as the film Critic of “Al-Gomhoreya” daily in Cairo in 1965. He has since emerged as one of the most prolific and significant film critics in the Arab world.

Since 1967, Farid has been invited to more than 170 film festivals and seminars in Africa, Asia, USA and Europe. He has been a member of the FIPRESCI since 1971 and International Jury Boards since 1972. Farid has authored over 60 books, contributing significantly to Arab and Egyptian Cinema.

Speaking on the section on environment, Narmada Bachao Andolan activist Medha Patkar expressed her satisfaction that a large number of documentary filmmakers were presently engaged in making meaningful films on environmental issues. Cinema was a powerful medium to take the battle of environment forward, she said, adding that the commonality of the present status would get shared. She described filmmakers as expressionists who showed the ills of parasitic society.

Members of the four juries who were present were introduced and they came up as their names were called.

The Asian and Arab competition with twelve films will be judged by Marco Mueller who is Artistic Director of the Rome Film Festival. Members include the eminent Muzaffar Ali, Iranian filmmaker Ali Mostafa, Egyptian director Magdi Ahmed Ali, and the American filmmaker James V Hart. Mr Mueller will deliver the first Mani Kaul Memorial lecture on 29 July and Mr Hart will hold a master class on 2 August which will be marked as Horror day because of the genre in which he has specialized.

Presentation of Jury Members

The Indian jury is headed by Iranian filmmaker Hamid Dabashi, Indian director and film critic Khalid Mohammed, renowned actor Lillete Dubey, Ms Annemarie Jacir from Jordan, Afghan-born filmmaker Atiq Rahimi, and Dutch documentary filmmaker Sonia Herman Dolz. There are nine films in competition.

The First Features Jury judging nine films will have eminent filmmaker Huseyin Karabey, Korean actor and writer Jeon Kyu-hwan, and Indian filmmaker Gurvinder Singh. 

The shorts competition jury seeing 12 films comprises Iranian filmmaker Panah Panahi, independent Indian filmmaker Ashvin Kumar and National Award-winning filmmaker Umesh Kulkarni.

In addition, there is a jury set up by the international federation of film critics, FIPRESCI, which has Klaus Eder of Germany, Dr Shoma A Chatterji of India, and Egyptian film critic Tarak el-Shinnawi.

The evening ended with Japanese producer Yoshi Ikezawa introducing the Opening film ‘Asura’ by Keiichi Sato which describes the tragedy in the aftermath of the March 11 2011 natural catastrophe. The movie is narrated through water colours, the next evolution in animation.

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