China’s ‘Dangal’ mega-success echoes at second BRICS film festival

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In this Monday, May 22, 2017 photo, a group of Chinese women take a selfie with a poster of Indian Bollywood blockbuster film "Dangal" on display at a cinema in Beijing. The Aamir Khan film "Dangal" about an Indian man training his daughters to become wrestlers has become China's biggest grossing non-Hollywood foreign movie

Filmmakers and actors brainstorm ways to collaborate in cinema to anchor the soft-power of BRICS

The mega-success in China of Amir Khan’s blockbuster, Dangal, has echoed strongly at the second BRICS festival, where filmmakers and actors brainstormed ways to collaborate in cinema to anchor the soft-power of the five nation grouping.

“Dangal has inspired Chinese filmmakers. Its actors are not mega-stars in our country. There wasn’t a lot of promotion for it in China,” said Chinese film director, Lu Chuan at the second BRICS festival that started on Friday at Chengdu—the rising metropolis in southwest China, conspicuous for its new and gleaming high-rise towers.

Mr. Lu added: “I think Indian films really taught us a lesson this time. Chinese audiences are easily moved by such simple straightforward and beautiful story.”

The second edition of the film festival of the five emerging economies—the first was held last year in New Delhi—began with the screening of the movie, Where Has Time Gone?

Five filmmakers, including Madhur Bhandarkar from India, Jia Zhang-Ke from China and Jahmil T. Qubeka from South Africa contributed short films to the 110 minute compilation. The first cinematic joint venture among filmmakers from BRICS has dealt with novel themes. Most highlight stories of courage, hope, neglect of the elderly, and fear of the future—all born out of adversity, which is natural to many of the mega-cities undergoing chaotic urbanisation in the five emerging nations.

“I think many of the elderly people in any metropolitan city are ignored, not because their children do not like to take care of them, but because everybody is busy in their own world, constantly at work,” says Mr. Bhandarkar, referring to Mumbai Mist, his short film, which focuses on the plight of the old, sharply defined by an encounter between an elderly man and an orphaned street child.

At the festival, participants showed keen awareness to instituitionalise the BRICS’ soft-power, by considering working together, unafraid of the consequences of pursuing an unchartered course.

China’s high-decibel voice in advancing “capacity-building” among the BRICS, in the cinematic arena, by seeding new talent, was loud and clear. A Chinese official announced on Saturday that the Beijing Film Academy (BFA), which organisers say ranks among the top three film schools in the world, will offer 40 fully paid undergraduate and doctoral scholarships for budding filmmakers in the five emerging economies.

It will also send and receive promising students for a month in partner film schools for making joint production films, which will be show-cased at BRICS film festivals. Besides, it will host academic exchanges among young teachers and scholars among the BRICS, which will range from a month to a year, as part of the incubating initiative.

“BRICS has to pool in infra resources. Apart from the BFA, which is excellent, Russia also has very good film schools,” says Sankha, a young Indian filmmaker from Kolkata. His film Loktak Lairembee (Lady of The Lake), shot in the picturesque islets of the Loktak Lake in Manipur, is being screened at the festival on Monday.

In a conversation with The Hindu, Mr. Sankha pointed out that apart from cinematic exchanges, which can pollinate new films—something that already been well demonstrated at the Berlin talent campus in Germany—the Pune-based Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), and Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute (SRFTI) in Kolkata, can become excellent incubators for collaboration among BRICS in the future.

Veteran actor, filmmaker, and former FTII head, Mohan Agashe told The Hindu that if filmmaking in the BRICS has to hit the next level, movie makers will need to learn each other’s “language of emotion”. He added: “Emotions are universal, but expressions and communication of that emotion are determined by culture.”

He proposed setting up of a multidisciplinary “BRICS center for film studies,” which will pool in experts from film, anthropological and psychological backgrounds to conduct studies. In turn, it will yield rich understanding and appreciation of “deep culture” of the five countries, which can then be applied in the making of quality films.

“These teams need to understand the cultural determinants of motional expression in the five countries using tools ranging from cultural anthropology to cultural psychology. Joint venture films could be the end product of this exercise,” he observed.

Mr. Agashe’s Marathi feature film Kaasav (Turtle), highlighting the story of a young, suicidal boy who is given shelter by a woman, is being screened at the festival . The film is co-directed by Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar.