I am pleased to welcome participants, guests and organizers of the 5th BRICS Film Festival!
The event makes a valuable contribution to cultural cooperation and joint creativity of filmmakers of our countries. Many films presented for screening and plans for mutual activity, which, of course, will be discussed at creative meetings during the festival, manifest the above. We on our part will do our best to realize your ideas and projects.
I am sure that the bright festival program will undoubtedly be in the spotlight of the cultural calendar of BRICS countries. I sincerely wish the participants successful and fruitful work, and the guests unforgettable impressions!
This year’s BRICS Film Festival can be considered a jubilee one. It takes place for the fifth time and, having been celebrated in all BRICS countries one by one, returns to Moscow, where this unique project was born 6 years ago. The current festival is held in particularly difficult conditions associated with the pandemic, with restrictions in the work of cinemas, with complications in the movement of people, with all the obstacles that nature and social life poses to us.
Nevertheless, even in this situation we managed to organize the festival, creatively combining offline and online approaches, and to collect a small, but extremely interesting and demonstrative program of feature films, which showcases cinema art of all BRICS countries. For objective reasons, we had to give up a wider out-of-competition program, the traditional screening of film classics, short films, documentaries and animations, which constitute an important part of film production in each country. Still, we managed to collect the main competition that will offer viewers a fairly diverse palette of film-making. Indeed, it is difficult to imagine a set of works that are so unlike each other both in themes and genres within a country and in their totality. To solve this problem the selectors, in cooperation with film organizations and producers of each participating country, leaned mainly on regional film schools, whose identity is especially important and obvious. Hence, the diversity of cultures and languages is represented on the screen.
While Hollywood and the Oscar Committee are making unthinkable efforts to achieve at least some variability against the background of absolute unification of the global mainstream, BRICS filmmakers give an example of free and diverse creativity.
The range of considered problems, stylistic solutions, genre formations within ten competitive entries is truly limitless. The films we have selected perfectly meet the criteria of artistic, creative and cultural diversity. As an example, among the huge amount of Indian film productions, we have chosen not well-known popular films, but two contrasting works in the Malayalam language from the state of Kerala, the cradle of Marxism, where children were often called Lenin or Stalin. On the one hand, it is “1956, Central Travancore” by Don Palathara – a black and white film, sophisticated and aesthetic. This film represents an experimental trend in cinematography of both the state and India as a whole. On the other hand, “Biriyaani” by Sajin Baabu, a social drama, a tragic story of a hard female fate, is deliberately provocative and breaks many taboos. Though not so long ago kisses on screen were forbidden in India at all, it didn’t prevent the erotic suggestion of Bollywood beauties, here the director intentionally begins the picture with a frankly sexual scene and doesn’t spare viewer’s feelings, piling up various shocking, but realistic and appropriate details of the narration style, up to throwing the fetus resulting from the heroine’s miscarriage into the vat, where the popular dish, which gave the film its name, is prepared. Don Palathara, who comes from a Syrian Christian family in the state of Kerala, sets the action of his work in a Christian context, and the author of “Biriyaani” examines the problems of female fate in the Muslim community. The face and body of the lead actress in this film, Kani Kusruti, remain in memory for a long time.
This is where the intertwining of different national cinematographies in the BRICS program begins. In the Brazilian section the film “In Pieces” directed by Ruy Guerra, one of the representatives of the older generation and classics of Cinema Novo, is reminiscent both of “Biriyaani” and “1956, Central Travancore”. This black and white mystical story is based on variations of real and fictional relationship between the hero and two similar wives, each of whom lives in her own peculiar world.
The second Brazilian picture – “The Silence of the Rain” by Daniel Filho – is more traditional. This impressive adventure film confirms the reputation of Brazilian cinema as the center of Latin American mainstream.
Pictures from South Africa are no less contrasting. “Poppie Nongena” (this is the name of the heroine) is made in a deliberately calm, realistic, I would say, social democratic way. The film speaks about the adversity of a black maid’s fate in a rich white family and the realization of the need for a revolution that has already taken place to date. The modest and hard-working heroine is put in unbearable conditions and pushed into the path of social struggle. The second African entry, “Salvation”, is a mystical melodrama based on traditional beliefs, on hidden and open passions in an aesthetics close to a horror film.
The Chinese debut of “Muling, Weiming and Yiming” directed by Huang Zi can be classified as a family melodrama (but without the hint of mysticism). It is a purely author’s statement, clearly inspired by personal impressions, made delicately, and meets the highest requirements for festival debuts.
The second Chinese film, on the contrary, was directed by a recognized master, a representative of the seventh generation of Chinese filmmaking, the scandalously famous Lou Ye, a favorite of international film festivals. Like his debut “Suzhou River”, the new film “Saturday Fiction” in the style of black and white retro is rooted in the urban culture of Shanghai, which serves not only as a background, but also the content of this peculiar spy historical drama with the great Gong Li as a double agent actress.
Thus, in almost every competitive film, a surprise awaits the audience. Two Russian pictures are no exception. On the one hand, it is the work of the young director Andrei Bogatyryov “Red Ghost”. The author offers an untraditional interpretation of a military subject – the events of World War II are shown in a genre of adventure, which to some extent opposes the Soviet tradition of military-patriotic films, and therefore shock the audience (as well as Indian sex in “Biriyaani”).
On the other hand, the veteran Alexander Proshkin (who recently turned 80) addresses the theme of Eurasianism in his film “Back to the Sarmatian Steppe”, confronting hateful corrupt market relations with an attempt to reproduce the culture of Sarmatians or, more precisely, the Sarmatian women as it deals with a female movement. I believe that the director was pleased to surround himself with young beautiful girls in exotic costumes, which will certainly attract the attention not only of Russian spectators.
What does this diversity tell us about? In tells us that cinema in BRICS countries develops organically and in many aspects, that creative aspirations of film directors of different generations contrast with each other, are intertwined and complement each other. It shows that such approaches to creativity, certainly, stimulate not yet quite successful attempts of co-production, but also mutual interest of cinemagoers, which is satisfied first of all by the festival movement, in which the BRICS Film Festival takes a very significant place.
The above explains why we called the forum within the festival “BRICS Cinemas as Alternatives to Hollywood”. And the alternative is not in the singular, but in the plural. It is the plurality of alternatives that allows us to hope for fruitful development of these cinematographies in future, making them a kind of example for those Western reformers who seek to introduce diversity in the Hollywood mainstream.
Although this year, due to the pandemic, we were not able to gather a wider program that would include not only competition but also information screenings, let’s hope that this will happen next year at the next BRICS Film Festival, in India.