Iran, with its thousand-year-old legacy of cultural history and traditional arts, is the guest country in the fourth edition of the South Asian Films Festival 2009, which begins in Goa in India June 26.
The festival hosted by the South Asia Foundation, a leading non-profit organisation, will be supported by the Entertainment Society of Goa and the Kala Academy. It will be co-sponsored by the Goa government and the Indian Council for Cultural Relation.
“Iran today makes some of the best cinema in the world and uses movies as an interface between the country and the rest of the world outside. The country which is to some extent isolated from the world outside also uses cinema to establish linkages between Islam and religions across the world,” Rahul Barua, the secretary general of the South Asia Foundation, said.
Iranian cinema, said Barua, touches on almost every aspect of the country's socio-economic and political landscape.
“The South Asia Foundation has tied up with the Iranian Young Cinema Society (ICYS) to present the Iranian panorama at the festival comprising 12 contemporary movies. We want Iranian and South Asian filmmakers exchange ideas, and see each other's movies,” Barua said.
The Iranian spread at the South Asian Film festival 2009 includes, “With Setareh Till Dawn”, “Two Cups of Coffee”, “A Picture of a Dream”, “Come on, Everybody is Asleep”, “Dance of Love”, “The Empty Fish Bowl”, “In An Iranian Market”, “Life, War and Nothing More”, “Redroot Pigweed”, “Sound of Soil”, “The Last Image of a Memory”, “The Wooden Carpet” and the “The Last Queen of the Earth”.
“When I went to Iran this year, I realised that the country was keen to promote its cinema across the world - especially in India. There are a lot of women film-makers, who are making quality movies and the Iranian authorities are helping them with financial, logistical and technical support. The Iranian Young Cinema Society set up in 1974 has sponsored at least 60 movies,” Barua said.
The South Asian Foundation, formed in 2006, has eminent personalities like Union minister Kapil Sibal, Subodh Kant Sahay, professor Amitabh Mattoo, Tariq Anwar and Anand Sharma on its advisory and governing council. The 19-member steering committee is a mix of representatives from Bollywood and movie industries of all the South Asian nations; and Iran.
“The theme in 2009 like every year is dissolving boundaries because conflict resolution is the core area of our activity. We are the only non-governmental organisation which took the initiative to bring the Maoists and the political parties in Nepal to the negotiating table,” Barua said.
The foundation's initiatives to promote peace and harmony in the south Asian region has spilled over to its cultural agenda as well.
“What sets the South Asian Film Festival apart from the rest is that all our films have socio-cultural and political implications. Film-makers play an important role in South Asia. Not only do they provide entertainment to millions of people- as movies are still one of the primary sources of entertainment and communication in the region- they have a tremendous impact on the psyche of the masses. Asian cinema touches on real issues and life stories,” he said.
According to Barua, “film-makers in South Asia sometimes bond better than governments at odds with each other”.
For South Asia Foundation, said Barua, the festival was a great way to strengthen cultural and diplomatic ties between the participating nations.
Pointing to the trends in South Asia films and in impacts in regional cooperation, Barua said, ”Over the last three years, cooperation in regional cinema has increased. Smaller countries Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and even Pakistan and Maldives have been pooling in their resources to co-produce cinema and selling it globally,” he explained.
The movies have been divided into four categories – classic, short, documentary and mainstream. The member countries, other than special invitee Iran , include the eight SAARC nations.