In Stacey Steers’ handmade animation, Edge of Alchemy (2017), featuring Hollywood’s silent and black-and-white era queens Mary Pickford and Janet Gaynor, the metaphors of Frankenstein and bee colony collapse are used to show Pickford instilling life into Gaynor, who becomes more famous. Gaynor arrived on the scene after Pickford but won an Oscar before her. She was the first winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1929 for her roles in three films — 7th Heaven (1927), Street Angel (1928) and Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927) — the only such occasion for an actor winning an Oscar for multiple roles. Pickford won it the next year for Coquette (1929). The 19-minute animation, assembled from over 6,000 collages made using fragments of 19th-century engravings/illustrations, is an uncanny extension of surrealist cinema. Set to Polish composer Lech Jankowski’s music, this third in a trilogy examines the psychological terrain of women’s inner world.
Steers’ film is just one among a plethora of animation films that are part of the first Pondicherry International Film Festival (PIFF), starting September 26. The five-day festival will screen more than 100 films from over 25 countries, across multiples venues. Organised by the online indie-film streaming platform PickUrFlick, which had organised the PickUrFlick Indie Film Festival last year, in Delhi and Bengaluru, the festival will become an annual feature on Puducherry’s cultural calendar from this year.
It has National Award-winning guiding lights — actor Adil Hussain as the mentor and brand ambassador, film critic Saibal Chatterjee as its director, and filmmaker Utpal Borpujari as its advisor. Hussain’s National Award-winning Mukti Bhawan, Ahare Mon and What Will People Say (Norway’s official entry to 2019 Oscars) will also be screened. The partner country is the erstwhile coloniser, France. Besides separate sections for French and Tamil cinema, masterclasses, panel discussions, art exhibitions, music concerts and a food festival, regional and world cinema will be the mainstay. “PIFF will celebrate the spirit of independence by showcasing directors who revel in swimming against the tide. Its vision and mission centres on streams of filmmaking — shorts, documentaries, animation and fiction features — that focus on ground-breaking idioms and themes,” says Chatterjee.
Other animations include Numan Ayaz’s 14-minute Blue Tomorrow from Turkey, about a man who lives alone on an island and goes on an unknown journey caused by the rising ocean. While Hazhir As’adi’s Blows with the Wind talks about a scarecrow, who, after weathering unpleasant events, becomes human, Alaleh Izadi’s 18-minute short Dispirited talks about the nagging reality of modern times when an old, lonely man can only connect with his family through the internet.
Sagnik Chatterjee’s documentary Feluda: 50 Years of Ray’s Detective, which has been in the making for some time due to fund crunch, is ready for the screen. It celebrates Satyajit Ray’s literary genius and creation of the iconic goenda (detective), Bengal’s own Sherlock Holmes. Feluda first appeared in 1965 in the story Feludar Goendagiri in the children’s magazine Sandesh. Ray transported the literary character to only two films: Sonar Kella (1974) and Joi Baba Felunath (1978), but through them gave us the gem of Soumitra Chatterjee, who played the titular role.
The festival will also see the screening of Ektara Collective’s feature Turup, about chess as a popular pastime in a neighbourhood and roadside games bringing together men to challenge each other in friendly and unfriendly matches. But for some, the pawns include morality and religion, causing tensions to erupt. Chezhiyan Ra’s Tamil feature, To Let, is the story of a couple with a child in 2007 Chennai, which is experiencing a real-estate boom as a result of exponential development in the IT sector. “PIFF will highlight the relevance of not only filmmakers but also filmgoers who want to engage differently, and in new ways, with the medium. We hope the festival will propel an exciting, full-fledged movement in the years ahead,” says Chatterjee.