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Cannes: Documentaries in Focus A triple play from Greece, Japan and India
Alex Deleon <filmfestivals.com>
The first few days of the festival, oddly enough, I started my viewing lineup with three Market documentaries. Normally one needs a special black badge to get into market screenings in the Grand Palais but there are numerous other market screenings in hotels and other locations around town where my yellow Press badge was good enough, or pure happenstance -- being at the right place at the right time did the trick.
On my first working day I wandered into the elegant Gray d'Albion hotel on a side street up from the Croisette because I noticed that many "off Broadway" (off Croisette) screenings were listed there.
There are five projection rooms on the première étage -- first floor above the street -- so I mounted the marble stairs from the lobby to check out the scene and immediately noted a swarm of Indians at one end of the cinema zone. India being one of my major areas of interest I wandered over to find out what was going on and was warmly received by a young lady in a colorful sari who told me that this was the world premiere of a religious documentary from the Orissa region by a well-known director who was also present, and invited me to attend the screening which was about to begin; "God's Own People" -- the celebration of Nabakalebara.
Normally religion is not my cup of tea but when I was informed that the director is N. Madhab Panda I decided to accept her enthusiastic invitation since I was enthralled by his fiction feature "I am Kalam" the witty story of a poor ragged boy who rises above his humble origins by taking the name of the President of India, which I saw at the Los Angeles Indian festival in 2011. Another point of interest -- the language of the film is Odiya, one of India's 23 official languages, but rarely heard on films from the subcontinent -- also the mother tongue of my dear Indian actress/director friend Bijaya Jena whom I would be meeting the following day.
A major attraction of this state is the gigantic Jagannath Temple in Puri, from which we get the word impressive word Juggernaut.
The film turned out to be a detailed documentation of a very special Indian religious celebration peculiar to this state Nabakalebara, a massive event held every seventeen years on the dot at the Jagannath temple celebrating the recurrent reincarnation of the local God Jagannath. India is a land of many gods some of whom change form at staggered intervals and Madhab Panda's new film is not only a film to promote tourism in Orisha state but an extremely detailed and colorful investigation of the peculiarities of Indian mass worship mentality. Unfortunately the print shown at the Gray Albion was badly washed out muting the dazzling colors. In any case an unexpected entry to open my own festival viewing week.
Two other documentaries, TREZOROS, from Greece and KEN-San from Japan followed on successive days and will be described separately.
A Jagannath good luck charm which was gifted to me by Indian promoter Anusha Iyer. It protected me from evil the entire week in Cannes.
The Bulletin Board
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