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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



16th Third Eye Asian Film Festival: XI

16th Third Eye Asian Film Festival: XI

Sixteen years is a long time in the life of a film festival. It seems an even bigger achievement when you consider the upheavals that the Third Eye Asian Film Festival has undergone during its tenure. In fact, it is a miracle that it has continued, against all odds. Asian Film Foundation, headed by Kiran Shantaram, son of late V. Shantaram, remains the driving force, as does Sudhir Nandgaonkar, journalist and a bunch of teenage students pool in their resources, take one year at a time.

P.L. Deshpande Maharashtra Kala Academy, which operates the Ravindra Natya Mandir, the venue of the screenings, and Akhil Bharatiya Marathi Chitrapat Mahamandal are among the chief organisers. It is supported by Department of Culture, Government of Maharashtra. Screenings are held at Ravindra Natya Mandir’s Mini Auditorium, on the third floor, and not in the main hall, on the ground floor. The mini auditorium has 1/5th the capacity of the main hall. As it happens, even with about 450 members on Prabhat rolls, the auditorium is never full. External delegates are few and journalists even fewer. I could count scribes on the fingers of one hand.

Ravindra Natya Mandir is not ideally located, but not inaccessible. Bus and train links are not too far. Amenities are far from ideal. Toilets are dirty and in need of renovation. Lifts are slow and creaky. A restaurant extension sells food and beverages at a premium. The air-conditioning rums on the all or nothing principal, a rule that applies to so many auditoria across Mumbai: Temperatures are maintained either at 16° or 32°. Nothing in between. So, you are either fuming or freezing. Carpeting makes it a hazard to move in the dark. At least a dozen attendees tripped, making their way. Luckily, nobody sustained any notable injury. Projection was slightly below average, with the projecting cracking/freezing on some occasions.

A total of 34 feature films were screened and another 25 shorts were also shown, spread over three slots. From 21st to 28th December, there were five shows a day. On a prime day, Saturday, 23rd December, when cineastes might have really wanted to catch up, there were only two shows. The first three shows could not be held, and I presume this was because the auditorium must have been booked for some other event. By any standard, 34 films is a poor turn-out, though 25 shorts is not too bad a figure.

Of the foreign countries participating, TEAFF’s eternal favourite, Iran sent three features and eight shorts. The features were ‘Mina’s Option’ by Kamal Tabrizi, Behrouz Shoeibi’s ‘Cyanide’, ‘Soyuq (Coldness)’ directed by Ark Brothers, Bahman and Bahram, and Mohammad Rahmanian’s ‘Bench Cinema’. None of the features bagged prizes, but two of the shorts were winners: Birthday Present and Destiny. Turkey, Tajikistan, Myanmar and Korea also sent their films in the short films competition.

Coming to the features section, besides the Iranian films mentioned above, there was one from Afghanistan, one from Tibet, two from Taiwan/Myanmar, one from Turkey, three from BanglaDesh, one from Vietnam and two from Hungary. Almost half the films screened were from India, the host country, and half of those were in Marathi. Bengali, with four, was the next most popular language represented. One Assamese, two Malayalam, including Indo/SriLankan co-production, and one singular Hindi film completed the list. Firstly, showing so many films from India diluted the Asian nature of the festival. Secondly, only 10 Asian countries had their films participating. We did miss films from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, The Philippines, Japan, China, etc. Obviously, getting Marathi films for showing at the festival is easy, what with Mumbai being their base and the main organisers having excellent relations with them—Shantaram has a family connections and is also a prominent exhibitor, owning the Plaza cinema in Mumbai, where hundreds of Marathi films have been released, while Sudhir is a film journalist with decades of experience. Yet, I feel they should have restricted the number of Marathi films to 4-5, instead of nine.

In establishing a European, the organisers gave us three delightful films of Hungarian genius Zoltan Fabri, from 1954, 1956 and1961. A tenuous link was found, Fabri having been born in 1917. Likewise, a Marathi film Griha Devata, by Girish Shinde was also screened. He, too, was born in 1917.

Open Forums were held from the second to the seventh day, in the non-screening slot of 2-3 pm. These were conducted on the manner of press conferences, with producers/directors/actors on the dais, and Santosh Pathare asking them questions, in Marathi, English and Hindi. A handful of foreign delegates were present, including some Iranian. They are a regular fixture, because they invariably win prizes at TEAFF. No press releases were issued nor were any photographs provided. Some could be found on the AFF Facebook page.

As a well-wisher and regular attendee of the Third Eye International Film Festival, I am concerned at the state of affairs, particularly the paucity of funds. The 16th edition was an example of bare survival, with cost cutting all around. Everything was low profile, as low profile as can be. has given TEAFF extensive coverage, in XI instalments, since we fill that any film festival should not have to go through such crisis, especially 16 years after its inception. Wishing the festival better days.

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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