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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. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 



IFFI 50: Russia to be Country of Focus, with seven films

IFFI 50: Russia to be Country of Focus, with seven films

Every year, IFFI features a Country of Focus that brings out the cinematic excellence and contributions of that particular country. In its 50th edition of the festival, IFFI 2019, the Country of Focus is Russia. This section will showcase seven movies from the country.

One of the movies featured is the film Andrei Tarkovsky: A Cinema Prayer, a documentary that recounts Tarkovsky’s life and work, letting the director tell the story himself, as he shares with us his memories, his view of art, his reflections on the destiny of the artist and the meaning of human existence. The brilliant director left us with eight films and an ever-growing interest in and desire to understand his work. Thanks to some extremely rare audio recordings, viewers are able to immerse themselves in the mysterious world of his cinematic imagery, allowing them to comprehend and reassess the work and inner life of the great director.

The account is accompanied by never previously released recordings of poems by Arseny Tarkovsky, one of the greatest Russian poets of the 20th century and the director’s father, read by their author. Arseny’s poetry had always had an influence on Andrei’s movies, underlining the profound cultural and spiritual bond between father and son. The images of the film are made up of excerpts taken from the director’s works, rare contemporary photos and videos and sections shot in the places where Tarkovsky lived and made his movies, in Russia, Sweden and Italy, his adoptive home since 1982. Andrey Tarkovsky, son of the late Andrei (1932-1986), is the director.

He always believed in legacy and his favourite writer was Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Andrei Tarkovsky famously said, “I am not a good film-maker. I do it better than some, but that doesn’t make me good.” And yet, “To me he is God,” said Lars von Trier. In an interview with Time Out-London, von Trier said he has seen Tarkovsky’s 1975 film The Mirror 20 times. Swedish director, the incomparable Ingmar Bergman, in his 1987 autobiography, “The Magic Lantern,” declared that discovering Russian film-maker Andrei Tarkovsky’s work was, “A miracle. Tarkovsky for me is the greatest [director], the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream.”

In 1987, a few months after Tarkovsky’s passing, Japanese master Akira Kurosawa praised his “unusual sensitivity [as] both overwhelming and astounding. It almost reaches a pathological intensity. Probably there is no equal among film directors alive now.”

In India, his most popular film among the film society circuit was Solaris.

The other six films to feature in Country Focus are:

Abigail by Aleksandr Boguslavskiy

Acid by Alexander Gorchilin

Beanpole by Kantemir Balagov

Great poetry by Aleksandr Lungin

Once in Trubchevsk by Larissa Sadilova

Why don’t you just die! by Kirill Sokolov.

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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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