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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com 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. 

 

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Siraj Syed’s IFFI 2016 diary, IV: BRICS by bricks

Siraj Syed’s IFFI 2016 diary, IV: BRICS by bricks

A film festival, with a competition section, was held in September, in New Delhi, preceding the Brazil, India China, Russia and South Africa (BRICS) summit, to which Goa played host last month. 20 films (4 each from member countries) were screened. Awards were given in five categories: (i) Best Film- Thithi (India); (ii) Best Actor Male- Thabo Rametsi (South Africa); (iii) Best Actor Female- Yulia Pereslid (Russia); (iv) Best Director- Hua Jianqi (China); and (v) Jury Award- Phillilpe Barcinski (Brazil).

The acronym ‘BRIC’ was first used in 2001 by Goldman Sachs in their Global Economics Paper, "The World Needs Better Economic BRICs" on the basis of econometric analyses projecting that the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China would individually and collectively occupy far greater economic space and would be amongst the world’s largest economies, in the next 50 years or so. As a formal grouping, BRIC started after in 2006. South Africa joined the group in 2011.

Five award winning films formed the BRICS package at IFFI, including the much talked-about and much awarded Indian Kannada language film, Thithi (India | Raam Reddy | 123 min). India was represented on the jury by director T.S. Nagabharana. Since a lot has been written about Thithi already, let us see what the other four films were about.

14+, Russia | Andrei Zaitsev/Zaytsev | 102 min

A modern day Romeo and Juliet, there are 22 songs in this film and one of the songs is composed by a band from India. Alex has been smitten ever since he saw Vika, but she is beyond his reach, as her school and block of flats are enemy territory. Alex, nonetheless, sneaks into her school disco, and plucks up the courage to ask her to dance. Incensed by the intruder, the other boys beat Alex. A turbulent, moving tale of first love, set in a vast suburban conglomeration of tower blocks. The story might recall. Kirill Razlogov, a well-known film Russian film personality, was on the festival’s jury, representing Russia. Interestingly the screenings coincided with a national holiday, Russia Day, which is celebrated on September 3.

Between Valleys, Brazil (co-produced with Uruguay and Germany) | Philippe Barcinski | 80 min

Made in 2012, Between Valleys is about two identical men (double role by the lead actor) who lead very different lives. The two men, Vincente and Antonio, have lives that intersect at a garbage dump. While the first man is a successful business consultant, the latter lives by scavenging. Are they separated twins? Soon, calamity strikes, when dump-trucks stop bringing fresh garbage to this site.

Kalushi, South Africa | Mandla Dube | 110 min

This bio-pic is about a character from Kalushi- The Story of Solomon Mahlangu, which is the story about the real Political hero, Solomon Mahlangu. A nineteen year-old hawker from Mamelodi township, selling vegetables to help support his family. Born in Pretoria in 1956, his father left him in 1962, and from then on only saw him infrequently. His mother was a domestic worker and took sole responsibility for his upbringing. He was tried during 1977-78, during the apartheid era, and subsequently executed. Kalushi was first performed as a play.

Xuan Zang/Xuanzang/Xuan Zhang, China (co-produced with India) | Jianqi Huo | 90 min

Released in China in April, this film is yet to be shown in India. Mumbai, 2016. A student in Mumbai University’s library asks for a copy of the 1870 book, The Ancient Geography of India, by Alexander Cunningham (Jonathan Kos-Read), and reads how his excavations were aided by the writings of the Buddhist monk Xuanzang. In AD 627, Xuanzang (Huang Xiaoming), feeling a calling to travel to the Indian subcontinent and bring back copies of original Buddhist scriptures, sets out on a solo journey westwards. Foreign travel is banned, because the country is at war with neighbours, but Xuanzang convinces Li Daliang (Xu Zheng), the governor of Liangzhou, to let him cross the border, despite the dangers ahead.

The prestigious project is the first official China-India co-production under the agreement signed in 2014. Some familiar Indian faces will greet you on screen, including Ram Gopal Bajaj (Shilabhadra, Nalanda head priest), Sonu Sood (Harsha, king), Mandana Karimi (Harsha’s sister), Neha Sharma (Kumari, Jayaram’s wife), Ali Fazal (Jayaram), Rajesh Khera (Simharsami), Prithvi Zutshi (Juewu, senior Buddhist priest), Sanjay Gurbaxani (Mingxian, senior Buddhist priest), Karim Hajee (Haihui, senior Buddhist priest).

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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 FilmFestivals.com 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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