It is one of the high points on the European art calendar, and we had our bird eyes on it…
By Mamie Colfox
BOLLYWOOD superstar Alia Bhatt wowed Berlin as Indian auteur Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s 1950s female-centred drama ‘Gangubai Kathiawadi’ rolled into town for its world premiere at the Berlinale 72 (Berlin International Film Festival).
Bhansali’s film is based on Gangubai, a woman who begins her life in the red light district of Mumbai (Kamthipura), but turns her life around with her power and influence when she becomes the madam of a brothel. Another big Bollywood name, Ajay Devgn, has a cameo role but did not travel to Berlin. The film is produced by Jayantilal Gada, who first broke into the industry when he set up his own production company Popular Entertainment Network (Pen) India Ltd. His next film is action thriller ‘Attack’ which will be released in April 2022. He made the smash animation feature ‘Mahabharat’ (2014) with voiceovers from Amitabh Bachchan and Vidya Balan and followed it with ‘Entertainment’ with another big Bollywood star, Akshay Kumar in 2014.
While the film was received enthusiastically in Berlin by the public and drew mixed critical reactions, Bhatt’s performance was much praised – and she spoke to www.asianculturevulture.com in Berlin about her thrill of being asked to appear in a Leela Bhansali film.
Of her reaction when she got the part, Bhatt told acv: “It’s not about you…it’s about the possibility of a really interesting and new, special collaboration with a director’s work that you admire so much. Forget whether you’ll do it right or not, or whether you’ll fall or fly. Just do it!”
Many reacting to the acv video declared her to be a star and she certainly seems to have a legion of admirers and fans from the comments posted underneath the video – which had drawn more than 10,000 views since the weekend. (To see the full interview – see the link below.)
Away from the glitz of a Bollywood world premiere, the two Indian films screening in the official selection strands (Perspektive Deutsches Kino and Independent Juries respectively) won awards.
Rebana Liz John’s short film ‘Ladies Only’, won the Compass-Perspektive-Award for “a raw, honest film that concentrates on the essentials, truly standing out with its decisiveness and clarity of form. Filmmaker Rebana Liz John asks questions about existential issues such as freedom, family and career, and we obtain personal insights into the lives of the protagonists.” The film follows groups of women in the carriages of female only train compartments in Mumbai, with the premise of “what makes you angry?”
Set in Bangalore, Teresa A Bragg’s ‘Sab Changa Si’ (‘All Was Good‘) won The Peace Film Award for “the combination of cinematic closeness, personal solidarity and critical reflection, supported by sensitive portraits of young people in search of a common language”. Braggs’ film is based around the student protests against the Indian citizenship law in 2019.
She told acv’s Tatiana Rosenstein in Berlin that she was looking to see how relationships changed over time and what sort of students were drawn together out of solidarity against something. We have a full interview which will be out later.
The Golden Bear award for Best Film went to Carla Simon’s ‘Alcarras’ and was awarded to producers María Zamora, Stefan Schmitz, Tono Folguera, Sergi Moreno. The Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize went to Hong Sangsoo for ‘So-seol-ga-ui yeong-hwa’, whilst the Silver Bear Jury Prize was awarded to ‘Robe of Gems’ by Natalia Lopez Gallardo.
Among other big award winners were Claire Denis as Best Director for her film ‘Avec amour et charnement’ and Best Leading Performance for Meltem Kaptan in ‘Rabiye Kurnaz gegen George W. Bush’ by Andreas Dresen.
This year’s awards were presented by President of the Jury M. Night Shyamalan, the filmmaker probably best known for directing 1999 supernatural thriller ‘Sixth Sense’, which stars Bruce Willis as a child.
He said earlier this year: “Berlin for me has always had this quality of breaking the norms, of rebellion. The filmmakers that go to Berlin, are more edgy and provocative. It’s a festival that dances with darkness, that sometimes shakes you. That’s been my feeling about the films that come out of Berlin.”
He briefly mentioned his next project ‘Knock at the Cabin’, featuring Rupert Grint, which is to be released February 3, 2023, with the plot yet to be revealed. His most recent release was ‘Old’ (2021) which follows a holiday gone wrong, when the beach a family are relaxing on causes them to age rapidly, and their entire lives are reduced to one day. It was released in cinemas this summer.
Even if the festival was slightly smaller than it was pre-pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel for the film industry, many industry watchers concluded. Berlinale’s European Film Market shows that there are indie films from all genres, and for all tastes. There was plenty of business for low budget art house, with Neon buying North American rights to Celine Sciamma’s ‘Petite Maman’ and Cinema Guild nabbing US rights to Hong Sang-soo’s drama ‘Introduction’.
Picturehouse Cinemas sealed three UK/Ireland deals with female directors: ‘The Souvenir Part II’ by Joanna Hogg, ‘True Things’ by Harry Wootliff and ‘Hatching’ by Hannah Bergholm.
Netflix secured two eight figure deals, buying North and Latin American rights to Colin Firth’s World War II movie ‘Operation’ and Liam Neeson and Laurence Fishburne’s action-thriller ‘The Ice Road’.
Alia Bhatt video interview: