Well-known actors Hrishitaa Bhatt and Kabir Bedi were both in Venice and our correspondent charts closer film ties between Italy and India and also looks at the main award winners…
By Tatiana Rosenstein
AS IS CUSTOMARY now, the Venice Film Festival (La Biennale di Venezia August 31-September 10) fires the unofficial starting gun for the 2023 awards season – and there was plenty for the critics to get excited about this year.
As far as Indian films screening on the Lido island where much of the festival takes place, there was a complete blank. Not a single contemporary feature – though Satyajit Ray’s classic last and only Hindi language film, ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari’ (‘The Chess Players’ 1977) did screen in homage in the Classic section and as a recent restored print. The Satyajit Ray season at the BFI Southbank in London, showing all his 37 main features, concluded on August 31 – the very beginning of Venice.
And away from the actual films, there was an Indian presence on the Lido.
A delegation from India arrived in Venice to participate in the panel, India in Focus, and Meenakshi Lekhi, minister of culture, sent a video emphasising “the strong connections between both countries” mentioning opportunities of “building a common audience”.
Vincenzo De Luca, Italy’s Ambassador to India, spoke of launching an Italian film festival this October in India with the support of the Italian Ministry of Culture, as well as the embassy in Delhi and his country’s consulates in Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore.
Ravinder Bhakar, managing director of India’s National Film Development (NFDC), as well as Hrishitaa Bhatt, Indian actor, producer and committee member International Film Festival of India (IFFI), discussed challenges and opportunities between the two countries when it came to filmmaking.
Bhakar and Bhatt spent time in Venice to draw attention to IFFI, which is to be held between November 20-28 (IFFI 53) in Goa and will look to celebrate the 75th anniversary of Indian independence, as well as the contribution of Satyajit Ray in, The One and Only Ray section.
Bhatt told www.asianculturevulture.com in a video interview (see below) that she had come to engage potential contributors to IFFI both in terms of films and creative talent. She said the festival would benefit from being free of covid restrictions that have hampered the most recent editions.
One of the Italy-India panel’s highlights was the participation of legendary actor Kabir Bedi who is best known in Europe for playing the pirate Sandokan in the popular Italian TV series of the same name in the 1970s.
Bedi received the Filming Italy Movie Lifetime Achievement Award. He was presented this award by Italian actor producer Tiziana Rocca and Roberto Stabile, the head of the international department of Italian audiovisual body, Anica on Saturday, September 3.
On receiving the award, Bedi said he had tried to get both countries to look at each other more.
“I have tried to make people in Italy focus on India for many years, and people in India focus on Italy,” he said during his award ceremony. “Since the time of ‘Sandokan’, I’ve done over six major series in Italy and not many people realise that really Bollywood and Hollywood are a far lesser part of my life than my career in Italy.”
The TV series which started in 1976 is based on Emilio Salgari’s novels and there have been several spin-offs, in both TV and film.
Bedi has an extensive international career, appearing in the US soap, ‘The Bold and the Beautiful’ as a well as a number of iconic TV programmes, including ‘Murder She Wrote’, ‘Magnum’ and ‘Knight Rider’ to name a few and his film work includes ‘Octopussy’ and ‘Ashanti’, ‘Ishk Ishk Ishk’ and ‘Nagin’.
Many had expected the high number of Netflix selections to be rewarded but in the end, the international competition jury settled on a handful of films that impressed them.
Led by Julianne Moore, the Hollywood actor, the prestigious and top award, The Golden Lion went to ‘All the beauty and the bloodshed’ by veteran documentary American filmmaker Laura Poitras. The film centres around New York artist and photographer Nan Goldin who took on the Sackler family. They are major sponsors and benefactors to arts and culture, especially in the US, but they have attracted intense criticism for the way they their companies operated in the pharmacy market in the US and have faced lawsuits for over-proscribing certain drugs that became addictive and had very negative impacts on people’s health.
The Silver Lion or Grand Jury Prize went to ‘Saint Omer’ by French Senegalese filmmaker Alice Diop. This film centres around a woman who has been accused of infanticide.
Winning the Best Director Award (Silver Lion) was Luca Guadagnino for ‘Bones and All’, a US-Italian production. About cannibals, it stars Timothée Chalamet and Taylor Russell.
Cate Blanchett took the Best Actress award (Coppa Volpi) for her roled in the Todd Field film, ‘Tár’. Blanchett plays a world famous classical conductor-composer called Lydia Tár.
Taking home the Coppa Volpi for Best Actor was Colin Farrell for his performance in ‘The Banshees On Insherin’. It also won the award for Best Screenplay by Martin McDonagh. Set on a remote Irish island at the turn of the last century, it examines the complicated relations between members of a small community. It sees Farrell and Brendan Gleeson paired together as they were in McDonagh’s breakthrough film, ‘In Bruges’ (2008).
The Special Jury Prize went to Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi for ‘Khers Nist’ (‘No Bears’). Currently serving a six year prison sentence in Iran, for making films which the Iranian government doesn’t like – accusing him of ‘propaganda’ – this film was shot secretly in Iran and is a love story.
The Marcello Matrianni Award (Best Young Actor or Actress) went to Russell for her role in the film, ‘Bones and All’.
Watch Hrishitaa Bhatt talk about her role in recent ‘Cuttputlli’ and about her ambassadorial role in Venice, promoting IFFI and helping to make the next edition more internationally renowned.
There are also short clips of Bedi talking at the panel and Leki addressing the panel remotely…
*Follow www.asianculturevulture.com for international film festival and London Film Festival (October 5-16) coverage – we will be rounding up South Asian interest films from Toronto International Film Festival (September 8-18) shortly.
We interviewed Kabir Bedi about his autobiography before it was released at IFFI 50 and Film Bazaar (market section of IFFI)…
Julianne Moore – Biennale di Venezia
Saint Omer: Srab Films/Arte France
Bones and All – Pic: Yannis Drakoulidis / Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures © 2022 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc
All the beauty and the bloodshed: ©Nan Goldin