Moscow International Film Festival (MIFF), one of the leading film festivals in Russia and Europe, concluded its 40th chapter, in the historic Pushkin Theatre, with the crowning of the Russian film The Lord Eagle as the Best Film in the international competition section. Held at the October Cinema from 19th to 27th April 2018, the festival was a showcase for films from all parts of the world, programmed under 21 categories, including Main Competition, Short Film Competition and Documentary Competition. The festival programme was thoughtfully done to include films in a variety of genres. Some of the highlighted sections, in my opinion, were the Special Screenings, Free Thought Documentaries and Bruce Lee: A Man and a Legend. Showcasing for the first time in MIFF - Discovery: Sri Lankan Cinema - was also one of the sections that attracted a special segment of audience which was interested in experiencing ‘exotic’ cinema.
NETPAC had chosen 11 films from the Asia and Pacific region for consideration for the NETPAC Award. The jury’s task was challenging as it had to pick the Best Film from a mix of films from many categories. In this selection five films were from the Main Competition, two from Out of Competition, one from Cinema of Sri Lanka, two from Free Thought Documentaries.
The list of films eligible for the NETPAC prize is as follows:
1. The Undecided ( Feature, Cinema of Sri Lanka ), Malaka Dewapriya, Sri Lanka 2. Soldier’s Mementos ( Feature, Competition ), Kim Jae-Han, Republic of Korea 3. Season of Devils ( Out of Competition), Lav Diaz, Philippines 4. China’s Van Goghs ( Free Thought Documentary), Yu Haibo and Yu Tianqi Kiki, China/The Netherlands 5. Fortitude ( Feature, Competition ), Rashid Malikov, Uzbekistan 6. Nu ( Feature, Competition), Yang Ge, Russia 7. The Lord Eagle ( Feature, Competition), Eduard Novikov, Russia 8. Night God ( Feature, Competition), Adilkhan Yerzhanov, Kazakhstan 9. Ask The Sexpert ( Free Thought Documentary), Vaishali Sinha, India/USA 10. Halef ( Feature, Competition), Murat Duzgunoglu, Turkey 11. Born, Bone, Born (Out of Competition), Toshiyuki Teruya, Japan
NETPAC’s primary objective is to discover new talents which have the potential to add value to world cinema. In general, filmmakers and films that challenge the status quo have been getting preferred treatment from NETPAC Juries. The NETPAC Jury at MIFF shared the same thought and agreed to assess the films in same spirit. Given that the films in the NETPAC competition were of different forms and genres, cross comparison was not an appropriate strategy to judge them. Instead, the Jury’s strategy was to assess each film on its own merits and drawbacks. In the process, a few films stood out from the rest. Among them was The Load Eagle, which went on to win both the MIFF Grand Prix, and the FIPRESCI Award. This very interesting work is a simple straightforward human drama which acutely criticises Soviet values. Season of Devils by Luv Diaz is a continuation of his own lengthy absurd-theater style. Kazakh director Adilkhan Yerzhanov’s Night God is yet another film with an abstract form. The Sri Lankan entry, The Undecided, was also a noteworthy work in the NETPAC package. However, among the many such interesting films, Nu, the debut feature by Yang Ge, and China’s Van Goghs, a documentary by Yu Haibo and Yu Tianqi Kiki were in focus for the final discussion. Nu, a directorial debut of a young filmmaker of Chinese origin living in Russia, is a monologue in the form of a video blog. The film is an honest cinematic expression by a debut filmmaker who courageously portrays her inner self on the big screen.
China’s Van Goghs is a documentary on Zhao Xiaoyong, an oil painter who makes copies of Van Gogh’s famous paintings to export to the Netherlands. He is a member of the oil painter community of Dafen in the city of Shenzhen, China. The two filmmakers who follow the routine of his life discover and reveal the joy and the pain of the painter who has been copying Van Gogh’s paintings for years without even seeing the originals. The jury unanimously decided to give the NETPAC Award to this brilliant work for its cinematic exposition of the complexity that is achieved when art, commerce and morality converge, leading to a sensational journey through pain and, ultimately, to an inspiring discovery.
Asoka Handagama President Netpac Jury