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International Film Festival of Kerala 2008 -Day 4- Postcards from Leningrad, Hafez, and Firaaq

Category: , By Manu
Day 4
By the day four the festival picked up some heat for me. The fourth day I had the chance to watch three great movies- Postcards From Leningrad, Firaaq, and Hafez.

Postcards from Leningrad(Postales de Leningrado)(2007)
The Venezuelan film, Postcards from Leningrad, we see Venezuela during the Leftist uprising in the 1960s through the eyes of two children. The movie starts with a young guerrilla-girl, living in secrecy, giving birth to her first daughter on Mother's Day. Due to that, her photos appear in the newspaper, from that moment they are forced to run away. Hidden places, false disguises and names are part of this young girl's daily life. Alongside with her cousin, they re-live the adventures of their guerrilla parents, building a labyrinth filled with superheroes and strategies, where no one knows where the reality or the madness began. However, this children's game does not hide the deaths, torture, denunciations and treason within the guerrillas.

Wildly stylized and darkly funny, Postcards from Leningrad captures a child's perspective on life in the 1960's with Venezuela's armed revolutionaries. The film's precocious young narrator, the daughter of a subversive forced into hiding, imagines the militants as superheroes, despite the brutal realities of guerrilla life. This heart-wrenching drama beautifully conveys the heavy toll wrought by radical politics.

Rondón wonderfully combines dramatic and comedic narrative storytelling; faux documentary; and comic book style hand-drawn animation over live action to tell this darkly funny, yet serious story of a very volatile time and culture. At first Postcards from Leningrad was confusing; Rondón jumps around in time without warning, and the two children narrate their stories as if they were comic book characters. There is none of the political nuance to explain the whys of the conflict. Gradually however, the story becomes clear, peppered with fabulous sequences of the various characters lives.

Family scenes around the Venezuelan New Year are lively and telling; especially when Teo, one of narrators' parents, returns home and is subsequently captured by the government and imprisoned. A sequence 2/3 of the way through the film, depicting a group of female, revolutionary, college students committing an act or defiance is perfectly executed in groovy, 60s style, bringing together split screens, animation, music and narration sublimely. Rondón is a talented filmmaker whose work deserves broader exposure. Superbly executed the director Rondón deserves the praise and the award for the best director at the festival.

Firaaq is an Urdu word that means both separation and quest. Firaaq is an ensemble film takes place over a 24-hour period; a month after a horrific communal carnage of the 2002 Gujarat riots, where as many as 2,000 people–mostly Muslim–were killed. The riots were a Hindu backlash to the Godhra train burning where Muslims were accused of burning up a car with 58 Hindu pilgrims inside.

The film traces the emotional journeys of 'ordinary people'. A middle class housewife closes the door on a victim and struggles to overcome her guilt. The loyalties of two best friends are tested in the times of fear and suspicion. A bunch of young men having suffered the riots seeks revenge to fight their helplessness and anger. A modern-day Hindu-Muslim couple struggles between the instinct to hide their identity and the desire to assert it.

Nanditha Das, the debut director and acclaimed actress, has dealt with the human side of this sensitive issue and pulled off an incredible feat of giving it the depth it needed within a time-frame of 24 hours. Firaaq grew out of Das' persistent social engagements with human rights issues as also her own concerns about the impact of violence on all of us, our lives and our relationships.

I dedicated a whole post for this just because of the political ramifications and relevance of this movie. A more detailed review is here.

In this Iranian cinema, Abollfazl Jalili tells a poetic tale of star-crossed lovers while attempting to balance between age-old traditions and contemporary beliefs. After memorizing the Koran and passing his exams scholar Shams al-Din is elevated to the rank of 'Hafez' - so named after the 700-year old Persian Poet. He is asked to pass on his knowledge to Nabat, the daughter of the great Mufti, but tradition dictates that they must not see each other. Teaching her from a seperate room, Hafez soon falls in love with Nabat's voice and steals a fleeting glimpse on his beautiful pupil; his love for her is pure., but his transgression brings harsh consequences.

Do not watch this movie thinking its an easy romantic film. This is a movie that takes itself seriously and deal with far more issues than Love. I have never in my life so overloaded with symbolisms as I was watching the movie. I have to admit that I didn't understand more than half of the intended symbolisms. A beautifully crafted movie, that is way out of my league. I am not qualified to review this movie, just because its in a whole another level. Here is a review I found in Google. Not much of a review, cause I don't think such a movie can be reviewed. Anyways..here is the review : Variety
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