To cheer cinema lovers up, the Habitat International Film Festival is back with its second edition. The 10-day fest, being hosted at Delhi’s India Habitat Centre, opened on 23 March. This year’s edition brings films from different parts of the world, ranging from drama, comedy, psychological thrillers, science fiction to animation. The festival is on till 1 April.
“After a successful first edition in 2017 that drew cinephiles from across the city for a ten-day celebration of world cinema at Habitat, we have stepped up to expand on the total number of films screened and include new participating countries. From this edition on, we will be having daytime screenings also on all days of the festival—70-plus powerful films to immerse in completely over a span of 10 days. The palette has therefore been diversified to provide a panoramic view of critically-acclaimed and award-winning international cinema.” says Vidyun Singh, director, programmes, at India Habitat Centre, and festival director for the Habitat International Film Festival.
Speaking about the idea that initiated the process of organising such a big event, Singh says, “The vision is simple: it is a festival celebrating the joy of cinema, dedicated to those who have dared to dream and have been successful in giving a voice to their passion in cinematic language. I do hope that this festival will bring to Delhi the best of international films that our audiences do not get a chance to see at all, and that it transforms into a hub for film lovers and filmmakers to appreciate pathbreaking content and engage in serious reflections on the future of cinema. The festival follows a template set by the first Toronto Film Festival.”
Day One opened with the screening of a film called A Man of Integrity—an award winning work by the Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof. There is a special family and children’s package on the closing weekend, from 31 March to 1 April, with the Australian smash hit Red Dog, and its sequel Red Dog True Blue, among others on the billing.
This year’s lineup covers everything from documentaries to short films. Speaking on the highlights for this edition, Singh says, “The Habitat International Film Festival is certainly coming back with a bigger and better lineup. The retrospective of celebrated German director Christian Schwochow includes his six important films. His films are sensitive and human. Another special feature of the festival this year is the Ingmar Bergman focus. HIFF joins the worldwide celebrations to celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of the iconic Swedish filmmaker and director Ingmar Bergman. Milestone Bergman films being screened in this segment include Wild Strawberries, Persona, Autumn Sonata, The Seventh Seal, Fanny and Alexander, and Bergman Island, a documentary on Ingmar Bergman. We also have a selection of Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award-winning films, such as The Home (2017/Iran), A Father’s Will (2016/ Kyrgyzstan), and The Great Buddha Positive among others.”
Catering to audiences from all age groups, the fest also features films on families and children. “Another important concern was to engage children in the scheme of the festival, and we have a children and family special segment with a number of exciting titles for our young friends,” says Singh, in conversation with Guardian 20.
Dita Rietuma is the director of the National Film Centre of Latvia, who is also attending the fest. She says, “I am very excited to have a possibility to represent Latvian cinema in New Delhi and to screen some of the most important Latvian films produced during the last years. This is a very significant year in the history of Latvia, we are celebrating the centenary of Latvian independence.”
Talking about the lineup of Latvian cinema at the HIFF, Rietuma says, “The program of Latvian films will be presented in two parts—we will start with First Born, a contemporary thriller by director Aik Karapetian; and a documentary by Astra Zoldnere, Blueberry Spirits. From the 23-27 April there will be the possibility of seeing five more Latvian features at the India Habitat Centre. These films represent different dimensions of Latvian history, beginning with the 13th century. Historical blockbusters The Pagan King, Defenders of Riga and Dream Team 1935 (by Aigars Grauba) offer exciting stories from the past. Two other films from this program are more genre orientated contemporary stories—The Return of Sergant Lapins, by Gatis Smits, is a comedy; What They Do Not See, by Stanislav Tokalov, is a science-fiction. I will be happy if the Indian audiences get to enjoy our films.”
Since Indian cinema has gained recognition globally, and Latvia is no exception. Rietuma says, “Indian cinema is a huge and very diverse universe with a great history. We are proud that some Indian films have been shot in Riga, Latvia. (For example, Agent Vinod from 2012.) Latvian filmmakers will be happy to work with crews from India more often.”
Sebastiano Riso is an Italian filmmaker whose film Una Famiglia is being screened at the Delhi festival. Talking about his film, he says, “Una Famiglia is a strong film and the subject it deals with (child trafficking in today’s Italy) is considered very inconvenient. The film was written based on tapped phone conversations, accentuating the realistic texture, rendering it even more disturbing.”
This is the first time that his film is being shown in in India. He says, “For me this is a wonderful opportunity to meet the Indian public, discover their point of view on this story that deals not only with the commodification of the female body, but also tackles a grave universal concern. I try not to think too much about India to avoid raising my expectations, which are already many, towards a country so fascinating and rich in cultures that I have wanted to visit for years.”
Other highlights of this year’s lineup include, The First Lap (Korea/2017), Malila: The Farewell Flower (Thailand/2017), Pomegranate Orchard (Azerbaijan/2017), The Insult (Lebanon/2017), The Tokyo Sky is Always the Densest Shadeof Blue (Japan/2017), The Zookeeper›s Wife (Poland/2017), Loveless (Germany/2017), No Date No Signature (Iran/2017), A Ciambra (Italy/2017). Some award-winning films of 2016 being screened here include Loving (USA), Kills on Wheels (Hungary), Fences (USA).