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Sydney Film Festival 2021: A treat for our souls

After 25 films in nine days, a serious film buff and regular attendee provides a wrap of this year's Sydney Film Festival

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The 68th Sydney Film Festival finished with its theatre screenings on Sunday, November 14th. It was to be held in June, but COVID postponements occurred then as well as in August, and so it was third time lucky!

The Sydney Film Festival is seriously nourishing food for our souls. I was able to see about 25 movies in 9 days – easily my least prolific festival.

It was a highly successful event which went off relatively seamlessly, particularly considering the times in which we live, and the disruption caused to our lives by the endless (and occasionally, mindless) precautions etc. For one, I wonder: if a desperate non-vaccinated person wants to circulate around, what would he do? Find or borrow a phone containing someone’s vaccination certificate and flash that around. All problems solved!

There were some confronting movies and there were plenty of subtle ones which were able to convey their message with the same effectiveness, possibly more finesse.

Titane was an example of the first (for the first time in my 25 odd years of patronising the SFF, I heard of several patrons fainting – extraordinary!) and There is no Evil, the latter.

Titane (Source: Supplied)

Indian movies were screened, a few more than we have seen on past occasions, and this was a welcome development.

My standout Indian feature was Chello Show or Last Film Show – to cite its English name. A Gujarati movie made by Pan Nalin, it was a delightful surprise on many levels. It is a semi-autobiographical ode to cinema and reminds one of Cinema Paradiso, the Italian film which won the Best Foreign Film Oscar in 1990.

Pan Nalin (Source: Supplied)

Nalin bemoans the expiry of the culture of single-screen cinema and 35mm celluloid films in India. It was as deeply moving as it was exhilarating. The concluding scenes and Nalin’s tribute to the great directors of the past and present were particularly gratifying.

I think it will be commercially released in Australia and if that happens, I commend you to seek it out on a big screen. You will not regret it! Bonus/Warning: some delectable, mouth-watering, traditional Gujarati food is filmed. Do not go on an empty stomach!

Another Indian film (an eco- documentary) which will be enjoyed by foodies (and the environmentally conscious) is Seed: The Untold Story. It features Sydney Peace Prize winner Vandana Shiva, one of India’s greatest living treasures.

There were also a couple of excellent other movies screened and kudos to Festival Director Nashen Moodley and his team for finding them: Writing with Fire and Just like that. One hopes that all these movies which have been covered here get commercial release or at least on streaming platforms like Netflix, Amazon etc.

The $60,000 Sydney Film Prize for “audacious, cutting edge and courageous” film was awarded to Iranian film maker Mohammad Rasoulof for his There is no Evil. It was shot in secret and smuggled out of Iran.

It was selected from 12 official competition films.

There Is No Evil (Source: Supplied)

The film is an anthology of four short stories that brilliantly and critically examine the country’s brutalizing system of capital punishment, whereby citizen conscripts are asked to carry out the frequent death penalty verdicts of courts.

Troubling, heart-breaking, compelling, potent and most of all, brave. Run, don’t walk, when it gets commercially released here, which will happen soon.

And last but not least, a proud development: the opening night movie was Indian origin film-maker Sheila Jayadev’s feature Here out West filmed in western Sydney.

Screenings of the festival movies were well-patronised, all things considered. Mind you, as a community, we could always support the Festival more enthusiastically, a point we could emulate Sydney’s Iranian community on. They unfailingly patronize most Iranian movies, in significant numbers.

READ ALSO: Indian links at Sydney Film Festival 2021

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