What's New - Festival Highs

Busan 2019: Indian line-up announced, Deepa Mehta's trilogy in Special Programs

by Gehna Kapany


India maintains its strong position at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) as 15 Indian films make the cut, with a special focus on Deepa Mehta’s ‘Fire’, ‘Earth’, and ‘Water’. 

A Window on Asian Cinema

This section showcases new and/or representative films by Asian filmmakers and this year will screen 10 Indian films. Suman Ghosh’s first film in Hindi, ‘Aadhaar’ will have its world premiere at Busan. The film is a social satire which revolves around a resident of Jharkhand, who becomes the first individual in the state to issue an Aadhaar card while everyone else is reluctant,  granting him instant stardom. Gurvinder Singh's 'Khanaur' (Bitter Chestnut) is the director’s account of the time he spent in the town of Bir in Himachal Pradesh, examining migration and reverse migration in Bir, Barot and Baragraan. The Pahari, English, and Hindi language film will also have its world premiere at BIFF. 

Out of the four Indian titles at the Toronto International Film Festival, three will screen at Busan and two as part of A Window on Asian Cinema. Among them is Gitanjali Rao’s ‘Bombay Rose’, the first Indian animated feature to screen at Venice International Film Festival’s Film Critics' Week,  a filmic paean set in Mumbai’s streets, which chronicles the lives of small-town migrants who seek minimal life in the maximum city. The film illustrates the story of a flower seller torn between safeguarding her family and falling in love. The second is Lijo Jose Pellissery’s seventh directorial feature, ‘Jallikattu’, on a bull’s frantic attempt to free itself from the ferocity of those wanting to capture it. Set in a remote village in Trissur, the film portrays mankind’s innate and relentless savagery which equals that of the animal world. 

Alankrita Shrivastava’s ‘Dolly Kitty and those Twinkling Stars’ will have its world premiere at the festival and is the story of Dolly’s and Kazal’s secrets, two cousins who live in the suburbs of New Delhi. One is a housewife who lies to live life on her own terms, while the other, under the name ‘Kitty’, meets a man posing as a cyber-lover. 

'Dolly Kitty and those Twinkling Stars'

'Dolly Kitty and those Twinkling Stars'


Prasanna Vithanage’s ‘Children of the Sun’ and Leena Manimekalai’s ‘Maadathy: an Unfairy Tale’ will also have their world premiere at Busan. Set in 1814, Vithanage’s film chronicles a noblewoman’s fight for dignity, having been stripped from nobility and forcibly married to an outcast by the monarchy, and ‘Maadathy’ is the story of women made doubly invisible by caste and patriarchy, through the life of one adolescent girl fighting for visibility. 

Two-time national-award-winning director Pradip Kurbah’s ‘Market’, set in Lewduh, Shillong, documents the liveliest market of North-Eastern India through remarkable stories of common people’s innocence. In addition, Adil Hussain starrers 'Nirvana Inn’ and ‘The Wayfarers’, and actor Tannishtha Chatterjee’s directorial debut, starring herself and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, ‘Roam Rome Mei’ will also have their world premiere at Busan. 

 'Children of the Sun'      


Vijay Jayapal’s horror feature ‘Nirvana Inn’ was selected in the 2018 Busan Asian Project Market. The film follows a boatman who capsizes his boat and emerges as the lone survivor after killing all the passengers. Racked with guilt, he flees to become the caretaker of a Himalayan resort and is shocked to see his victims checking in. In ‘The Wayfarers’, Goutam Ghose presents the story of two strangers, perpetually on the fringes of survival, but regardless strive the save an ailing old couple. ‘Roam Rome Mei’ is on a brother’s search for his missing sister, which in turn paves the path to his self-discovery. 

New Currents

This international competition section features first or the second films by budding Asian directors. From India, it features ‘Just Like That’ by Kislay, which will have its world premiere. The film is on a widow’s pursuit for self-discovery through her attempts to break free from the societal expectations of widowhood. 

Wide Angle

Shorts, animation, experimental films, and documentaries find a place in this section which will screen the world premiere of Sudhanshu Saria’s short, ‘Knock Knock Knock’, a psychological thriller set in Darjeeling.


'Just Like That'


Open Cinema

‘The Sky is Pink’ and ‘99 Songs’ will have outdoor screenings as part of Busan’s Open Cinema Section which showcases new films that combine art and mass popularity. Shonali Bose’s ‘The Sky is Pink’ recently world premiered at Toronto and tells a couple’s love story spanning 25 years, through the lens of their terminally ill teenage daughter. Vishwesh Krishnamoorthy’s musical ‘99 Songs’ is on a struggling musician’s quest to understand his passion and purpose. The film is co-written by AR Rahman and marks his debut as a film producer.


'99 Songs'


Special Programs in Focus 

Along with celebrating 100 years of Korean Cinema with 10 landmark Korean films, this year a new section will celebrate Asia’s leading women filmmakers. A retrospective of Deepa Mehta’s ‘elemental’ trilogy will be held as part of Gaze and Memories. Mehta has always told Indian stories and her trilogy highlights the capability of elements to nurture and destroy individuals. ‘Fire’ was about the politics of sexuality, ‘Earth’ about nationalism, and ‘Water’ about the politics of religion. ‘Earth’ chronicles partition-era tragedies of separation and loss focusing on religious fundamentalism. The groundbreaking ‘Fire’ portrayed a lesbian relationship between two housewives in suffocating arranged marriages, and ‘Water’ exposed the forced exile of widows based on orthodox Hindu scripture. This is a fitting tribute to Mehta’s perseverance who regardless of being labelled ‘anti-national’, having her sets burnt and cinemas attacked by fundamentalists, has taken all challenges in stride and continued to evolve as a filmmaker. 




The 24th edition of BIFF will be held from October 3 - 12.