Italy’s River to River fest turns 10 - with Satyajit Ray

By Mehru Jaffer, IANS
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

FLORENCE - The Satyajit Ray classic “Aranyer Din Ratri” will be this year’s highlight at River to River, Italy’s only festival of Indian cinema that is celebrating its 10th anniversary.

Four films by India’s master filmmaker - “Shatranj Ke Khiladi”, “Jalsaghar”, “Charulala” being the other three - will be screened in the retrospective section at the weeklong festival that opens in Florence Dec 3.

As further tribute to Ray, the Marino Marini Museum in the heart of the historical centre of Florence and housed in a 1,000-year-old church will host an exhibition of rare photographs by Nemai Ghosh, 76, the James Boswell of Bengal’s Bergman.

“We are very happy that Nemai Ghosh has agreed to travel to Florence with his work,” an excited Selvaggia Velo, founder director of River to River, told IANS.

Velo, 37, is a Florentine scholar who has been a fan of Indian cinema ever since she can remember. She was inspired to launch River to River in her hometown after curiosity about contemporary Indian cinema increased in Italy when Mira Nair’s “Monsoon Wedding” bagged the coveted Golden Lion award at the 2001 Venice film festival.

Ghosh first met Ray in 1967. He was Ray’s constant companion and observer and spent 25 years capturing the life and times of the filmmaker with a camera.

Scholars calculate that Ghosh may have clicked over 90,000 photographs of Ray. The Ghosh collection along with 80,000 negatives was bought early last year by the Delhi Art Gallery for an undisclosed sum of money.

The exhibition of photographs of Ray by Ghosh hosted in Florence is being organised together with New Delhi’s Indian Council for Cultural Relations.

“Aranyar Din Ratri”, with a stellar cast, including Sharmila Tagore, Aparna Sen, Simi Garewal and Soumitra Chatterjee, is a glowing example of Ray’s affinity with Mozart, the 18th century music composer from central Europe.

The retrospective of the Ray quartet is being held in collaboration with the Directorate of Film Festivals of New Delhi, the National Film Archive of India in Pune and the National Film Development Corporation of Mumbai.

California’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) is responsible for restoring many second-generation negatives and positive prints of films left by Ray who died in 1992. Today the vault at the AMPAS is perhaps the only place in the world to house a complete collection of Ray’s films.

The 10th anniversary festivities of River to River will also replay all the films that have won the DigiChannel awards in the past nine years in Florence like Chitra Palekar’s “Maati Maay”, Manish Jha’s “Nation Without Women” and Arjun Rihan’s “Topi”.

DigiChannel is a sponsor of River to River and the Italian online music and video portal works in partnership with the Animation Society of India.

The best animation films from Anifest India 2010 - an annual event hosted by the Society - will be screened in Florence together with the winners of a three-minute short films competition held in partnership with from the third Advantage India film event.

Mumbai’s Animation Studio Eeksaurus productions will submit a short film made specially to mark 10 years of River to River.

River to River was first inaugurated in Florence in 2001 to showcase films from India and also about Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

(Mehru Jaffer can be contacted at )

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