IFFK at 20: Cinema from Lithuania and Myanmar in focus

Thiruvananthapuram, Nov 29: In what is a departure from the norm, the upcoming 20th edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) will feature movies from two countries in the ‘Country Focus’ category. Seven films from Lithuania and Myanmar will be showcased.

The five films from Lithuania on tap offer a mix of the Baltic nation’s troubled history as satellite state in the USSR and its present reality of having to forge its own identity while coming to terms with the past. Two Cold War-era movies, the 1966-made Jausmai (Feelings) andGrazuole (The Beauty) from 1969, are listed as sourced from ‘Soviet Union-Lithuania’. The other films are Kolekcioniere (The Collectress) from 2008, Ekskursante (The Excursionist, 2013) and Losejas (The Gambler, 2015).

Films from Myanmar, which shares with Lithuania a history of authoritarian rule, typically steer clear of political commentary with light-veined family entertainers. Still, heavy melodrama can double for angst. The two movies, Let Pan (Red Cotton Silk Flower, 2012) andSuccessor of Merits (2015), on offer are representative of the film industry in the present climate of what has been labelled ‘disciplined democracy’ following the dissolution of the military junta in 2011.

Feelings (1966)

A collaborative effort by directors Alimantas Grikiavicius and Algirdas Dausa, Feelings is at its core a family drama set against the bleak backdrop of World War II. After being separated in the chaos during the war’s closing stages, two brothers find themselves on opposite sides of the Iron Curtain.

The Beauty (1969)

Direction Arunas Zebriunas’s film is the story of a sensitive yet impish child who is elected beauty queen by her playmates, and becomes convinced of her good looks. In her struggle to regain equilibrium after her self-image is shattered, the film offers meditations on loneliness, love, and the true meaning of beauty.

The Collectress (2008)

A multiple award-winning film by Kristina Buozyte, The Collectress follows a speech therapist – otherwise incapable of emotion – as she struggles with the rekindling of long-suppressed feelings and anger issues. This is the story of her efforts to gain an understanding of the value and effects of ‘normal’ emotions.

The Excursionist (2013)

Audrius Juzenas’ film chronicles the journey and trials that awaits a young orphaned escapee from a train bound for the gulags as she makes her 6,000 km-way back to her homeland. In the 1950s, under the Stalinist yoke, hundreds of thousands of Lithuanians were deported to gulags in the Soviet Union. The Excursionist is one deportee’s desperate struggle for survival in the face of suspicion and cruelty.  

The Gambler (2013)

Directed by Ignas Jonynas, The Gambler is a gripping drama thriller about a gifted, compassionate paramedic with a gambling addiction. His efforts to get out from under the clutches of his debtors and rivals lead him down a dark path. Soon, there’s more than money at stake.

Let Pan (2012)

Mononymous filmmaker Wyne’s award-winning feature is one of the highest grossing films in Myanmar’s industry. It first traces the saga of forbidden love and forced separation, before taking a darker turn with the introduction of a character with a mysterious past. It’s a back story that alters the course of the film. The themes of exoneration and guilt are skilfully dealt with as deep, dark secrets come out.

Successor of Merits

Direction Shwe Pyi Kadone chronicles the first steps of a religious neophyte. A rich kid who wants for nothing isn’t interested forsakes a hedonist’s life for the spiritual path. What transpires is in both a coming-of-age tale and homage to the familiar origin story of Gautama Buddha.

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