From the 16th to the 20th of March, Bangaloreans experienced the city’s first international film festival. – Film Harvest 2012. Held at the amphitheatre at UB City, it was organized by the Prestige Group along with eminent art and cinema personalities like Kannada film director Girish Kasaravalli and music director Ricky Kej. Finally, Bangalore saw the enriching cinema experience it had clamoured. This year, it was centred on the theme of social responsibility.

The concept of ‘art inspired by art’ was explored through work by Soraya Taher Merchant and photographer Hari Adivarekar. Those who were curious about film-inspired photographs had a chance to clear their doubts with the photographer himself as he appeared on cue with a glass of wine.

Following the same concept, the festival began with a musical performance by an orchestra from Raveolution Studios. It featured twenty one original soundtracks of popular films like The Gladiator, The Lord of the Rings and The Lion King performed by soloists like Junior, Jude Lazaro and Riccha Paul. The show induced goose bumps and reached from the reel to the real, setting the mood for the films to come (although the flashy, Filmfare Awards-style performance of ‘Jai Ho’ seemed incongruous with the otherwise fine, evening-dress-and-glass-of-wine pieces).

After a captivating prelude, the festival was set in motion with the screening of Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life (2011), starring Brad Pitt and Sean Penn. It focused on the turbulent relationship between the father and eldest son of a Texan family in the 1950s. Although the storyline was simple, it was depicted with breathtaking depth and delicacy.

Day two started with the French movie, The Kid With a Bike (2011), directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne. It began with twelve-year-old Cyril looking for his father but seemed to veer off-track a few times. The highly-acclaimed Spanish film, Las Acacias (2011), directed by Pablo Giorgelli, was screened next, followed by the German film Michael (2011), directed by Markus Schleinzer.

On the third day, Girish Kasaravalli’s award-winning film, Kanasembo Kudureyaneri (‘Riding a Dream’) (2011), was screened. Many deemed this film as the regional-language version of Inception. Yes, it did have the audience on the edge of their seats.

After the film, Girish Kasaravalli, Malayalam filmmaker, Jayaraj and Marathi filmmaking duo, Sumitra Bhave and Sunil Sukthankar shared their views on commercial and art cinema, the role of a formal education in filmmaking and the importance of a deeper understanding of language and culture in movies. The session provided a deep insight into the above-mentioned topics.

The evening ended with The Mill and the Cross (2011), directed by Lech Majewski. To the untrained eye, this film sparked off an explosion of questions that were only partially answered by the understanding that the film was inspired by the painting, The Way to Cavalry by Pieter Bruegel.

Day four had three foreign films in store. Joanna (2010), a Polish film by Feliks Falk, set during World War II, took us into the life of Joanna, a young woman who takes it upon herself to protect a little Jewish girl whose mother is missing. There is no violence or gore shown – but the ruthlessness of the war is conveyed with such intensity that it almost makes one sick. The film hit the audience hard as they experienced the sheer despair faced by the characters. It was extremely well-received.

The next film, Elena (2011), a Russian film directed by Andrey Zvyaginstev, took unpredictable twists and turns that one might predict but never expect to see, while Mourning (2011), a Persian-language, Iranian film by Morteza Farshbaf, was entirely unpredictable altogether. Sadly, the turnout for what must have been the best night of the festival was rather dismal.

The fifth day began with Ha Bharat Maza (‘India is My Country’) (2011). Set in modern-day Pune, this film revolved around a virtuous middle-class family. It showed that the battle against corruption can be won within each of us. It was heartening to watch and didn’t cross the line of becoming almost cheesy. We were informed that it was filmed on a zero budget, without any artificial lighting in a span of less than two months. The last film of the season was Pakarnattam (2011), which disappointed because of its overdone dark lighting and dramatic camera angles.

Harvest 2012 gave aficionados an opportunity to satiate their hunger for quality films. Watching these movies in the amphitheatre of UB City was a thrilling experience. However, it was interrupted by the loud, thumping club music pulsating from the mall’s own Sky Bar. The audience was disappointingly scanty and grew scantier before the screening of the last film every night. Perhaps next year the organisers will rethink timing (although evenings are ideal to feel the films the right way) and reach further where publicity is concerned. Until then, film enthusiasts will remain mind-blown, heart-wrenched and longing for more.

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Photographs by Kevin Gerard Fernandes