It is not very often that a film director gets fame and accolade with his very first movie. India’s Chaitanya Tamhane is one, whose debut feature, Court, premiered at the Venice Film Festival in 2014, and was later sent up as the country’s official entry for the Oscars. That it did not even make it to the finals -- the short list of five -- is another question. But Tamhane is now shining bright, all over again, after being picked for the Orizzonti jury of the upcoming Venice Film Festival which will roll on August 31. The event runs till September 10 on the island of Lido, off mainland Venice.
Court, a Marathi feature, won the Lion of the Future Award and the Orizzonti Prize for Best Movie at Venice in 2014. Since then, the film has gone on to clinch as many as 32 international awards. Tamhane was recently selected for the Rolex Mentor-Protégé Arts Initiative under the mentorship of Mexican helmer, Alfonso Cuarón.
Cuaron’s slate has a bewitching variety that spreads from Yu Tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too, about two teenage boys’ sexual romp with an older woman on a road trip), Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations (with Gwyneth Paltrow, Ethan Hawke and Robert De Niro), Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Gravity (with George Clooney and Sandra Bullock that opened the festival in 2013).
Tamhane’s Court examines India’s legal system through the trial of an ageing folk singer in a Mumbai sessions court. In an important way, the movie is a searing critique of all that is wrong with the country’s judicial process -- but narrated with exemplary subtlety.
The Orizzonti jury will be headed by the celebrated French auteur, Robert Guediguian (The Snows of Kilimanjaro, My Sweet Pepper Land with Iranian beauty Golshifteh Farahani). The other members of the panel will be American film critic and historian Jim Hoberman, Egyptian actress Nelly Karim (who won the Best Actress Award at the Cairo International Film Festival in 2004 for My Soulmate by Khaled Youssef), Italian actress Valentina Lodovini, Korean star and director Moon So-ri, Spanish movie critic and scholar José Maria Prado.
Orizzonti is the most important sidebar at Venice that screens the works of new directors in an attempt to explore emerging trends in cinema. There are 18 full-length features here that will be part of the Orizzonti competition. One film will play out of competition, and there are several shorts -- both in competition and outside.
(Gautaman Bhaskaran has covered the Venice Film Festival for over 15 years.)