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Commonwealth Film Festival to showcase Asian film talent
31st May, 2003

Following the overwhelming success of last year’s inaugural event, The Commonwealth Film Festival returns to Manchester in June 2003. This year the festival will take place from June 6th –15th 2003, as a showcase for over 100 features, shorts and documentaries from the 72 nations of the Commonwealth.

It is one of the largest film festivals in England with the focus on original films - featuring over 50 UK Premieres - from established or up-and-coming directors.

Acclaimed film director, Shekhar Kapur is a great supporter of the Festival. He says “It’s a great idea to be showcasing the amazing talent of filmmakers from across the Commonwealth and introducing audiences to an incredible range of movies.”

The Commonwealth Film Festival is proud to present the best of new Asian cinema in Manchester. Here is a small selection of the feature films on offer at the Festival.

3 WALLS (3 Dewareein)
Cast: Nasseerudin Shah, Jackie Shroff, Juhi Chawla, Gulshan Grover, Nagesh Kukunoor
Dir / Scr: Nagesh Kukunoor, India, 2002, 35mm, 120min - BBFC: 15

3 Walls is the saga of three prisoners, Jaggu, Nagya and Ishaan, who develop a special bond in prison, becoming friends for the uncertain span of time that fate holds for them. Mohan is the prison governor who strongly believes in holistic reformation and Chandrika is the beautiful documentary filmmaker with privileged access to prisoners.

These five characters interact within the sunny but violent open-air prison, by turns hiding and revealing their true intentions through an unpredictable series of events that leads to an edge-of-your-seat finale.

A TALE OF A NAUGHTY GIRL (Mondo Meyer Uakhyan)
Cast: Samata Das, Rituparna Sengupta, Arpan Basar
Dir / Scr: Buddhadeb Dasgupta, India, 2002, 35mm, 89min - BBFC: 15

Based on a short story by Bengali writer Prafulla Roy, this is the story of a girl, Lati, whose mother Rajani is a prostitute living and working in a brothel in rural India. Rajani plans to offer her daughter to an older man, a rich husband and protector to her daughter. Lati, however, wants to return to school and finish her studies.

Legendary poet-novelist-screenwriter-director Buddhadeb Dasgupta follows up the brilliant Uttara (The Wrestlers, CFF 2002) with this bittersweet story full of great quirky characters and generous slices of traditional Bengali life. The director’s trademark magic realism and stunning visual compositions expand the breadth of the narrative, turning it into a timeless fable on the loss of innocence which speaks to men and women everywhere.

AMC - 15 JUNE - 18:30 (Gala Presentation - Closing Night film)

Cast: Rahul Bose, Konkona Sensharma
Dir / Scr: Arpana Sen, India, 2002, 35mm, 120min - BBFC: 12A

A bus rolls down a winding road. On board is conservative housewife Meenakshi Iyer and Raja Chowdhary, a photographer. When the bus is stopped by a mob of Hindu extremists on the prowl for Muslims, Meenakshi - an orthodox Brahmin - and Raja - a Muslim - are forced to work together to ensure their survival. They become the fictitious Hindu newlyweds Mr. and Mrs. Iyer.

Written at the time of the Gujarat riots, this is a topical film invested with a powerful story. Sharply observed differences of caste and religion paint revealing portraits of multi-cultural India. The bus serves as clever microcosm, showing the diversity which sets people apart and the necessary cooperation that moves society forward. The leads share strong chemistry and their impossible love is, like the bigger picture it embodies, hopeful yet realistic.

Best Film - Hawaii International Film Festival / Best Asian Film - Locarno International Film Festival

Cast: Neeru Bajwa, Ruby Bhatia, Vekeana Dhillon, Vikram Dhillon
Dir/Scr: Nisha Pahuja, Documentary, Canada, 2001, Beta, 86min - BBFC: PG

Follow the ups and downs of Neeru, Vikram, Vekeana and Ruby, four Indo-Canadians looking for fame, Indian style. Success in Indian cinema doesn't seem such a distant dream to these young actors raised on a diet of Hindi movies in the Canadian suburbs. At home, they would consider themselves lucky to land small ethnic roles in television, but in Mumbai, they could make it big!

Accompanying the struggling actors from casting calls to auditions and rehearsals with some of India's biggest stars, this exhilarating documentary conveys a new twist on an old showbiz tale. Beyond the valuable insights into the Bollywood film industry, the film is about the quest for cultural identity. Perceived as too Indian in Canada, could our four protagonists' new problem be that they feel too Canadian in India? Amid the fast-changing world of cultural convergence this is also the story of finding one's own place in the world.

Dir / Scr: Supriyo Sen, Documentary, India, 2003, DV, 120min - BBFC: 12

In 1947 after a protracted struggle India achieved freedom from British colonial rule at the cost of dividing the nation in two. A million were killed in the wake of violent communal riots between Hindus and Muslims.

After more than fifty years Supriyo Sen follows his parents as they visit their lost homeland in what is now known as Bangladesh. This poignant film is about this journey, individual and collective memories and the historical consciousness that arises from personal recollections.

Cast: Atul Kulkarni, Rinkie Khanna, Denzil Smith, Sanjith Bedi, Ankur Vikal, Heeba Shah
Dir / Scr: Mahesh Dattani, India, 2002, 35mm, 90min - BBFC: 15

To end his self imposed exile, Kamlesh, a young and successful fashion designer, invites his friends over for brunch at his beautiful farmhouse called The Mango Grove. It seems that Kamlesh is hiding something, and the skeletons soon come dancing out of the closet as everyone starts feeling the summer heat.

Bold and progressive by Indian standards, this self-described 'metrosexual' comedy is revealing of the new mindsets of trendy, urban India. Bangalorean playwright and filmmaker Mahesh Dattani has assembled a stellar cast of talented newcomers (Heeba Shah is the daughter of Naseeruddin Shah) and established actors.

Cast: Alka Amin, Tanishta Chatterjee, Mandakini Goswami, Rajendra Gupta
Dir: Anwar Jamal, Scr: Sehjo Singh, India, 2002, 35mm, 90min - BBFC: 12

In this remote village of Rajasthan, water is worth its weight in gold. Tired of endlessly digging wells while the high caste men argue the days away, four strong-willed women decide to take action and start a difficult journey that could bring a pipeline to their village.

Anwar Jamal's film brilliantly captures a silent revolution - the political awakening of Indian women. The village and its struggle become a microcosm of democracy. A scene where male members of the workers' party discuss oppression and exploitation while a veiled woman is waiting to serve them tea is typically priceless. Shot entirely on location in Rajasthan, the lavishly photographed film is also a feast for the eyes.

FLYING WITH ONE WING (Tani Tatuwen Piyabanna)
Cast: Anoma Janadari, Gayani Sudharshani, Mahendra Perera
Dir / Scr: Asoka Handagama, Sri Lanka, 2002, 35mm, 81min - BBFC: 15

A married man works as a mechanic in a small Sri Lankan town. His secret, known to none but his wife, is that he is actually a woman. One day an accident causes his real gender to be discovered, setting off a chain of events which will change his life forever.

Handagama (This Is My Moon) is probably the most talented filmmaker working in Sri Lanka's emerging film industry. This subversive film, originally banned domestically, satirises homophobia and sexual bigotry while serving as a brutal indictment of the sexual harassment experienced by working Sri Lankan women. This is an ironic but touching film which uses deadpan humour to celebrate difference in a cruel, conservative society. Its original approach to gender role(-bending), far from the queer politics of the west, makes Flying With One Wing a compelling and unprecedented film.

Best Asian Film - Tokyo International Film Festival 2002

More information on all the movies, the movie timings and locations can be found on the Commonwealth Film festival website.

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