The best of Australia, on show at Kolkata film festival

The 24th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF), which opened in the city on Saturday, will not only celebrate 100 years of Bengali cinema but also cinema from the faraway land of Australia that is more than a hundred years old. Cinema in Australia goes back to 1906, much before Bengali cinema started in 1919. The KIFF is paying tribute to over 100 years of Australian cinema through screenings of contemporary and old Australian classics, and a poster exhibition, being held side by side with a similar exhibition of posters from Bengali cinema. The poster exhibition, being held at the Nandan Cultural Complex, is titled ‘An Exhibition of Iconic Australian Films’. Biggest showcase The KIFF will provide the biggest-ever showcase of Australian films in India, where 27 Australian features are being screened, many for the first time in Asia, including Jirga , Mary Magdalene , Breath , Dancing the Invisible, and Swinging Safari (originally called Flammable Children ). There is also a section dedicated to contemporary Australian cinema and a retrospective of Australian director Phillip Noyce, who will also conduct a master class at the festival. Australia’s High Commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu said the country’s association with KIFF “will further deepen our cultural relationship”. “Australia is proud to be the focus country at the 24th edition of the Kolkata International Film Festival, presented in partnership with the West Bengal government. I am delighted that we are able to share a diverse range of Australian films with the Indian audiences,” Ms. Sidhu said. Mitu Bhowmick Lange, producer of the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne, who has curated the films to be screened and the poster exhibition, said it is a “wonderful honour for all of us to be a part” of KIFF in the home of “Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen and many other legendary film-makers”. A major attraction at KIFF is a screening of the restored version of the first feature length movie ever made, in 1906 — The Story of the Kelly Gang . Other iconic Australian films to be screened at the festival are The Sentimental Bloke , a silent film based on and named after a poem by C.J. Dennis, and Forty Thousand Horsemen, a historical tale of an important battle won by Australians. Since 1906 to much of the early part of the 20th century, Australian cinema focussed on rural comedies and melodramas. Film experts said cinema from Australia tried to balance the poetic realism of European cinema and the narrative demands of Hollywood films. “Australia stands out for celebrating diversity and freedom of expression. This year, the KIFF brings to its viewers some of the finest of Australian cinema,” KIFF director Mahua Banerjee said. A number of prominent personalities from Australia will be present at KIFF, among them well-known actor Simon Baker ( The Devil Wears Pradaand Breath ), director Garth Davis ( Lion ), producer Sue Maslin ( The Dress Maker ), director Benjamin Gilmour ( Jirga ), and iconic director Phillip Noyce ( Rabbit Proof Fence and Patriot Games ). The festival will conclude on November 17.

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