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Cannes Dairy Day 8: A cut above the rest

Actor, activist, playwright and film director Nandita Das is in Cannes serving on a jury for the second time. In 2005, she charmed the organisers and audiences with her approachable warmth and self-assured elegance. She has been invited back on a lesser but very significant jury, which she seems more than attuned to.

The main cast and crew of Traces of Sandalwood
The main cast and crew of Traces of Sandalwood

Nandita is on the Cinefondation Jury the student section of Cannes. The Cinefondation Jury is headed by Jane Campion and comprises Maji-Da Abdi, Semih Kaplanoglu and Nicoletta Braschi. The Cinefondation Jury will look at two matters: giving the Palme d’Or to the best of nine films in the official Shorts Films Competition (Manish Jha’s A Very Silent Film won in2002); and the Best Films of the 18 student films in Cinefondation this year.

Created in 1998 and devoted to the search for new talent, the Cinefondation selects 15 to 20 short and medium-length films each year from film schools all over the world. Each year more than 1,600 student films are sent to the Cinefondation, a testimony of the diversity and dynamism of young international cinematographic creation. Since 1998 more than 250 films from 90 schools in the world have been selected. In 2013, Cinefondation received 1,550 films from 227 film schools.

Nandita Das
Nandita Das talking at the India Pavilions co-production panel

Nandita says, ‘I am delighted to be back to view some fabulous films and have the opportunity to discuss them with amazing co-jurors. It is a real honour to be called back just eight years after my last time as a juror. I have always liked short films and feel sad that we don't have many platforms where we can see them in India. The four films we have watched so far are of a very high standard.”

Nandita’s willingness to be an active participant in all that the festival offers is evident in the venues that she graces whenever she can make time. The India Pavilion is packed with visitors from abroad as much as from India. It holds daily panel discussions and conversations with key

Cannes delegates to further interaction and networking on film business that connects with India. The second day that Nandita arrived, she was asked to be part of one of its panels and the subject dealt with co-productions. Knowing she may not have time later, she agreed and was the only Indian on it.

It turned out that she had good reason to be on this panel. In the coming months, Nandita has two foreign films more or less secure in their respective financing but with enough time to look for co-productions. One is a Spanish film Traces of Sandalwood in which Nandita is one of the leads and the other is Corpus produced by Leslie Grunberg and Nona Robinson, a compendium film of seven renowned directors from all over the world with Nandita being one of them.

Traces of Sandalwood is being produced by the Barcelona-based company Pontas. Among its completed projects is the animation 52-episode TV series Asha. Pontas’ executive producer/scriptwriter Anna Soler-Pont is the co-author of the novel on which the film is based, which will be shot this fall, partly in India and partly in Spain. It is about Muna, a 13-year-old Indian girl who works as domestic help for an affluent family in Mumbai.

She is destined in later years to become a famous star in India, and in Barcelona meets her much-loved younger sister who she has not seen since she was a child. Nandita plays the role of the older Muna.
Corpus is a feature film project being produced by the Paris-based Penelope Morgane Productions. Its subject is a celebration of the human body — not the ideal one – of each and every human being.

Each of the seven directors will present a personal experience from his/her own culture. They are Enki Balal (France), Seydouboro (Burkinafaso), Nanditadas (India), Naom Ikawase (Japan), Rodrigo Moreno(Argentina), Yousry Nasrallah (Egypt) and Dai Suie (China).

Indian hopefuls in the market
Many Indian films showcase at the Cannes Market. These are paid screenings and handled entirely by its producers. Among them are OASS (The Dew Drop) directed by Abhinav Shiv Tiwari, Rupesh Paul’s Kamasutra 3D starring Sherlyn Chopra, the Bengali film Alik Sukh (attended by Rituparna Sengupta and director duo Nandita Roy and Shiboprasad Mukherjee) and also Shortcut Romeo directed by Susi Ganesh.

The last was high-powered with actors Ameesha Patel and Puja Gupta in attendance at a PR lunch hosted at Carlton Hotel’s terrace restaurant. The film is the Hindi remake of the director’s Tamil hit film and due to be released in India. 

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