Meenakshi Shedde: Screenin' in the Rain
I had visited the Busan International Film Festival in Korea many times earlier, as their Consultant for Indian cinema. But this time I'm attending the Jecheon International Music and Film Festival
It is wonderful to return to South Korea, after more than a decade. Korea is a full-on sensory party, with your eyes, ears, tongue and other senses tingling with all kinds of wonders you had no idea about. How often does that happen to you in today's Google-flattened world? Earlier, as my flight to Incheon, Seoul, was via Singapore, I went to visit the Butterfly Garden at Changi airport, but it was "closed for repairs." I could picture a lady, patiently repairing butterfly wings, as a long queue of butterflies awaited their turn.
I had visited the Busan International Film Festival in Korea many times earlier, as their Consultant for Indian cinema. But this time I'm attending the Jecheon International Music and Film Festival. It's in a charming town, three hours from Seoul, and straight out of a Korean landscape painting, set by Cheongpung Lake, nestling amid rolling green hills. I've been invited to give a lecture-demonstration on what I call "The Flowering Tree of Indian Cinema's Song and Dance." It is part of a larger programme of Indian cinema, Thousand Faces of Indian Music and Film, curated by Suan Seol, for which I was consultant. The Indian films here include Sanjay Leela Bhansali's exquisite Bajirao Mastani, Mani Ratnam's Kaatru Veliyidai, and documentaries including the lovely Up, Down and Sideways by Iswar Srikumar and Anushka Meenakshi.
Opening Night was glorious! The venue was right by Cheongpung Lake. Our opening night kit included two hand fans, a water bottle, wet wipes and a raincoat. Very organised, Korean-style, prepared for all kinds of unpredictable August weather. Soon enough, as the leads of the film American Folk began to sing onstage, it started to drizzle. Nobody turned a hair, as hundreds of delegates and locals calmly put on their all-white raincoats and continued to applaud the musicians, sitting in the rain. It was all part of the fun.
My balcony in the Cheongpung Lake Resort Hotel offers a spectacular view of the lake and hills, and all day, you hear the joyous chirp of crickets going chween-ween-ween. Many place names in Korea sound like musical, falling bowls — Chuncheon, Yeonggwang, Chungcheongbuk-do. The festival welcome kit was like a Christmas gift puzzle: as I can't read Korean, I was left guessing what all those wondrous-looking prezzies were for. There's a Rivella drink "with 35% Swiss milk serum." I hope it doesn't make me gau-rakshish.
A packet with a picture of a suited-booted man, speaking before two mikes, turned out to have wet wipes. There's a golden can saying "Ready Q." It's unclear if it's a drink or shampoo. Another Ready Q soft packet had winky smiley on it, and I wondered if they were condoms. Rather daring of the festival, I thought — it turns out the last two are hangover cures. My favourite googly: a sign on the sliding glass door of my balcony says, "Simple descending life line." If anyone figures out that one, let me know.
Meenakshi Shedde is South Asia Consultant to the Berlin Film Festival, award-winning critic, curator to festivals worldwide and journalist. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org