The South Asian countries Regional Cooperation organization, SAARC Cultural Centre continues its tradition of bringing wider recognition to South Asian films, presenting the 9th SAARC Film Festival 2019. The SAARC Film Festival had been held every year since 2011 and this is the ninth consecutive time that Sri Lanka is hosting this prestigious film festival.
The agenda of the Festival is all about bringing unity through diversity. The South Asian region can be identified as one of the most diversified regions in the world in terms of language, culture, nationality, tradition, etc. Although there are tremendous differences, it is interesting to note the similarity in the human emotions that have been captured in almost every film presented at the Festival. That is the main reason for the importance of this film festival which occupies the number one position in the SAARC Cultural Centre calendar.
The inauguration of this year’s SAARC Film Festival was held on July 2 at the National Film Corporation with the participation of almost every filmmaker who submitted films, as well as many film enthusiasts and movie fanatics.
The closing ceremony of the festival will be held on 7 of July at the National Film Corporation. This year there will be 12 main awards, such as the Special Jury Award, Best Cinematography, Best Actress, Best Screenplay, Best Short Film, Best Sound Designer, Best Original Score, Best Director, Best Editor, Best Actor and Best Feature Film.
The SAARC Cultural Centre functions as an important focal point for the artistic communities of the eight member states of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka.
Each member country can submit five films, consisting of two feature films, two short films and one master film. The master film is not entitled to the competition and is a retrospective for a master filmmaker of the respective country.
“This time we are pleased to receive 34 films in total for the festival and almost every filmmaker is taking part in the festival. Therefore, the SAARC Film Festival has now become the meeting point for every filmmaker in South Asia.
“Although the Maldives doesn’t have a strong film industry it is a good sign that they show their interest by attending the SAARC film festival and are eager to collaborate with Sri Lankan filmmakers, actors and crew. It’s time for us to think about collaborative work within the region without looking for opportunities in Europe or America,” Dhanushka Gunathilake, Consultant, SAARC Film Festival 2019, said.
“The selection process of films for the SAARC Film Festival is very much diplomatic as the Cultural Affairs Ministry of each member state selects the films and sends them to the SAARC Sectarian in Nepal through the respective Foreign Affairs Ministries.
“As the curator of the SAARC Film Festival, although I do not select the films, I am responsible for curating the film package we receive from the member state. We have the liberty to select the jury and we always make sure to get a jury from outside South Asia thereby creating the opportunity for Sri Lankan and South Asian filmmakers to get foreign knowledge and experience on filmmaking, especially, through Master Class Programs,” said Dhanushka.
The jury of the Festival
The jury of this year’s Festival consists of three well-known names outside the South Asian regional cinema. The head of the jury is Hassan Nazer, an award-winning British film director of Iranian origin.
Hassan’s feature films were released in Iran and internationally, such as Back Day, Here Iran, Utopia, The Check Post, and Winners. They are mostly collaborations between UK and Iran as well as India. The film Utopia was an official entry for the Academy Awards 2015 and the Golden Globe and has won more than 18 awards nationally and internationally.
Emmanuel Dela Cruz, a Philippine Film Director is a versatile and sought-after creative personality in the film and TV industry in the Philippines. Milana Majar, is a film director from Bosnia and is also a journalist and screenwriter specialised in documentary films.