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2024

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To discover BRICS countries, watch their films

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Films from India, China and Iran have been a part of the Spirit of Fire festival for years. 

In 2024 Russia assumes BRICS presidency, and the Spirit of Fire will serve as a platform for presenting the culture and art of the BRICS member countries. The distinct language of the BRICS countries national cinema is the cross-cutting theme of the festival, bringing film screenings and educational and business programs together.

The Spirit of Fire aims to support ethnic diversity in cinema, a polyphony of cultures, languages and traditions, that’s why the cinema of BRICS countries has been represented at our Festival for many years. Last year, the Festival’s  three laureates were films from India, China and Iran.

In the run-up to the XXII Festival, which will take place on March 23-26, 2004, let us take a look back at the highlights from BRICS countries screened at the last year’s Festival.

Films from BRICS countries

Parallax (Iran, 2023)

18+

What is it about? Mahrokh is going to act in her first film, and her husband Kayvan is against it. A few days before the shooting, she accidentally catches fire at her birthday party and her face is badly hurt. Mahrokh does not see it as an accident and believes that Kayvan has done it out of jealousy.

Who’s the director? Shahram Ebrahimi was born in Shahrkord (Iran) in 1983. He graduated as a dramatic writer. He has worked as a director, assistant director, scriptwriter, actor and editor for cinema, television and theatre. “Parallax” is his first feature film.

In his own words: “I’ve just finished working on my first film, Parallax. It’s a true debut for me. It would be untrue for me to say I expected to win the Spirit of Fire main award because the films by my colleagues and friends were good.” Shahram Ebrahimi

Awards: Golden Taiga – the grand-prix of the Spirit of Fire 2023 Festival International Competition.

Far Away Eyes (Taiwan (China), 2022)

18+

What is it about? A brief moment in the life of a young man living in Taipei is an occasion to reflect on his yearnings and endeavors. A young photographer wanders through the city as Taiwan is preparing for the presidential election. Constantly questioning his talent as an artist, he suffers from the uncertainty facing his future as he is about to turn 30 – a watershed age in one’s life in the traditional Taiwanese culture. His accidental encounter with an ex-girlfriend propels him to reconsider his past, present and future in the river of time…

Who’s the director? Wang Chun-Hong was born in Taiwan in 1990 and graduated from Shih-Hsin University, Film and TV Department, in 2017. His first short film was“Farewell Photography” (2015), and his second short was “Double Reflection” (2017), they were represented at flm festivals in Marseille and Taipei.  “Far Away Eyes” is his first feature film.

What do the critics say? “Essentially, “Far Away Eyes” is a blend of auto-fiction and a contemplation of personal and cultural crisis. The black-and-white cinematography, combined with the use of often long, static takes, gives the feature a very contemplative mood, with the image, for example, lingering on a scene in the streets, a campaign poster burning or some other aspect of the time “Far Away Eyes” is set. There is also a distinct contrast between the formal aspects of the feature, the general mood of the two main characters and the atmosphere on the streets, which seems at times rather aggressive and heated.” Rouven Linnarz

Awards: Bronze Taiga at the Spirit of Fire 2023 Festival. The film competed in two film festivals in Taiwan: the Golden Horse Film Festival (NETPAC Award Best Asian Film) and the Golden Bell Awards.

On Either Sides of the Pond (India, 2022)

18+

What is it about? Amidst the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic, Sumit and Priyanka, an eloped couple, return to the security of their hometown. While Priyanka feels uneasy in the suffocating familiarity of her town, Sumit immerses himself in his tribe of friends.

Who’s the director? Parth Saurabh is a filmmaker from Darbhanga, the setting of “On Either Sides of the Pond”. Having graduated in engineering but feeling disillusioned, he went on to study direction at Whistling Woods. While there, he was invited by Looking China, where he made a short documentary about the architecture of a small village in Xinjiang. From this experience emerged his first screenplay “A Temple in the Village” which was selected for the NFDC Screenwriters’ Lab, 2017. He has also been part of the writing team on Achal Mishra’s “Dhuin” and Anubhav Sinha’s “Bheed”. “On Either Sides of the Pond” is his debut feature.

What do the critics say? “Space plays a major role in Parth Saurabh’s debut film, a sort of treatise on the relationship between people and their environment. The buildings, both inhabited and ghostly, show clear signs of destruction (flood, fire, abandonment, silence). And, in this setting, a young couple. The director places them in a special frame created by the architecture (window profiles or door lintels) and objects.”  Cristina Aparicio

Awards: “On Both Sides of the Pond» is a record-breaking film: in addition to the Spirit of Fire, where it won a silver award, the film has appeared at six festivals, including the San Sebastián International Film Festival (New Directors Award – Special Mention), Asian Film Festival Barcelona and New York Indian Film Festival.

Sweet Potato Flavored Ice Cream (China, 2022)

7+

What is it about? For the first time, Biubiu spends his holiday with his grandmother and uncle in the country due to changes in the family. Everything is so different there; he is even told to eat fried insects. What’s even worse is that the boys from the village don’t play with him. But Biubiu does not let himself be shaken off. They embark on a journey to find the ‘guardian angel’ together, explore the secrets of the woods together, and forge a deep friendship…

Who’s the director? Wang Chong is a Chinese actor, director and screenwriter. He graduated from the Meishi Film Academy of Chongqing University in 2005. In his early years, he starred in many films and television dramas. “Sweet Potato Flavored Ice Cream” is his debut as a director and scriptwriter. As an outstanding young director, he was invited to participate in the master class of the 2nd Hainan International Film Festival.

In his own words: “I am in Khanty-Mansiysk for the first time. I find the city immensely impressive. Every day I see new places, each with its own zest. At the Festival, I have watched many good films and met colleagues. I hope to return to the Spirit of Fire once again. The meeting with Yugra schoolchildren was warm and interesting. For me, children are a world of its own. They are open, cheerful, have their own world view. We were all children once, so this topic is close to everyone.” Wang Chong

Awards: At the Spirit of Fire Festival 2023, it won the Best Film award in the Your Cinema competition program of films for children and young people. It was nominated for China’s Golden Rooster Awards (Best Children’s Film) and won the Best Children’s Film Award at the Beijing Student Film Festival in 2023.

Gandhi & Co. (India, 2022)

8+

What is it about? An unexpected happening corners 11-year-old Mintoo (a Superhero Jango fan) into proclaiming Mahatma Gandhi as his role model. Mintoo soon starts mimicking Gandhi’s behavior but he is nowhere close to imbibing Gandhi’s values. His deceiving ways are fetching him rewards but little does he know how these ways are pushing him into troubled waters.

Who’s the director? Manish Saini is director and screenwriter from India. He graduated from the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad (2009), specializing in film and video communication. He has written, directed and produced his first feature film “DHH” (2017), which was presented at many international film festivals and won prestigious awards in India and abroad.

What do the critics say? “Gandhi & Co. is a lighthearted Gujarati comedy that tells an entertaining story with a backdrop of the Gandhian values of honesty and harmony. The film is a coming-of-age family drama for family audiences.” Vaishali Rathod

Awards: In 2023, the film won India’s Golden Lotus National Film Award for Best Children’s Film in the Best Children’s Film category. It also competed at the Bangalore International Film Festival and the New York Indian Film Festival. At the Spirit of Fire, this film featured in the Your Cinema Competition for films for children and young people.

Singo (Iran, 2022)

10+

What is it about? Shafa lives on the island of Singo, a fishing community with strict rules. One day, Shafi ’s dad catches some very rare crabs, called horseshoe crabs, whose blood is worth a lot of money. But Shafa feels sorry for the animals and releases them into the sea at night. Anger and blame fall on her father and the whole family faces the unpleasant consequences. The brave girl, however, refuses to be cast out by the locals. She sets out for a nearby island to save her loved ones from an impending disaster.

Who’s the director? Ali Reza Mohammadi is an Iranian screenwriter and director. He studied film at the University of Arts and Culture in Tehran. He helped to make TV series and directed the films “Rotten” (2019), “Zugzwang” (2020), and “Just Two More” (2021).

In his own words: “In a society where women and girls are often overlooked, if we pay more attention, we will find some girls and women who are acting as decent heroines and fighting for their goals without being supported by those around them. The story of Singo, which revolves around a heroine named Shafa, shed light on so many hidden roles of girls and women in society. Shafa and her sister both sacrifice themselves, one to save the environment and the other to save her family. We must indeed change this indifference toward women and girls in the society.” Ali Reza Mohammadi

Awards: Apart from the Your Cinema competition program for children and young people at the Spirit of Fire 2023 festival, the film also appeared at the Iranian Film Festival, the festival in Bailoth, the Zlin Film Festivals and the CMS Indian Children’s Film Festival.

What’s next?

We don’t know yet what the competition and non-competition programs of the Spirit of Fire 2024 Festival will feture but, as always, we hope to see and show the audience brilliant debuts from different countries. This year’s Festival will once again be a launchpad for the creative careers of first-time directors, and collaboration between filmmakers from the BRICS countries will give a new impetus to the development of cinema.