Wednesday, 12 January 2011

The 9th Pune International Film Festival (PIFF) Pick: Bardsongs (Netherlands)

Screened at Esquare, 1215 hours  

Directed by Sander Francken, of Netherlands, the three stories that feature in Bardsongs (2010) are set in Jodhpur, Ladakh (both in India) and Mali, Africa. Traditional songs mingle with the narrative with effective simplicity, as we are first treated to Rajasthani folk music, and a charming tale of a plastic waste collector, his camel and his son. In a twist of fortunes, we are told how life can spring surprises, and we can't ever conclude that whether we are lucky or unfortunate.

A teasing riddle in the second story is its core, as a teacher asks his young pupils, "What is the largest part of all knowledge?" A clever, curious boy goes through the books and finds no answer. He then requests his teacher to give him a time-limit of seven days, so that he can scour the city for the solution. The boy meets a fisherman, a hunter, a builder and finds that each one of them consider the work details of their profession, the largest part of all knowledge. The teacher asks the boy to keep trying, and in his travels, the boy meets two tourists and offers to guide them. They come upon a ruin and the boy informs them, "This is a thousand years old." One of the tourists looks up his guide book and grimaces,"It says hundred here."As the tourist looks at him suspiciously, the boy decides to leave the couple. He runs to his master and blurts,"The largest part of all knowledge is in the head, rather than the book." The teacher smiles kindly, and says,
"That's nice, but not the right answer." The answer that the teacher finally gives is both profound and arguable, most importantly - though-provoking.

Wisdom shines through a tale set in the rural remoteness of Ladakh, as in a journey to sell their beloved dzo (hybrid of yak, domestic cattle), a father and a daughter find the road to happiness. The soundtrack uses words from everyday life of each region and the local language and still gets the message across in each tale, the ubiquitous English subtitles do the rest. Unmissable.   

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