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November 9, 2010 Published in Arts & Style, Top Stories

And The Winners Are…

By James Cullum
alexandrianews.org

(Courtesy Photo)

Four Days and 39 films later, the fourth annual Alexandria Film Festival came to a close Sunday evening. “Fred and Vinnie”, a comedy about the ultimate odd couple, won the “Best of Fest” award; “Ride the Divide”, a documentary about a 2700 mile bike race along the Continental Divide, won the Jury Prize; “Race to Nowhere”, a documentary about the pressures faced by American schoolchildren and their teachers, won the Audience Award (see separate review); and “Bodhisattva”, a psychological drama that examines life in Calcutta, India in the 21st Century, won the Foreign Film award.

The feature–length, documentary, animation and short films were shown at seven theaters around the City. “ I think we had, hands down, more attendance than we ever had in the past. We sold out at the Athenaeum, and the Lyceum had a really good crowd,” said Pat Miller, chair of the Alexandria Commission on the Arts and executive director of the Festival. “I think if we do the same format next year that it will only grow. I mean, when people ask you ‘How can I see the films that I missed?’, then that’s one of the best compliments you can get.”

The film festival will return next year.

Bodhisattva

Forget the headache of looking for a travel agent to Calcutta. Instead, see San Banarje’s “Bodhisattva”, a captivating drama that will leave you with this thought: “Wow. I know a terrible person just like that.”

The terrible person is Maya (Trisha Ray), a 20-something Indian-American who visits Calcutta to see her father Bodhisattva (Bengali film icon Soumitra Chatterjee) and stay with her friend Anu. But since Maya’s mother’s death, she has become mentally ill. Soon after arriving, Maya becomes drawn to Anu’s husband Avik (Banarje).

Director San Banarje. (Photo: James Cullum)

“What you see now in India is that middle class couples are under a lot of debt. People are always working and have no time for each other, and there is a lot of claustrophobia inside of homes,” Ray said at the premier. “But I’m not like Maya at all! I have to tell people that after they see the movie.”

“Bodhisattva” was filmed in seven days on a shoestring budget. ““Since we did not have a budget, we had to concentrate on character development,” said Banarje. “With Maya, a lot of times when you see someone and you think they’re normal, you don’t realize it until you really know them and notice things that do not reveal themselves immediately. I’ve known girls like that.”

With no money, Banarje could not offer much to Chatterjee. “He was amazing to work with. The only thing he wanted in payment was a bottle of Johnny Walker Black,” Banarje said.

In fact, Ray said the most challenging scenes were with Chatterjee. “He was so generous in the way that he worked with me in the scenes. And that is really scotch that he is drinking.”

Corner Plot

(Courtesy Photo)

(While this short was not one of the festival winners, it is about a local story well worth mention.)

Know any farmers in Silver Spring? “Corner Plot”, a ten-minute film by Ian Cook and Andre Dahlman, chronicles the life of Charlie Koiner, an 89-year-old farmer who has tended his one-acre piece of farmland inside the beltway for decades. With the help of his daughter, Koiner tends the land, sells the produce and lives peacefully.

“I enjoy doing it. I try to do as much as I can to keep busy. I fish trout in the spring, I do the farmer’s market’s…. I hope I can keep doing it as long as my health keeps up,” Koiner said after the film premiered. “The young men who made the film did a good job.”

Koiner lives three blocks from a metro station and near a highrise office building. “I’ve lived in the house since 1932. If I didn’t have the land, I don’t know what I would do,” he said. “When I bought the property, it was expensive, but it suited me perfectly.”

Charlie Koiner. (Photo: James Cullum)