Interview Hindi Korean

My long-term idea is to show Asian films on television: Film scholar Aruna Vasudev

The eminent critic lamented the fact that showing Asian films commercially in theatres is a different kettle of fish.

Archana Kapoor, Aruna Vasudev and Bina Paul at IAWRT's Asian Women's Film Festival 2018 in New Delhi

Sukhpreet Kahlon

Eminent critic and film scholar Aruna Vasudev has been at the forefront of taking Asian cinema to the world. She launched the film journal Cinemaya in 1988, which showcased the work of Asian filmmakers, founded the Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) in 1990, with the support of UNESCO, Paris.

She then started Cinefan, the Cinemaya Festival of Asian Cinema, in 1999, which was also one of the first festivals in the world to focus on Asian cinema. Honoured for her work across the world, she was awarded the Chevalier of Arts and Letters in 2002 by the Italian government and the Star of Italian Solidarity by the French government in 2004. She was felicitated at IAWRT India's 14th edition of the Asian Women's festival in New Delhi.

She spoke to about the festival and Asian cinema today.

Your work has been dedicated to the promotion of Asian cinema, be it through Cinemaya, Cinefan, NETPAC, and you were instrumental in taking the work of Asian filmmakers to the world. How far have we come in recognizing their work on a global platform?

Now Asian filmmakers are internationally very well-known. I started Cinemaya in 1988 when no one had heard of films from Asia aside from the works of Akira Kurosawa and Satyajit Ray. But other than that, they did not even know the Japanese filmmakers of Kurosawa's generation and knew nothing about India even though very good films were being made in the 1960s in India and as for Thailand, China, Korea, they were unheard of! So people got very interested and not only did people get excited about Korean filmmakers of earlier times, but young Korean filmmakers got excited when film festivals began as they got to see all these works.

As someone who started one of the most notable film festivals in the country, Cinefan, what would you say about the showcasing of Asian films at film festivals here?

I've just come from Bangalore where they had the NETPAC Award, so there are plenty of Asian films being shown in festivals but they are not being shown in cinemas. We tried very hard at that time but that's the case all over. In Asia, they are not showing Asian films in cinema halls because to release a film commercially in theatres is a different kettle of fish. France is doing it, but France has always been ahead of everybody as far as cinema is concerned. That was my dream that we should do that. We just had a NETPAC meeting in Singapore where I said that why don't you get the Asian films shown on television? That has been my long-term idea to show these films on television.

Your starting a film magazine like Cinemaya was a significant moment in the history of film writing as it was the world's first journal devoted to the promotion of Asian cinema. But in current times, we do not see that kind of scholarly and informed writing on Asian cinema anymore.

Well I did my best and the reason I gave it to Osian's was that we couldn't raise enough money. We were a small group of people and nobody was supporting us, so after a certain moment I said, "Enough, take it." 

What do you see as being the relevance of a festival organized by IAWRT, which focuses not just on Asian filmmakers but on Asian Women filmmakers?

I think it's a wonderful idea and it's quite unique, but they've got to expand it more. The India International Centre is a very selective place, but they have to take the films around. They are doing things around the year also, but they need to have the festival and have talks, screenings, discussions through the year to spread it more. That's very important.

Related topics

IAWRT Asian Women's Film Festival