Going to Bangalore, a city of more than 10 million people in India’s south, to spend five days watching movies is not the sort of thing I usually do. Which is exactly why I agreed to serve on a jury for the Network for Promotion of Asia Pacific Cinema (NETPAC) at the 11th Bengaluru International Film Festival (Feb. 21-28). Focusing on Japanese films as a reviewer, reporter and programmer has its advantages, but cinematic diversity isn’t one of them. Bangalore was a chance to step out of my bubble.
Of the festival’s 200 or so films, only one — Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters” — was from Japan. And it was not among the 14 films in the Asian Cinema Competition section that the NETPAC jury was assigned to cover. Instead, they were from everywhere else on the Asian continent, from Derek Chiu’s “No. 1 Chung Ying Street,” a formally adventurous examination of two generations of political protesters in Hong Kong, to Bassam Jarbawi’s “Screwdriver,” a disturbing portrait of a Palestinian man who has spent 15 years in an Israeli prison.