BUSAN - A Bhutanese film directed by a Buddhist monk, featuring India's traditional dance and its spirituality, opened the 18th Busan International Film Festival in Busan on Thursday.
Cohosted by veteran Korean actress Kang Soo-yeon and Hong Kong singer and actor Aaron Kwok, the festival's opening ceremony was attended by some 4,000 guests, including renowned cineastes from home and abroad such as Japanese filmmaker Shinji Aoyama, French film critic and historian Charles Tesson, and Korean filmmakers Chung Ji-young and Kim Ki-duk.
Directed by Khyentse Norbu, the opening film, titled "Vara: A Blessing," tells the story of a young woman named Lila (played by Indian actress Shahana Goswami), who lives in rural India with her "Devadasi" mother, who works as a temple dancer married to a Hindu god.
Lila, who aspires to become a dancer like her mother, falls in love with a low-caste village boy, an aspiring sculptor named Shyam (played by actor Devesh Ranjan), while mastering the traditional, spiritual Bharatanatyam dance.
The young woman, who had been devoted to serving the Hindu god, starts to fantasize that Shyam is Lord Krishna as their romantic relationship deepens.
The film's screening marked the first time for a non-Korean and non-Chinese film to open the Busan International Film Festival.
"My film is about devotion, imagination, and also the power of belief," director and Buddhist monk Norbu said in English in a video footage sent from Bhutan. He was unable to attend the opening ceremony of the festival as he is currently occupied with his religious training.
"It's also a film about strength of women. I've always been an admirer of Indian classical dance. I hope that at least the film will act as a medium to introduce the vast and infinite and deep culture of India and its people and especially the classical dance. And at the same time also give a glimpse of an element of India that is seen through a non-Indian (artist)."