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Lalit Rao

Mr. Lalit Rao is a film critic from Jaipur, India, FIPRESCI India member. He is currently writing a book on 25 best French films (1990-2015). Apart from ''World Cinema'', he is interested in chess, foreign languages, linguistics and philosophy. He is also the associate editor of the quarterly magazine "Cinematography Art". Mr. Lalit Rao has reported extensively on film festivals especially 'World Cinema' through more than 40 blogs and 8 videos channels. Cinema journal ‘Deep Focus’, and ‘Bangalore Film Society’ were represented by him as their correspondent in Paris for 2005-2006. He also presented a paper on Canadian cinema entitled ‘A brief overview of Francophone cinema in Québec’ during 20th International Conference on Canadian Studies, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, 27-29 February, 2004. Apart from writing 1000 reviews on IMDB, Mr. Lalit Rao has created KINEMA, a database with information on 25,000 films. His articles in French and English have appeared in Deep Focus, Kinoglaz, Objectif-Cinema, Sancho Does Asia and Séquences. Mr.Lalit Rao studied Master 2 at Université de Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris where he worked on ‘Distribution of Indian cinema’ in France. As a film critic, Mr. Lalit Rao has attended numerous film festivals in France and India.



“The Promise”= A film about how ancient and modern worlds can coexist in order to make wines and people who make them happy ?

Interest in wine and wine making has always fascinated humanity since olden times. However, this fascination has taken a completely new turn in contemporary times especially in an international market governed by numerous socio-economic concerns. This is one reason why there is always room for news as well as ‘works of art’ about anything related to wine. One can quote China's acquisition of 100 Bordeaux chateaux as a recent example. It can be stated that Asia’s dominance might be construed to be Europe’s loss. However, one has to bear in mind that ‘human element’ involved in wine making can neither be ignored nor disparaged. It is in this specific context that both wine enthusiasts and cinema lovers should watch “The Promise”, a new documentary film signed by veteran Serbian documentary filmmaker Zeljko Mirkovic and Dusan Gajic. Their film throws new light on wine making in Serbia, a country which continues to be associated with negative images especially those related to a bloody war of the past.

Shot extensively in France as well as Serbia, “The Promise” is the tale of wine making in a small Serbian village called Rogljevo which had a long and illustrious history of wine making. Some of its older inhabitants take immense pride in the fact that wines from their village were exported to Austria, France and Italy in the past during communist regime. They are aware that times have changed and that there are hardly any young people who stay in Rogljevo in order to get involved in the commercial enterprise of wine making. Everything seems to change in Rogljevo with the arrival of a French couple Cyrille and Estelle. However, change is not so easy to come as a lot of old customs and traditions are involved.

While watching “The Promise”, viewers would be able to realize how equal attention is paid to both wine making process and people who make it. Zeljko Mirkovic and Dusan Gajic take us on small tours of local vineyards where one gets to learn a lot about Serbian savoir faire involved in selection of grapes, cutting of grapes and workers involved in harvesting. Despite being victims of economic hardships, there is a sense of optimism in the lives of ordinary denizens of Rolgljevo as they believe that starting a cooperative would enable them to make progress in their lives. These moments have been captured professionally by cameramen Miodrag Trajkovic and Nikola Majdak Jr without resorting to any kind of overt sentimentality.

Apart from “The Promise” some interesting documentary as well as feature films about wine have also been helmed in recent past with commercial success as well as critical acclaim. Discerning cinéphiles would remember ‘Mondovino’ directed by Jonathan Nossiter which depicted the impact of globalization on the world’s different wine producing nations. A lot of praise has also been showered on ‘Sideways’ directed by Alexander Payne.

In many ways, Cyrille and Estelle remain this film’s true heroes as they have retained their humanistic perspective despite getting involved in a highly commercialized métier of winemaking where commercial gains reign supreme on everybody’s minds. Watching their personal involvement with Rogljevo’s inhabitants, one learns that profit making is not their primary concern even though they are doing their best to promote Rogljevo’s wines in France. Cyrille and Estelle derive more happiness by interacting with locals and having them at their home for lunch. They even invite an old Rogljevo granny to visit them in France in order to familiarize her with aspects of wine making outside of Serbia. Cyrille also speaks good Serbian which enables him to have a personal rapport with Rogljevo’s inhabitants. One should bear these good qualities in mind in order to counter a negligible part of hostility on behalf of local people who oppose some of Cyrille’s approaches related to wine making.  

Some of this film’s best moments are related to the old Rolgljevo’s granny’s journey to France. One learns a lot about contemporary world especially about how fast things are getting done in current times. In no time, granny gets her new passport, villagers celebrate her departure and she is on an airplane heading towards Paris.

Lastly, promising results about the success of documentary films continue to be announced largely due to director Michael Moore’s honest efforts to propel audiences to throng cinemas in order to watch documentary films. Zeljko Mirkovic and Dusan Gajic's “The Promise” promises to be one such documentary film which would be remembered for its humane qualities. It has already been honored at some of the prestigious film festivals in USA. This is one key reason to watch this film in order to learn how ancient and modern worlds can coexist in order to make wines and people who make them happy.

© Mr.Lalit Rao (FIPRESCI)






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About Lalit Rao

RAO Lalit

Mr. Lalit Rao (member-FIPRESCI) writes for this website on a regular basis as a film critic publishing reviews on his profile

In February 2017, he participated as jury member during  9th Bangalore International Film Festival 2017.

In 2014, he attended 19th International Film Festival of Kerala 2014 as a member of film critics’ jury.

As a film critic, Mr.Lalit Rao has attended film festivals in India as well as France namely International Film Festival of India (IFFI), International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), Festival International de Films de Femmes de Créteil, Paris : Cinéma du Réel-Festival International de films documentaires, Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent? Saint-Denis, Rencontres Internationales du Cinéma de Patrimoine, Vincennes & Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie, Vesoul. 


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