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Siraj Syed

Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 



IFFI 2018, II: The Aspern Papers was the Opening Film

IFFI 2018, II: The Aspern Papers was the Opening Film

The Aspern Papers was the opening film of IFFI 2018, the 49th International Film Festival of India, Panaji, Goa, November 20-28, also marking its world première. Team Aspern got to address the first press conference of the festival, held at the Media Centre at the ground floor of the old Goa Medical College (GMC) building.

“It is a real honour for me to be in India, to present my film at this prestigious festival” said Julien Landais, the director. Others present on the occasion were actors Mr. Nicolas Hau, Ms. Barbara Meier and Ms. Lois Robbins.

Festival Director Chaitanya Prasad, Additional Director in the Directorate of Film Festivals, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India, said, “We are thoroughly delighted to have the cast and crew of The Aspern Papers among us. And what better way to start the 49th edition of IFFI than with a World Premiere! A premiere which speaks for itself, a premiere which will showcase the nuances of cinema, film-making, acting, creativity and the way forward. The film kick-starts our whole journey for eight days and it should be a journey which all of us will love to remember. It is a great honour and a privilege to have you here. I thank the cast and crew of The Aspern Papers for coming to India, coming to Goa, coming to IFFI, and for giving us a great brand value in the international community. Namaskaar, welcome to India”

Julien Landais added, “My film is an adaptation of a famous novella by Henry James, which is set in Venice in the late 19th century. I felt like it was the right subject for my first feature and fit in the incredible actors to embody these special characters. So I’m very happy to be here with my team.”

Lois Robbins expressed her happiness thus-- “I just want to say how thrilled I am to be here. It is my first time in India. It is a beautiful country; Goa is fantastic and thank you so much for having us all. Shooting The Aspern Papers was an experience I don’t think I will ever have again as an actor, for so many reasons. Firstly, it was an extraordinary cast led by an exceptional director who had a beautiful vision for the film. Just the costumes alone, from the Dolce and Gabbana couture archives, were some of the most beautiful things I will ever wear in my life. It was quite exceptional to work with Jonathan (Rhys-Myers), Poppy (Delevigne), Nicolas (Hau), Barbara (Meier) and Morgane Polanski (daughter of renowned director Roman Polanski).”

Narrating her experience while shooting the film, Lois went on to say, “It was a lot of fun on the very first day of the shooting of the film. It was very hot in Venice. And I had on a very heavy cape, a hat and gloves and we were shooting in a gondola. For every take, I had to take my gloves on and off. The costume people couldn’t come inside the gondola with me. So for every take, Jonathan would get into the gondola and adjust the gloves and the cape for me. And I was swooning. He is quite handsome. That might have been my favourite day of shooting.”

The Aspern Papers also stars Golden Globe-nominated actress Ms. Joely Richardson (lead actress), her mother--six time Oscar nominee and Academy Award winner Vanessa Redgrave, and Julia Robins.

Set in Venice, in the late 19th century, it tells the story of an American editor determined to get his hands on the letters his icon, the Romantic poet Jeffrey Aspern, wrote to his beautiful lover and muse, Juliana Bordereau. Juliana lives in a Venetian palazzo with her niece Miss Tina, who she seems to control and who Morton tries to manipulate. But when the ambitious adventurer trifles with Miss Tina’s affections, she learns to see through his scheme.

The film was shot where Henry James actually wrote it--on original locations in Venice. James Ivory, an old India hand, part of the legendary (late) Ismail Merchant-James Ivory team, and a recent Academy Award winner, is one of the Executive Producers of the film.

(Seen in the picture are Lois Robbins, Julien Landais, Nicolas Hau and Brabara Meier).


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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.

Bandra West, Mumbai


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