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20th KIFF: The amazing true story of Paul Cox

20th KIFF: The amazing true story of Paul Cox

India Blooms News Service | 13 Nov 2014, 07:46 pm
Kolkata, Nov 13 (IBNS) Paul Cox, the Dutch-born filmmaker who later migrated to Australia, is heading the Jury of the International Competition this year at the 20th Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF). He also has his latest film Force of Destiny in the screening programme. The filmmaker's passion for India and everything Indian is now well-known.

Few of his Indian admirers know that his latest film Force of Destiny is a fictionalized account of the filmmaker's real-life experience of having suffered from cancer of the liver some years ago when doctors gave him six months to live.

Protagonist Robert, a famous sculptor, is diagnosed as suffering from liver cancer and finds himself placed in the liver transplants list. How love for an Indian woman Maya, changes his way of looking at life and impending death makes for the story of the film.

There is more to this story of survival than the film alone. Cox maintained a diary during his near-terminal illness which will be released in its Indian edition in the form of a book. Tales from the Cancer Ward, the Indian edition published under the imprint of the West Bengal Film Journalists Association, will be released at the Festival venue in the presence of the filmmaker on Nov 14.

Australia's Mullumbimby-based filmmaker David Bradbury made a documentary that explores the dreaded concept of everyone living on borrowed time. Bradbury is a close friend of Paul Cox and when Bradbury too was diagnosed with cancer he wished to find out about the experiences of others living with cancer.  He made a documentary called On Borrowed Time based on his interviews with Cox about his cancer.

On Borrowed Time pays tribute to Cox's contribution to film, his outlook and his most recent experience with illness.

In February 2009, Cox first developed symptoms that quickly led to a diagnosis of liver cancer, for which the only possible hope of cure was a liver transplant. Tales From The Cancer Ward is a diary-like account of Cox’s experience of his illness and of living a waiting life on a transplant list. The initial part of the memoir was written retrospectively.

Cox then recorded events and his thoughts as they happened. "There might not be a final page, but I can’t let all this happen to me without doing something constructive."

He also used the new world in which he found himself as an opportunity for self-exploration:"I have been trying to unwind the clock, to find the very core of my being. To find out who I really am."

Cox is a shrewd observer of himself, and of others. When speaking of the medical consultation at the time of diagnosis he comments: "There was no eye contact, which worried me more than all the potential bad news."

Some of these lines come across in the film. Tales From The Cancer Ward is about more than illness. It is also a political book, and Cox shares many of his passionate and strongly held views. He believes, for example, that ‘artists must protest’, as he is convinced that they have within them the power to change the world.

Among his noted films are - Man of Flowers (1983), My First Wife (1984), Exile (1994), Innocence (2000) and Human Touch (2004) . Cox scored a hit with Vincent – the Life and Death of Vincent Van Gogh (1987), a biographical portrait drawn from the correspondence of Van Gogh.

Cox pays a  celluloid tribute to the painter in Force of Destiny through a beautiful gift Robert’s Indian lover sends him for Christmas from India.

Ironically, A Woman’s Tale (1991) is a celluloid tribute to actress Sheila Florence who like the film’s central character, was dying of cancer, little knowing that the filmmaker, 23 years hence, would make a film on his personal experience of cancer that changed his life-view, ideology and philosophy towards death.

(Reporting by Shoma A. Chatterji)

20th KIFF: The amazing true story of Paul Cox

India Blooms News Service
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