BY SACHIN CHATTE
The Mumbai Film Festival (MAMI), which has become quite popular among cinephiles, was almost down and out this year after a major sponsor backed out in 2013. With just over a month left, the festival was on the verge of being called off due to lack of funds. Film personalities and other prominent people chipped in and, against all odds, the 16th edition of the festival was held.Considering the time on hand, or lack of it, it was a job well done. Ultimately, a film festival is about an opportunity for film lovers to watch the crème de la crème of cinema from around the world. Moreover, MAMI as the festival is better known, consistently showcases some excellent Indian films, and on that count it beats the IFFI (International Film Festival of India) hands down. Ship of Theseus, Fandry, Court, Katiyabaaz, Killa all were premiered at MAMI while IFFI still keeps serving films in the Indian Panorama that, besides having made the rounds of theatres, have been screened elsewhere as well.
There are a few other things that IFFI can learn from MAMI, for example the use of social media for disseminating information and updates. Gone are the days where information has to be put up on the notice board for everyone to see. At the click of a mouse you can reach out to thousands in no time with the help of Twitter and Facebook. At the time of writing this, the MAMI twitter handle (@mumbaifilmfest) had 11,400 followers. IFFI (@iffi2014goa), meanwhile, for some strange reason (perhaps Feng Shui or numerology), keeps changing the handle every year. So far it has only 20 followers including yours truly.
The biggest difference that you see at MAMI and IFFI is that of passion – the ones involved are passionate about doing the right thing and getting things right. Anupama Chopra the well known film critic took over as the creative director of the festival at the last moment and she is the woman responsible for the festival being held this year. When I pointed out that at film fests occasionally some things do go wrong and everything doesn’t work with military precision, her prompt reply was, “I want to ensure that they do work with military precision.” Now that’s the spirit that you can’t help but admire and it is a clear indication that the festival is in very safe hands.
With film stars coming out in full support of the festival the Bollywood quotient was also high and what is the right proportion is something that can be debated. Sure it brings in the glamour, but how much of it do you actually need?
Here are the 10 Best Films I saw at the festival.
Court (Marathi, India): The 27-year-old Chaitanya Tamhane’s debut feature won three awards in the international competition after already having won two at the Venice fest. One of the most assuring debuts in recent times, Court, a film about a poet who is implicated for abetting suicide with his poetry, is a knockout as a social commentary. There are no villainous characters here; the system is the villain. Sadly, the film is not in the Indian Panorama at IFFI, but don’t miss it when it releases in theatres. Interestingly, the film has an international distributor, but not a local one, yet.
Klauni (Clownwise, Czech): It is always a great pleasure to discover unknown gems at a festival and Klauni tops the list. An exceptional film about three former mime artists, the narrative structure is admirable because the director doesn’t use the usual trope of flashbacks to tell the story. Instead, he surprises you at every juncture. Add this to your list of must-watch films.
Mommy (Canada): The film has a lot of hype surrounding it and every bit is worth it. It shared the Jury Prize at Cannes this year along with a film that I truly loathed Godard’s Goodbye Language. At 25, actor-director Xavier Dolan has ‘prodigy’ written all over his work. Mommy also has an outstanding cast led by Anne Dorval.
Killa (Marathi, India): Cinematographer turned director, FTII alumini Avinash Arun’s debut feature Killa is one of the most heart warming and nostalgic films you’ll get to see. With plenty of laughs and tender moments of friendship, Killa is an unforgettable trip backed by the best ensemble cast of kids you’ll see on the big screen.
Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg, Germany): This is a film that will stay with you for a long time. The story of a young girl who comes from a fundamental Christian family and goes out of her way to prove her love for God won the Silver Bear and Ecumenical Jury prize at Berlin. Divided into 14 chapters each one named after Christ’s Stations of the Cross (also known as way of the Cross) and shot in a single take with a static camera, the film leaves you shaken and stirred.
Boyhood (USA): If you haven’t heard of the film don’t bother with the details. Just go and watch it. Refund guaranteed if you don’t come out satisfied.
Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel): This film shows that it is not only in India that we have Kafka’esque trials in court. This is a story about a woman who wants a divorce but only the Rabbis can decide about it that too after the consent of the husband, but he refuses to part with his wife. The case literally drags on for years as the woman fights for her independence.
What’s The Time In Your World? (Iran): A beautifully crafted Iranian romantic film starring Leila Hatami – a good enough reason to watch this film. And no one ends a film with a precision like the Iranians do.
Difret: An Ethiopian girl is abducted but she manages to escape from the clutches of her captors by shooting one of them. She is in the hands of the police but her ordeal just begins. Based on a true story, the film won the audience award at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals.
Fever: Two young men murder a woman whom they don’t even know. We don’t see the murder but we are given an insight into why they did it. Very broadly reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Rope , this has the banality of evil angle to it.