So we read this piece on Quartz India – “A Bollywood-backed Twitter campaign saved the Mumbai Film Festival—but crushed its spirit”. Friends told us it’s a well respected website. Yet to figure out why. (Not that we trust Columbia Journalism grads on desi film industry, most of the times they have no clue about bollywood or indie-bhindies) As we were joking about it, we thought let’s not respond to it till the closing ceremony. Aamir, Madhuri, Anushka, Parineeti, Esha…OMG! So many stars at MAMI! We have never seen them before at Mumbai Film Festival. They killed the indie spirit and how. Look at the winners. Bollywood must not have heard about these filmmakers and they crushed them by giving them awards – Avinash Arun (Killa), Bikash Mishra (Chauranga) and Chaitanya Tamhane (Court). And these 3 films bagged top 6 awards in International Competition and India Gold section. Interestingly, all three are based in Mumbai. City’s fest, city’s filmmakers, what an achievement! MAMI never had a better year than this. If only some people knew what they are writing about.

Moving on, here’s our day wrap of last 2 days

’71

A Soldier is abandoned accidentally by his unit in the middle of a riot in Belfast. I must confess I was at loss quite a few times thanks to the heavy North Irish accent, but this edge of the seat thriller-drama has enough moments to keep you hooked on. The riot sequence and the chase alone itself is worth the watch. Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Look and feel – all top notch in this gritty film. One can feel the pain of the wound being stitched, the weight of the stone being thrown and the deafening screech after an unexpected bomb blast. Watch it.

Court

This film deserves every accolade it has got abroad. Minimal with pitch perfect detailing, long takes & wide shots, performances that seem natural and unrehearsed, a dab of social & political commentary every now and then, and a realistic depiction of a Kafkaesque trial – it at times ceases to be a film and seems like life unfolding in front of your eyes. Easily one of the top films at MFF this year. Do not miss this for anything.

- @nagrathnam

Theeb

This is as unpretentious and straightforward a film can be. And that’s where lies its joy. A young Jordanian boy is left alone to fend for himself in bandit territory with the bandit that killed his brother. The bandit becomes his protector and the boy needs him to reach safety. Its not the barren terrain alone, a terrain from whose womb few films emerge but an entire world that opens up to us simply by the choices the characters make in this film. If you like films as an observer and seeker of experience, then this is well worth it.

Clouds of Sils Maria

Literary world threatens to envelope the real and the real world reflects the literary one, shadowing each other as the film explores the nature of time and age. Oblique with a lot of subtext, Clouds of Sils Maria is a meta referential guide to an aging actor’s work and life experience as we explore her inner world and art through her explorations of the character she is playing. Absorbing and visually beautiful, the end is mystifying but Juliette Binoche’s glorious performance makes it more than worth the watch even as a the point in its entirety maybe subject to subjective audience interpretation or simply lost. Almost meta referential of tha film again!

Mission Rape – A Tool Of War (Documentary)

Disturbing even at its short length of an hour. The documentary talks about the mass rapes that were used to perpetrate horror in Bosnia-Herzegovinian conflict during the early nineties. Victims and their families fighting for justice speak their stories and how justice has been denied to them. A stark image of the hegemony of patriarchy and the politics of war stares in front of us as we despair at the continuing inhumanity of the world. There is no attempt to dramatise events or manipulate the audience, facts are laid out bare and footage used matter-of-factly. Its short and not as incisive or comprehensive as it could be, but its honest and dignified, and therein lies its worth.

Girlhood

 Is it me or was there a major number of women-centric films this year at MAMI?In any case, its a cause for celebration and I did with Girlhood. In fact, what better film than that! Its a journey of an African teenage girl, bred and brought up in a steeply patriarchal culture finding her independence. Not only the thrift of storytelling and the simplicity of narration but the wealth of detailing makes this not only an important coming-of-age film, but a feminist film. Blue as the primary colour in the scheme, girls finding their freedom in acting like boys, the need for male approval, the male gaze and so on and on, the script explores each one of these very important aspects of influence in the shaping of a girl into a woman. A must watch!

Coffee Bloom

An interesting film about coming to terms with the past…Set in lush Coorg that is filmed with a lot of love, it is a the story of Dev, a troubled young man who is trying hard to gather his life torn apart by loss of his childhood home and his love. Love, loss, betrayal with spirituality on the fringes are some of the themes that inform the plot-driven narrative with able support from the lead actors. The screenplay is tight and engaging, the unfolding or rather undoing of the characters and their coming together quite convincing. A minor grouse, however, were the dialogues or maybe it was the way some of them were delivered, that sounded quite banal. An assured debut.

Demons

An adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel by the same name, it is an ambitious film that tries hard to embody all of Dostoevsky’s ideas questioning nihilism, utopianism, spirituality and the human condition. Unfortunately, it fails to portray the complexity of these ideas, leave alone present a picture of 19th century Russia in all its multifarious-ness. The narrative is non-linear, something that adds a complex physicality to the film but does not supply the necessary depth or breadth, leave alone create any darkness in mood. Demons is supposed to be an intense literary work, both exploring the interiority of its characters as possessed by an inexplicable evil that is part of human belief system as well as the social conditions of Russia and its politics of the time. The film, despite its three hour long running time does little justice to the dark world of Dostoevsky or the zeitgeist of Russia, confusing hyperventilating for intensity and substituting CG work for surrealism.

@Fatema

The Tree (Drevo)

In the 15th century, a deadly tradition began in the Balkans, which were then under Turkish rule. Krvna Osveta is still practiced in Albania today. But that is not the story of The Tree, though it does flutter in the backdrop. Instead, in three sections, we see captivity (or, as the director prefers to say, “entrapment”) of three kinds. The story is also about power; about struggling against power; about the various shades of power — personal, political, emotional and familial. Intimately shot and powerfully acted against a spare landscape in three main colours, this film will enter your mind and haunt you endlessly.

Slovenia makes only five to ten films a year — and the director, Sonja Prosenc, who graced the screening, informed us that two of the three remarkable leads were amateurs. In such a spare landscape, it is even more remarkable when a director makes such a stunning debut.

The Big Journey

Perhaps the best movies about journeys are those that are not about the journey at all. A devout, French Muslim coaxes his reluctant son to drive him all the way to Mecca — a taxing route spanning 3000 miles. But there are no sights on the way, even though the son would like to stop for some of them. Instead, we enter the minds of the protagonists and travel through their maze of differences — due to a significant distance in their ages; due to their belonging to different times; due to their having different beliefs about religion, and right and wrong.

Their clashes are the age-old clashes of the conservative and the modern; the devout and the casual believer; the old and the young. There are some regular road movie tropes thrown in — such as trouble at customs; thieves and strange companions on the journey. But there is also some great detailing — especially in the last part where we meet travelling Arabs going to Mecca, replete with their customs, their prayers, their caravans.

As the father and son travel farther away from home, The Big Journey becomes all about bridging the distance between two minds and hearts.

Theeb

Are we a product of our environment? Or do we shape it? Theeb suggests the former. After all, who can shape the mighty desert? In Arabia in 1916, we see the cruel, unforgiving, death-giving desert produce children who see, and accept, cruelty as a routine ingredient of their lives. Of course, accepting cruelty with such equanimity requires fearlessness as well. And we see all of this in both Theebs — the protagonist, and the movie.

Mesmerisingly shot entirely on location against the ravishing landscape of Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba, and cast with non-professional actors from one of the last of Jordan’s nomadic Bedouin tribes to settle down, Theeb is often disturbing — for its hyper-realistic depiction of life in the desert, the desperation it induces, and the everyday violence accepted by the tribes. Often the movie crawls, just like the days in the desert, and it becomes difficult to watch on. But life is never easy; why should such a marvellous movie be?

- @Shubhodeep

Court

Extremely real situations (too close to reality for people who keep tabs on what’s happening), real people and performances. In fact, a lot of people in the cast are not professional actors but they seem natural in front of the camera. Film unfolds mostly in a courtroom where a man (a Shahir) stands accused of abetting suicide of another man. Clearly it’s just an excuse by the state to put him behind bars. While the starting point of the film seem to be inspired from real events, it aims to take a broader view of the society and its functioning as well as its relationship with the state and its institutions by going into the lives of each of the main players.

- @neeraja

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

I have to say I wasn’t terribly impressed by this, given the hype. Powered by a cool ‘vampire-in-a-veil’ conceit and hip soundtrack, it’s fun but doesn’t do anything very interesting thematically or in terms of storytelling, especially given the vast potential of its premise. Instead, it feels disappointingly content in just being an exercise in posturing and Sin-City style B&W visuals instead of being genuinely groundbreaking or revelatory. (Perhaps Tomas Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindqvist set the bar way too high a couple of years back.)

Clouds Of Sils Maria

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart play off each other brilliantly in Clouds Of Sils Maria, Oliver Assayas’ sharp, brutally funny and super-meta movie with a heart of melancholy. The compelling dynamic and amazing chemistry between the actresses alone makes this a must-watch, even as all the nudging and winking occasionally gets a tad overbearing. The film is too diffuse to be devastating (or a modern companion-classic to Sunset Boulevard) but Clouds of Sils Maria is always compelling, and when Binoche bares her soul with such blazing poise and elegance, it’s hard not to be floored.

- jahanbakshi

Mumbai Film Festival – Our annual movie ritual is on. And like every year, we are going to cover the Festival like nobody else does it. Team moiFightClub will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews. We are also involved with the fest this year – helping wherever you can to make it better.

Our Day-1 Wrap is here, Day 2 is here, for Day 3, click here, and for Day 4, here.

party-girl-angelique-litzenburger-joseph-bour

Clownwise

A sheer treat! A writer explores the life of three old professional clowns, now in their sixties and battling personal struggles. One of them has cancer, another is caretaking his wife afflicted by Alzheimer’s, another has a disrupted family he needs to make up to, and so on. Razor-sharp wit, versatility of craft, snappy dialogues and wonderful performances aren’t just what make this a heart-warming film. It’s the uplifting worldview, the thrift of storytelling and sheer brilliance in balance between emotion, drama and tongue-in-cheek comedy that made me laugh and cry at once at the heartfelt-ness and absurdity of it all. Just like how the filmmaker intended I’m sure. And just like how life is.

Pride

Empathy is what makes us human. Empathy is what makes the world go round. And empathy is what makes us one. At one point in history, a gay and lesbian group decided to support UK’s miners fighting for their rights because they saw the same issues in their own fight. They had nothing to gain but they thought expressing solidarity is the right thing to do and they did so. Pride tells the tale of this incident that happened in UK in 1984 and looking at the world today, I must say we need such lessons in humanism more often. So realistic, so humane, and so balanced. Without any revolutionary bluster, without a comment, and without any bias, it’s a beautiful expose of how the world looks at marginalised communities (and it isn’t a coincidence that fat, old WOMEN are the biggest supporters here). It leaves us questioning our biases and breaks down man-made boundaries so succinctly, I’m not ashamed to admit I did shed a few tears in the end. A must must watch!

Nymphomaniac – Volume 2

Blown away! I will admit I got tired halfway through Volume 2 but the end wrapped up Lars’ dystopian world and film so wonderfully it left me with goosebumps! Volume 2 is a seamless continuation of Volume 1, something that belies the trailer which suggests a buildup in tempo and tension, something that works itself up innocuously and not dramatically. Trier gradually goes from science to psychology to ideology to plain old animalism and the transition is so smooth, it is stunning. We began to pyschoanalyse Joe, the protagonist (and her name is quite telling too) in Volume 1 itself but Volume 2 forces us to go deeper and probe, just like Trier (and Joe and Seligman) are doing for that matter. The explicit sexual content continues to demystify sex, elevating it from a gratifying or sentimental point of view to a scientifically analyse-able object (not subject). The Christian context continues and so do allegories, adding to the wealth of connections of human evolution Trier is trying to make through exploring a so called ‘base’ instinct-human sexuality. Like I said earlier, blown away!

@fattiemama

Goodbye To Language

Godard bids farewell to the language of cinema and creates his own new cinematic language. I went in expecting Godard to challenge the audience, and he does. Experimental in its true sense, this is one trip that you must miss (generally and in 3D). Images float, projection abruptly quits, sound breaks,  big words and author names are being thrown around, camera spins, dog barks. There is no way I can interpret what was going on, my observations are literal. In conclusion: Goodbye Godard.
My tribute to Godard 2.0: http://instagram.com/p/uVjDygrdYr/

- @mihirbdesai

Lessons in Dissent

This documentary showcases the emergence and rise of ‘scholarism’ – the Hong Kong based student activist group which protested against ‘Moral & National Education’ & the Chief Executive Leung Chun Ying (referred to sarcastically as ‘Wolf’ – for his cunning abilities). Would you believe that the brains and mouth behind this group is a surprisingly articulate and confident 16 yr old student – Joshua Wong. Although one wishes the director had covered few voices that were not necessarily the voices of dissent. Despite perhaps coming across at times as slightly one sided & propagandist, this one is a decent window into changing Hong Kong political scenario.

P.S – Apparently as per the National Education Curriculum – if a student cried during the national anthem, he/she would’ve been given higher marks than others.

Party Girl

A 55+ yr old woman working in a cabaret (Strip Bar/pickup joint) decides to settle down with a customer who is deeply in love with her. And then what happens. This interestingly titled film delivers a powerful punch, thanks to a lovely performance by the lead actress. You not just curse her for failing to get a grip on her life, but also empathize with her, despite the fact that she has a screwed up family situation, sad personal life & an unhealthy lifestyle. Is love enough? Do old habits really die hard? Will the wedding happen? Will she reconcile with her estranged kids?

- @nagrathnam

Norjmaa

Breathtaking shots of Mongolian highlands are enough to make you fall in love with this film. Norjmaa, a shepherd waiting for lover to return from some war, remains steadfast against the wishes of the rest of the village to move to a safer place during the second world war. She nurses a Russian and a Japanese soldier back to health only to realize that as soon as they are able to move, they are at each other’s throat. Every comic moment that ensues as a result of this is a comment on the futility of war. Badema, who play Norjmaa, is brilliant in every scene. She embodies loneliness and kindness. Her maternal attitude and anger is touchingly portrayed whether it is directed to her livestock or to the soldiers she saves. Highly recommended.

Party Girl

An aged stripper agrees to marry a man who has been a regular at her cabaret joint and is in love with her. Although she is seen preparing for her new life, one is never convinced that she is doing it because she really wants it. Or she is doing it because she needs it. A sort of social acceptance, a nod from her children that she is a part of the civil society now. Her uncomfort and indecisiveness seep through the screen. Will she marry this man or does she prefer going back to the cabaret spending the nights getting drunk with her other stripper girlfriends? Is this an easy decision for someone who has been in the job as long as she has been?

- @neerajaturtle

Mumbai Film Festival – Our annual movie ritual is on. And like every year, we are going to cover the Festival like nobody else does it. Team moiFightClub will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews. We are also involved with the fest this year – helping wherever you can to make it better.

Our Day-1 Wrap is here, Day 2 report is here, for Day 3, click here.

Two Days, One Night

The promise was Dardenne Bros and Marion Cotillard, and I didn’t read or listen to any reviews for this one. And I wasn’t disappointed. Sandra is a worker in a solar factory and has been laid off due to her depression, and now has to convince a majority of her 16 co-workers to vote for her while foregoing their bonus. With a complex combination of grit, determination, desperation and self-pity Sandra does her job, going door-to-door, supported by her husband. Even though a little manipulative, the film does put the limelight back onto the age-old human values question, that the very central premise is exploring. The choices we make, why and the system we live in that influences us to do what we do. It’s a portrait of the dog-eat-dog world we live in but probably giving us hope that just maybe we all aren’t dogs after all.

Gett – The Trial of Viviane Amsalem

Never have I seen a mix of complex relationship drama, black comedy, goofiness and an almost scathing social critique in one package! Gett – The Trial of Vivianne Amsalem hinges on one line that one of the characters say ‘Your honour – See her, Hear her’. For me, that not only told the story of Viviane but all womanhood, who she represented in the film, the second sex who are never deemed important enough. The film has no bluster or fanfare, no theatrics or nothing manipulative, it’s a simple court-room story (I won’t say ‘drama’!) of Viviane who has been struggling since five years to get divorce from her orthodox husband for whom she has no love left. The film takes us through every trial she has faced in those five years and with that through the ups and the downs of human relationships, marital dynamics, religious beliefs, gender inequalities and deep-rooted patriarchy of the world we live in. Extremely well-written, well-acted and well-directed, it shows us once again a good film does not require great technical pyrotechnics. A soul and a heart is enough. What adds glory to Gett though is it has a sharp mind that questions too.

Chauranga

Bikas Mishra is one of those few rare critics in India that I’ve personally admired for a long time for the nature of his film criticism and style of writing. I was pleasantly surprised to see the same elements that inform his criticism (and the ones I much admire) inform his style of film-making as well – a unique objectivity, a certain comprehensiveness, a distance from the subject hence doing away all kind of manipulative acts or drama. Chauranga, an otherwise explosive subject which in other hands would have petered into righteous chest-thumping or dark, social uprightness, is an almost contemplative account of the caste atrocities that have plagued India since time immemorial. And then, there are the subtly woven issues of sexual repression amongst adolescents and the elderly, among men and women alike, without telling much, without probing much, just touching and then letting our minds take over. The world cinema sensibilities are apparent, the grammar isn’t local and it serves the film from raising it from the ordinary to a refreshing debut.

A Most Wanted Man

An espionage thriller that left me cold as most espionage thrillers do. Suspense for the sake of it, drama for the sake of it and a thriller for the sake of it, it’s a tightly-woven film, keeping us engaged and on our toes, a typical Hollywood B grade product that left me seriously wondering, that Hoffman apart, what was it doing at MAMI?

Nymphomaniac – Volume 1

A sex tale that is not a sex tale, an almost scientific approach to sex that has a million connections and layers beyond itself, the film has me by the throat and waiting for Volume – 2. Explicit and so explicit, with an almost clinical precision that it takes all the hype around sex away from it, liberating it from taboo-ed shackles yet exploring its myriad shades and what it does to the human soul. More on this after Volume – 2!

- @fattiemama

Coming Home

When I was ten years old, my grandfather lost his memory. For ten years, I had been the cynosure of his eyes; for the next seven months, I was unknown to him. In Coming Home — shot beautifully against the backdrop of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution in China — a political prisoner returns home after many years and finds his wife no longer recognises him. In his helplessness, in his desperation to wake his wife out of her waking slumber; in his touching attempts to protect her and bring her small joys; in his discovery of disturbing past events, I rediscovered those seven months of my life. Every day was an attempt to bring back a person who had left us, every day was a denial that he was further away. And then, of course, those familiar shattering moments when his memory would flicker back for a brief moment.

Hope is the greatest saviour and the greatest deception. The loss of memory follows a predictable pattern. You know what will happen in the movie, but when you watch it you will not care. You will be mesmerised by it — by the powerful performances, often acted out through the women’s eyes; by the exquisite detailing of Chinese middle-class life during the 60s and 70s; by the sameness of desperation in their lives and ours.

And yes, you will have your heart broken. Just as you’d known you would.

Vessel

In June 2008, a group of pro-abortion activists called “Women on Waves” unfurled a banner with a call for safe abortion from the Statue of the Virgin in Quito in staunchly anti-abortionist Equador. This radical approach to spreading an essential message  (thousands of women die every year due to botched, illegal abortions) has been a mainstay of Women on Waves, who have, over the past decade, adopted increasingly creative methods to offer help to pregnant women in distress. Due thanks, of course, to modern drugs such as Misoprostol, and the elusive nature of the internet that has allowed them to launch Women on Web, making it even easier for women living in “anti-abortion” countries to seek help.

Poignantly captured in the movie is a major anomaly in anti-abortion laws — if laws are meant to protect people and act in their best interests, there’s something certainly awry in refusing women autonomy over their bodies. If there’s one thing that cannot be said enough, it is this — criminalising women’s choice to protect their bodies is in itself an act of violence against them. This might not be the film for those weaned on “exciting” documentaries; however, the lack of style is well made-up for by stark reality of the stories within. This is a powerful documentary about the indomitable spirit of Women on Waves; their incredible efforts, through hook and by crook, to offer life-saving advice and training in over 20 countries; their victories big and small; and, most of all, about the power of conviction — especially in an idea whose time has come.

- @Diaporesis

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

This Black & White Noir film apparently set in ‘Bad City’ (was it?) begins with a malleable morals-wala hero picking up a cat. I do not want to talk about the story of the film any more. Highly Recommended. Do not miss it.
Spoilers ahead – And we see – the father, girlfriend, villain, ‘whore’, supporting character in what we discover is a creepy thriller with outstanding music & sound design, and few vampire moments – a romance at the heart of the film.

- @nagrathnam

Too much talk about Imran Khan getting booed? Well, since it was one of the ideas that our Nicolas Bourbaki-ji wrote about while discussing ways to improve the Mumbai Film Festival, he is back to tell you something.

1. If you love Mumbai Film Festival and want it to continue, and you booed Imran Khan at the screening of Dardenne Brothers’ Two Days, One Night, then you are Class A Myopic Moron.

2. Here’s why – You probably have never attended any international film festival.

3. You have absolutely no clue about the funding of the Mumbai Film Fesstival this year.

4. You think you can buy everything in Rs 1500, including rudeness.

Now, let me explain it – why you are myopic, why you are moron, and why we need to applaud Imran Khan.

No festival in the world has survived without the stars and the glamour quotient. The basic reason is one – money. Sponsors come in when there are stars. Press and photographers follow the glamour quotient. More press coverage means better sponsors. Any doubts, refer to the mother of all, Cannes Film Festival, which has found a perfect balance of stars and talent. And the irony is nothing can explain it better than this current scenario – even with a terrific line-up of films and panels, nothing is making headlines, a bollywood star getting booed has given a hard on to all. Says a lot about the current state of film journalism too.

Mumbai Film Festival’s star count has been terrible so far. This year there is substantial presence of bollywood crowd. There are panel discussions with reputed filmmakers, and there are bollywood stars who are presenting some important films. The idea is to integrate – the films and the bollywood stars. Without it, the festival won’t survive for long. This year it got crowd funded and so you are able to watch the films. But it can’t be a permanent solution. So the festival needs bollywood, and it’s not the other way. Hope this explains your myopia.

You can doubt and question any actor’s credentials, but why can’t that actor like a specific director’s film and present it? And if you weren’t a moron, you would have listened to him for 5 minutes. Because Imran Khan supported the festival, it resulted in more visibility, better sponsorship prospect, and a better festival. And the year MFF dies down, remember it started with your booing.

Even if the excuse is the delay in screening the film, being rude to any guest is not the solution – be it Imran Khan or anyone else. Boo the organisers, not guests. Just because you are part of the crowd and sitting in the dark, it doesn’t mean you will hide you stupidity. Good luck with that!

- Nicolas Bourbaki

Mumbai Film Festival – Our annual movie ritual is on. And like every year, we are going to cover the Festival like nobody else does it. Team moiFightClub will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews. We are also involved with the fest this year – helping wherever you can to make it better.

Our Day-1 Wrap is here, and Day 2 report is here.

gueros

Gueros

The kind of film you want to discover at a film festival. A new world, a new voice. Set in almost the same time as another iconic Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien, this one too has boys on a road trip plus Mumblecore plus trippy visuals plus coming of age plus paapad-dry and crisp humor. Complete winner on so many counts!

Charlie’s Country (Dir: Rolf de Heer)

Co-writer and lead actor David Gulpilil hits it out of the park with his (semi-autobiographical) portrayal of a very sexy, charming, funny, and bitter aboriginal man angry about the way white people have encroached on his country and now treat his people as nuisance. Full of so much pain and still an undying resistance by this spirited man, the film is a depressing watch that hits closer home with the way our government and corporate treats the aadivaasis.

With Others (Dir: Nasser Zamiri)

Iranian drama about surrogacy. Slipped into artistic macro-lens shots of water dripping or eggs falling every now and then and loaded with too many emotional characters, this was a bit of a tough watch. The plot, performances, and the open-ended resolution were the high-points but a lot of it was just ‘festival cliche’. It didn’t help that the original print didn’t play and the DVD version didn’t have great sound or visuals.

- @varungrover

Difret

Moved to tears by the sheer simplicity, realism and humaneness of this unpretentious, seemingly small film. Very Shahid-like in its treatment and approach- the graininess, the handheld shots, the sound, the battle of a lone warrior against huge odds. Earthy and touching. A 15 yr old girl is abducted and raped and she kills her abductor, who apparently wants to marry her, to save her life. Her entire community is against her but one women’s organisation stands up for her and fights a battle that is a universal one for women of all ages all over the world. If I could, I’d love to watch it again, and again.

Mommy

Disturbing and reassuring at once! A single mother strives to hold onto her ADHD son as she tries her best to look after him while making both ends meet. The mother-son’s journey is intertwined with another woman’s and the dynamic of friendship and mutual understanding helps them grow…its a lovely tale of human relationships and struggles told with a little quirk and lot of heart…the violence, especially the loudness and repetitiveness of it gets disconcerting at times but is overtaken by fabulous performances and lasting naturalness…

One on One

Kim-ki-duk’s violence isn’t style or bluster. Its soul-searing window to understand the film world and its people. A rare signature style that he uses in One on One once again. A subversive vigilante film, it puts a spin on the condition of urban living with its consummate questions of materialism, violence, injustice and power. Repetitive and quite random it lacks a spark and renders the otherwise potent theme lustreless.

The Mummy

The charm was to watch an internationally acclaimed Arab classic. Classics are so associated with European or Indian or at best Japanese cinema that I jumped at the opportunity to watch this one. Haunting and mysterious, the film is a world in itself. It’s based on a real-life event that took place in 1881 but realism melts into surrealism with the film’s tone, music, camera angles and performances. There was a eerie reverb in the sound that added a complementary romantic quality to the film about Pharaohs, tombs, mummies and the search for lost national treasure…give me this version over the kistch video game films on the same themes, anyday.

- @fattiemama

One on One

A vigilante squad made up of a bunch of poor and/or frustrated, defenseless people trying to deliver justice for a murder. It is strictly okay as a revenge saga, but the political dialoguebaazi is so naive that it makes ‘One on one’ a pretty ordinary affair. The repetitive torture scenes do not help.

- @neerajaturtle

Gett

Gett : The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem
The first complete knockout of the festival for me, this divorce drama simply set in a courtroom for its entire duration is thoroughly gripping, heartbreaking and savagely funny. Excellent writing and performances across the board, the story of a woman’s five year struggle to obtain a divorce from her husband is both a powerful indictment of religion and toothless justice as well as an unexpectedly hilarious black comedy. As the case painfully drags from tareek to tareek- you’re right there with the characters, often unsure whether to laugh or to cry as the proceedings move from absurd to frustrating to borderline surreal. Must watch.

Gueros 

Alonso Ruizpalacios’ Güeros has a wonderfully freewheeling and playful quality that is unique to many great debut features- Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche vaguely comes to mind, especially since both films are in B&W, 4:3 aspect ratio and have a rough-hewn quality that works in their favour. With a great sense of humour- including some hilarious meta-jokes- and thoroughly endearing young characters, it’s a trippy, nostalgic road movie as well as a great portrait of youthful disaffection set against the backdrop of a student revolution.

Girlhood
I didn’t warm up to Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood while I was watching it, but it is testimony to the director’s exceptional craft and the film’s strong grasp of character and milieu that I find myself still thinking about it- this one truly grew on me. We rarely see good female coming-of-age films, especially ones which go beyond the bracket of white, privileged young people- and this one sure packs a punch with its sharply observed and distinctly non-judgemental coming-of-age story of a young black girl’s struggles with identity and angst as she befriends a gang of tough girls in the hood. While Boyhood was universal- sometimes almost to a fault- Girlhood is remarkably specific and manages to beautifully capture nuances of race, class and gender without falling prey to stereotypes, tropes and preachiness.
PS: Also catch the director’s last film Tomboy- another excellent film about a young girl and gender identity.
Two Days, One Night
Probably the most underwhelming film of the day for me, despite the Dardenne Brothers’ dependably solid and distinctly humane storytelling, after a while the film just felt a little repetitive and lacked any surprises, big or small- or maybe I missed something here. But it’s still immensely watchable, anchored by the magnificent Marion Cotillard whose portrayal of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown keeps us hooked and on edge.

- @jahanbakshi

Ambassador to Bern

Dog day afternoon situation steeped in Hungarian politics with two revolutionaries/terrorists (depending on which side you look from) holding the Ambassador in the Hungarian embassy at hostage. This edge of the seat thriller is based on a real event. You get the idealism of the revolutionaries and the helplessness of the Ambassador. Watch it.

Güeros

Brilliant coming of age film, Stoner comedy, student agitation, killer sound design, black and white frames, Quirky treatment, handheld static & frequent frenetic camerawork, Eccentric, Funny, pointless and yet making quite a few epiphany waley statements every now and then. This one is a MUST watch. And what a monologue by the elder brother in the end. With an equally anti-climatic resolution. Highly recommended.

One On One

I have been told by fans of Mobieus & Pieta that this one fades in comparison but in isolation, it still has quite a few ‘korean cinema’ trademarks – F****d up situation/characters, dark humor, a rape scene, brutality, torture, domestic abuse, grim setting, angst due to economic differences. Basically a bunch of vigilantes dispensing justice. But what if they are wrong ? And why are they doing this ? Will they continue till the very end or does violence consume them ? Wasn’t disappointed by this film.

Mommy

A self destructive, chain smoking, alcohol guzzling widow trying to make ends meet all the while taking care of her son who has been released from a Detention Center. Her son who is angsty, in disciplined, insensitive, insensible, abuse yelling, disobedient ass, besides being a little sanki as well. Clocking at 140 minutes, the fact that this film doesn’t feel long is thanks to Xavier Dolan’s masterful direction. Killer performances, perfect selection of music, rapid editing, cinematography (with extreme closeups), heart tugging scenes handled with maturity betraying Xavier Dolan’s age. Ok stop reading this review and WATCH the film. Do not miss this for anything.

- @nagrathnam

Mumbai Film Festival – Our annual movie ritual is on. And like every year, we are going to cover the Festival like nobody else does it. Team moiFightClub will bring you all the day’s reccos and reviews. We are also involved with the fest this year – helping wherever you can to make it better.

Our Day-1 Wrap is here.

Amma and appa

What’s the time in your world?

(Dir: Safi Yazdanian, Iran): A rare Irani film that paid more attention to aesthetics, form, and style over plot. And what a delight this anomaly turned out to be! Dealing with memories of Goli (played by enchanting Leila Hatami of ‘A Separation’ fame) who has returned to Iran after many years in France, the film opens up more into a poetry piece. Abstract imagery, dialogue that feel like snatches from a dream (non-sequitar, funny, puzzling), stunning frames & playback music, and the bitter-sweet play of fractured memories – all combined to make it a demanding but genuinely rewarding watch. Goli meets a man (played by Ali Mosaffa, the lucky real-life husband of Leila Hatami) on her return who seems to remember a lot about her while she doesn’t recognise him at all and most of the film is about the relationship these two people share – which to me looked like our relationship with nostalgia. The way we avoid the past and the way it still pops out from every corner of a city that was ours once but not anymore is portrayed through multiple metaphors.

The film reminded me a bit of another Leila Hatami starrer, Ali Mosaffa directed ‘The Last Step’ which I watched at Osian’s Fest a few years ago. Another abstract (though that had a well-defined plot), stylised, brilliant Irani film which never made it to the (as Mihir Fadnavis puts it) ‘communist shores of torrents’.

- @varungrover

Vessel

Diana Whitten’s debut documentary Vessel is a empowering story of a bunch of women helping women to have safe abortion on ship lead by the rebellious Dutch Physician Rebecca Gomperts under the pro abortion rights organization ‘Women on waves’.  These women challenge and fight law (that makes abortion illegal in most of European countries), society, religion and God that doesn’t allow a woman basic human right of what is happening with their bodies. As they sail with the ‘Murder Vessel’ through shores of Ireland, Poland, Portugal they face extremes reactions by the church, the ‘pro life human’, older and younger men and women, and negative publicity by the press citing their practice as illegal. The Portuguese government even forbids them from entering their national water because they are ‘threat to the country’. The meltdown moments are when you are exposed to real words of women who are begging to get rid of life within them that only means suffering in their respective circumstance. As one says ‘I feel terrible.. Am I a monster? I cant have the baby’. Some are raped, some deserted by man, some don’t want it. Their choice.

No! Abortion is not murder and these women are not fascists and terrorists, the sobriquet awarded to them. At what point in this patriarchal society did man convince women that she can be as emancipated as possible, but eventually a child makes her life complete, even in the liberated first world. The high point in the film is when the fiery Gomperts states, ‘to change the world, you have to be offensive’ and struts her SAFE ABORTION banner right under the nose of The Virgin statue at El panecillo. Yes! Mary, the virgin mother.

My body! My right! So f*** you if your religion and law has a problem with that.

Elephant Song

Charles Biname adapts Nicholas Billon’s play ‘Elephant song’ in an engaging suspense drama that tells an intriguing tale of a lunatic patient, Michael playing a psychological game with an Asylum psychiatrist when a colleague goes missing. The story unfolds to explain why “hope is the worst thing you can give a child if you can’t keep up your words”. A traumatic childhood incident explains Michael’s fascination with Elephants. A song that reminds him of his mother that ignored him for better things in life.

He lets her die and sings the Elephant song to her in her last moments. The translation to Elephant song would be my favorite words by Poet Philip larkin’s ‘This be the verse’

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

- @shazarch

Amma & Appa

Stop motion, Illayaraja’s music, German bride & Tamil groom, Love marriage, candid Meet the Parents situations, 8mm footage, a real story. A hybrid documentary with beshumaar entertaining, endearing moments & more masala than some of our films. Take a bow Dear Franziska & Jai. Jaykrishnan. Jay’s mother should be cast NOW in more films. Highly recco’d.

Elephant Song 

Though everyone criticized Xavier Dolan’s acting, I didn’t particularly find his performance as ‘hammy’. A psychiatrist has to work with a patient to unearth info about a missing colleague, while the film also intercuts to flashbacks, multiple pov and an interrogation. This one was pretty riveting thriller with twists unfolding at each turn. Though I felt Bruce greenwood could have been a ‘stronger’ character. And it’s always a pleasure to see Carie Ann Moss & Catherine Keener.

Field of Dogs

The mindfuck trailer notwithstanding – this film delivered little as compared to the promises it made. Politics, Literature, Dystopian lifestyle, Dreams, impressive visuals (especially like the hal chalana scene in a supermarket alley – capitalism ki maa ki aankh probably) – the film has so much going for it but it crosses the line and becomes over indulgent and soporific. I will be grateful to someone who explains me the point of this film.

United Passions

The making of FIFA federation – from it’s inception nearly a century ago to 2010 where South Africa was nominated as the venue of the next World cup – this one is an episodic film with three protagonists -a passionate Gerard Depardieu, Sam Neill (yes yes Jurassic Park wala banda) and a greasy Tim Roth. With montages punctuating the screenplay, it is hard at times to follow the ‘story’ and one cannot help but marvel at the production design and scale of this big budgeted biopic of sorts. As someone who is not a football fan, I quite enjoyed this film – however disjointed it might have been.

- @nagrathnam

Field of Dogs

Lech Majewski’s follow up to the masterful “The Mill and the Cross” is an absolute disappointment. The indulgence is not even the problem here. The problem in my opinion is the verbose nature of philosophising randomness to form a story. Visually as well as thematically it had a lot going for it but sadly it’s a mess.
Optional end: What a waste of time (and for many others, joints)

- @mihirbdesai

The Good Lie

The story of Africa is not one that can be told simply. Neither is it a simple story.The Good Lie unfortunately tries hard to simplify it and even achieves that. Communities and families are destroyed in the Second Civilian War of Sudan while a bunch of kids manage to escape and find shelter in a refugee camp where they spend 13 years waiting for an opportunity to get away to better pastures. They are finally sent to the US where they are helped with home and jobs. And after a point family reunions as well. Melodramatic, simplistic and populist, the film takes no stand moral or political to the closer conflict or the larger context of colonisation. What begins as a hopefully refreshing and Chinua Achebe-like empathic peek into the lives of native Africans quickly becomes a tear-jerking saga of poor Africans needing to be saved by the white men. The only difference is in the past it was the British, now it is the Americans. The film seems to have bought the white man’s burden so seriously it even shifts points of views completely at one point and turns the African into a Suppandi-like simpletons, poor archaic villagers totally clueless of the awesomely progressive and modern Western world – the Holy Grail. I could have forgiven the populism and melodrama and even simplistic nature of writing if not for this, because the performances and relationship dynamics were indeed moving. But, then there are somethings that cannot be excused and one of them is a warped world-view.

Beloved Sisters

A long drawn-out but meticulously crafted rhapsody of love, longing and betrayal. It is based on the speculated relationship between German writer-poet Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) and the Lengfeld sisters. An out and out period piece that does not allow the limitations of its genre to constrict its form and hence making it a delightfully rich film. It is set in the post-Enlightenment period of Europe and the society is in transition. Education is increasing and literature is flourishing as technology is advancing. This constantly changing backdrop makes for a fabulously apt context for the love-lifes of the sisters and Schiller, all three in love with the idea of love and its consequent pain that travel its arduous ups and downs bravely. The long-winded film (and the length does get taxing after a point) traces the relationships of each, the almost incestuous passion of the sisters for each other, and their relationship with Schiller over time gently and with care, never taking sides and never easing a blow, be it in portraying the intensity of passion or pain. It is gorgeously mounted, almost like an Impressionist painting without overdoing the glamour or allowing it to overpower the content which is beautifully supported by its lead actors. However, and this is a grouse, a film about letters and of men of letters takes words too seriously and speaks to us a lot, first through third-person voice-overs then first person and even resorting at one point at having the characters speak to the camera (which is actually interesting especially for a period film.) After a point, there is too much information and too much of talking for us to really feel the grandness of the love between the three or the pain of the lost promises never to be fulfilled..

Killa

Shall I call it heart-warming? Moving? Funny? Intuitively innocent yet understanding? There isn’t one word because Killa is so much more than these words. It is the journey of a boy grappling with the death of his father two years back and the consequent constant change of environment. It is the story of his mother, a single woman, gritty and upright, determined to ensure she is now the father and mother to her only son. It is also the story of struggle and survival fo very common people-children and aged alike, of human triumph, of courage, friendship, loyalty and finding light at the end of the tunnel…Beautifully shot and heartfelt in every detail, Killa is a fabulous directorial debut of Avinash Arun, a cinematography graduate from FTII who is known back home for his humility and gentleness among other things. And among peers in the industry for his cinematic acumen and talent. I will not shy away from saying I was proud to be watching a sparkling debut of one my alumnus but rest assured, the cheering was strictly because it was so well-deserved.

 – @Fattiemama

COFFEE_BLOOM_STILL_1

 

Manu Warrier’s debut feature Coffee Bloom is having its India premiere at the Mumbai Film Festival 2014 in the ‘New Faces of Indian Cinema’ section. Coffee Bloom stars Arjun Mathur, Sugandha Garg and Mohan Kapoor among others. We have the debut trailer for the film right here, take a look:

Here is the synopsis of the film, along with information on the cast and crew:

SYNOPSIS:

Dev sells his family coffee estate as a statement underlining his renunciation of the world. When his mother dies heartbroken, he vows to prove worthy of her before scattering her ashes, little realizing that that involves confronting the world he shunned and his turbulent past.

Directed by: Manu Warrier

Produced by: Harish Amin

Written by: Sharath Parvathavani and Manu Warrier

Cast: Arjun Mathur, Sugandha Garg, Mohan Kapoor, Nandini Sen, Ishwari Bose-Bhattacharya

Co-Producers: Sharath Parvathavani, Rajeev Acharya, Nitin Chandrachud, Tess Joseph

Music and BG score: Prasad Ruparel

Cinematography: Yogesh Jaan

Editor: Anand Subaya

Casting By: Tess Joseph

Sound Design: David Stevens

If you are attending MFF 2014, you can catch the film at 3:30 pm on Monday, October 20th at Cinemax Infiniti Mall, Versova and 10 am on Tuesday, October 21st at PVR Citi Mall, Andheri.