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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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..
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.