The much-awaited Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) festival is back and in a more glamorous avatar too, with the new trophy being unveiled by none other than the beauteous Kangna Ranaut. Films will be screened from the 20-27 October and the venues will be the PVR cinemas at Andheri, Juhu and Lower Parel, as well as Regal cinema in Colaba.
The opening ceremony on the 20th October will be held at the Royal Opera House, which will be throwing open its doors to the public after 33 long years. Konkona Sen Sharma is expected to open the festival with her directorial debut, ‘A Death in the Gunj.’ All in all, 180 films from 54 countries will be screened during this week.
The country focus this MAMI is on Turkey, while the retrospective section will include films by Bimal Roy and PK Nair. There is to be a new section this year, titled ‘Word to Screen’ which will facilitate an interaction between book publishers, producers and heads of studios.
Director Sai Paranjpye will be honoured with the ‘Excellence in Indian Cinema’ award, while Chinese film maker Jia Zhangke will receive the ‘Excellence in Global Cinema’ award. Apart from this, Oxfam India has initiated an award of 10 lakh rupees for the ‘Best Film on Gender Equality.’ A new award category titled ‘Best Indian Female Filmmaker’ has also been instituted, carrying a cash prize of 1.5 million rupees.
The jury consists of noted film makers from around the world, such as Portuguese director Miguel Gomez, American actor Chris McDonald, UK-born director and writer Tala Hadid, American producer Christine Vachon, and Indian actor, director and producer Anurag Kashyap.
Here are some must-watch films that we have short-listed for you:
A Death in the Gunj (Hindi/English – India)
Konkona Sen Sharma makes her directorial debut with this one, which alone is guaranteed to keep the seats filled. The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Set in the 1970’s, a sensitive young man is accompanying his family on a trip to McCluskiegunj in Jharkand. He has failed his semester exams and is keeping this a secret from everybody. He would rather spend time with his friend’s young daughter than deal with the adults, however, that is not to be; some mystery is afoot on this seemingly idyllic family holiday, even as he faces emotional isolation and callousness from those dearest to him.
Album (Turkish – Turkey)
Directed by Mehmet Can Mertoglu, ‘Album’ is a moving tale of the lengths a childless couple will go to to hide the truth from their adopted child, down to preparing a photo album of a fake pregnancy. However, to their alarm, the adoption has been documented in police records, which means anybody can have access to this knowledge. ‘Album’ received several ‘Golden Orange’ nominations in the categories of best actor, actress director, screenplay, cinematography and editing and was part of the Cannes Critics Week.
The Bride (Turkish – Turkey)
Directed deftly by Omer Lutfi Akad, this is a story of a young woman, Meryem, who moves with her husband and young son to stay with her in-laws in Istanbul. Her child falls ill and the doctor says he will die if not treated in time. While the family hesitates to spend the money required for the surgery, the boy dies and Meryem leaves the family and starts working in a factory. This goes against the family honour and so her in-laws ask her husband to kill her.
My Mother’s Wound (Turkish – Turkey)
Directed by Ozan Acktan, the movie deals with the aftermath of the Bosnian war and details in particular the life of a young orphan boy, Salih, who leaves the orphanage at the age of eighteen to go and search for his lost family. The film is a gripping tale of love, hope, guilt and compassion.
Don’t call me Son (Portuguese – Brazil)
Director and scriptwriter Anna Muylaert traces a month in the life of teenager Pierre, who lives in the suburbs of Sao Paulo with his mother and sister. He is unsure about his gender identity and life gets further complicated when he learns that the woman he has always called mother is, in fact, his kidnapper. The powerful film then goes on to detail his confused emotions and experiences when his birth family finds him. The film won the Teddy Award and the Maenner Readers Jury Award at the Berlin Film Festival.
The Salesman (Farsi – Iran)
Directed by Asghar Farhadi, the movie is based on Arthur Miller’s play ‘Death of a Salesman’ and is about a young couple in Tehran who are forced to move into a new apartment when their old flat is damaged. An incident linked to the previous tenant now dramatically begins to influence the couple’s lives. Filled with drama and some superb emoting, the movie won Best Screenplay and Best Actor awards at the Festival de Cannes.
Ahmaq (Hindi – India)
Here, director Mani Kaul explores Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel – The Idiot – faithfully and bases the plot in Bombay and Goa. It was never released commercially, except as a four-part television series. Myshkin (Ayub Khan) returns after having spent a few years in London for treatment of epilepsy. He meets Natasha (Mita Vashisht) who is being wooed by the rich Pawan Raghujan (Shahrukh Khan.) Kaul achieves a multi-layered cinematic texture here with an innovative approach to both plot as well as narration.
Neruda (Spanish – Chile)
Director Pablo Larrain recounts the life of poet and senator Pablo Neruda, who accused his government of betraying the Communist party at the height of the Cold War. Under threat of arrest, he tries to flee the country with his painter wife Delia del Carril, but they are forced to go into hiding as fugitives. Inspired by these events, Neruda writes his epic collection of poems, ‘Canto General’ even as artists such as Pablo Picasso clamour for his freedom.
The Lovers and the Despot (English – UK)
Directed by Rob Cannan and Ross Adam, this film tells the true story of South Korean filmmaker Shin Sangok and actress Choi Eun-hee, who fell in love in post-war Korea. Choi was kidnapped in the ‘70’s by North Korean agents and taken to Kim Jong II. Later, Shin was also kidnapped. After five years of imprisonment, the couple were reunited by Kim Jong who declared them as his personal filmmakers. The couple managed to escape, but not before producing seventeen films for the dictator.
Ventilator (Marathi – India)
Directed by Rajesh Mapuskar, this movie is drawing more attention on account of the fact that it is Priyanka Chopra’s first venture as a producer. The story is about the Kamarkar family who come together every year in their ancestral village to celebrate the Ganpati festival. This year, just three days before the festival is to begin a much-loved elder, Gajju kaka, goes into a coma and is put on life support. As family members begin pouring in from all corners of the world, they are taught a valuable life lesson by the ventilator.
Alba (Spanish – Ecuador)
Directed by Ana Cristina Barragan, who won the Lions Film Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival and was nominated for several others, the film tells us the story of eleven year old Alba, who has to deal with her mother’s illness all by herself. When her mother’s condition worsens and she is placed in a hospital, Alba has to go live with her father Igor, whom she hasn’t seen since she was three years old. The movie traces Alba’s journey as she deals with kleptomania, bullying, shame and the situation with her parents.
Lipstick under my Burkha (Hindi – India)
Directed by Alankrita Shrivastava and produced by Prakash Jha, this movie is pretty much an all-women venture and stars the talented Konkona Sen Sharma and Ratna Pathak Shah. Set in a small town in India, it showcases the inner struggles of four women: a college girl who wants to become a pop singer; a woman who wants to elope with her lover; an oppressed housewife and a 55-year old widow who discovers her sexuality through phone sex.
An Insignificant Man (Hindi/English – India)
Directors Khushboo Ranka and Vinay Shukla have made a documentary on Delhi’s controversial chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal and his brand of politics. The docu-drama captures the moments of a fledgling party’s battle between survival and extinction in the world’s largest democracy.
Death in Sarajevo (Bosnian – Serbia)
Directed by Danis Tanovic, the movie won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize and the FIPRESCI at the Berlin Film Festival. The story is set in Sarajevo’s Hotel Europe, which is preparing a gala dinner for the centennial of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination. However, the hotel staff, who haven’t been paid for two months, decide to go on strike. Tragedy befalls their plans when the union rep is found missing, but the laundress is soon elected the union leader, while her daughter the receptionist juggles to keep all running smoothly.
The Unknown Girl (French – France/Belgium)
Directed by Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, this is an emotionally charged tale of a young doctor, Jenny, who feels guilty for not opening the door of her surgery to a young girl who is found dead shortly thereafter. The police have no way of identifying her and Jenny’s guilt begins to take centre-stage as she berates herself for not having opened the door. She is determined not to let the young girl be buried anonymously and takes it upon herself to discover her identity, facing threats and violence in the process.
Anatomy of Violence (Hindi – India)
Director Deepa Mehta gives a twist to the horrific rape crime that happened in Delhi in December of 2012 and left the entire country paralysed. Mehta used handheld camera techniques and got a group of actors to enact scenes from their early childhood till the time of the horrific incident, and thus tries to depict that a crime such as this is a consequence of a patriarchal society.
The Commune (Danish – Denmark)
Director Thomas Vinterburg is a graduate of the National Film School of Denmark. He has made a poignant movie about Denmark’s trademark commune living, where a couple set up a commune in the heart of Copenhagen, along with their daughter. The film has its humorous moments, even as it marvelously captures the pain and delicacy of a man who falls in love with a younger woman, leaving his wife of many years devastated.
Cecilia (Hindi/Bengali/English – India)
Director Pankaj Johar has put together a stark, emotionally moving account of the travails a domestic help has to face. Cecilia is from India’s tribal belt and works as a maid in Delhi. When her teenaged daughter is alleged to have committed suicide, Cecilia decides to fight for justice with the help of her employers, however, they have to battle ridicule, corruption and cover-ups at every turn.
Sufat Chol: Sand Storm (Arabic – Israel)
Directed by Elite Zexer, ‘Sand Storm’ won the ‘Grand Jury’ prize at the Sundance Film Festival. The movie tracks the angst of an older woman, Jalila, who must host her husband’s wedding to a much younger, second wife. In the midst of her own pain, Jalila discovers that her eldest daughter Layla has fallen in love with her classmate, something that will bring shame and disaster on the family. The movie has already notched up several awards under its belt, namely, the Ophir awards for best film, director, makeup, supporting actress, art direction and casting.
A Touch of Sin (Cantonese – China)
Director Jia Zhang-Ke weaves together myriad tales in contemporary China; an angry miner, a migrant worker, a pretty receptionist and a young factory worker. Four people, four provinces, four different stories – set against the backdrop of an economic giant (China) that is being slowly eroded by violence. The film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.
Album was reviewed by a couple of critics at the Cannes Film Festival. Boyd van Hoeij felt that a sense of the psychology of the characters was missing, with their over-the-top attempt to create “memories” of the pregnancy and baby’s delivery. Hoeij wondered whether there was such a stigma attached to adoption in Turkey, or whether the two lead characters were simply delusional. Bearing his first point out somewhat, critic Guy Lodge felt that the main protagonists were more interested in validating the process of having a child than in having the child itself. He also found that the film raises the issue of racism, along with the preference for a male child. Lodge commented that ‘Album’ does not clarify whether there is a genuine threat of social ostracisation or whether the characters’ snobbery drives them to snobbishness.
Don’t Call Me Son
Wendy Ide, who reviewed this movie at the Berlin Film Fest, calls it “an impressive follow-up” to the director’s earlier venture and said that Muylaert handled an intense atmosphere with conflicting expectations with humour and a light touch. Diego Semerene said simply that, were Muylaert a man, she would be hailed in Brazil as the poster child for a new national cinema.
Reviewing the movie at Cannes, Peter Bradshaw called it “interesting, if contrived drama” and labelled it as a smart, ambitious film, made watchable by the sheer IQ of Farhadi’s filmmaking. Tim Robey felt that Farhadi should have spent more time on the edit and that the sub-plots had a habit of tripping up the main plot.
The Lovers and the Despot
Justin Chang of ‘Variety’ called it a coolly gripping account of one of the most bizarre, true-crime stories to emerge from the film world, while Joe Morgenstern of the ‘Wall Street Journal’ said that sometimes, a convoluted plot can be a pleasure to untangle. On the other hand, Matt Zoller Seitz felt the treatment was unimaginative, while Gerald Peary said that it was a fascinating narrative – and added that it was too bad it was told so badly in The Lovers and The Despot!
Peter Bradshaw called it a “middle-weight drama” and said that the title was misleading, in that there was no real communal plot development. Guy Lodge said it was closer to “emotional sadism” and that secondary sub-plots were woven in haphazardly.
Godfrey Cheshire called it a “fairly familiar critique of patriarchy from a humanist, feminist perspective, but one put across with some very impressive filmmaking skills by a first-time director.” Manohla Dargis agreed and said that the director had a ‘fine eye for the texture of daily life.” Todd MCarthy felt that the lead performances had power, whereas pictorially the film was pretty rough and ordinary.
A Touch of Sin
Walter V Addiego said that director Jia was passionate about his characters but never let that compromise his “considerable artistic control.” Michael Atkinson said that Jia was one of those moviemakers who could tell a story in a single shot and his eloquence is hard at work here.” Anders Wright called it a movie that was bitterly violent, both physically and emotionally, while Brian D Johnson called it a kind of ‘Chinese Pulp Fiction’ with a political pulse.