Our MFF-Recco post continues. If you missed the 1st part of ‘Films You Should Not Miss’ at Mumbai Film Festival, click here. The post covers reccos from World Cinema, International Competition, Rendezvous, and After Dark category.
This is the last part of the series by Shazia Iqbal.
THE WAR SHOW
Director: Andreas Dalsgaard, Obaidah Zytoon. Country: Syria, Denmark. Language: Arabic
The Arab Spring changed Syria and the Middle East forever. In March 2011, radio host, Obaidah Zytoon decided to capture the significant historical change along with her friends, and began filming their lives and events around them. But as the regime’s violent response spirals the country into a bloody civil war, their hopes for a better future are tested by violence, imprisonment and death.
There are a thousands stories in every corner in Syria. Alan Kurdi’s lifeless body and Omar Daqneesh’s traumatised motionless face created international media wave though eventually we will forget them. That is why we need more documentaries, more reminders of the ongoing conflict in Syria. So the world doesn’t forget the numb faces of Syrian children.
The jury at Venice Film festival called, The War Show, a must see movie that “provoked an impassioned response from the jury. We were immediately struck by the political and social significance and urgency of the film, while also appreciating its daring and innovative approach to filmmaking.” It will be a difficult watch but a must see. It won the won the Venice Days Award, the top nod in Venice’s independently run section.
THE BAULKHAM HILL AFRICAN LADIES TROUPE
Director: Ros Harin. Country: Australia. Language: English
The world is facing its biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. Apart from housing people, largely from the Middle East and Africa, how do you rehabilitate and heal people hurting from the post-war trauma and integrate them into a peaceful society. Ros Harin found dramatic Art as a way for these refugee women to liberate themselves of their suffering.
The Baulkham Hills African Ladies Troupe is based on an Australian theater production of the same name and features four refugee women who fled conflict, rape and brutality in Africa -including a former child soldier in Eritrea and another who trekked across the Sahara to escape war – who play themselves on stage.
Director: Boo Junfeng. Country: Singapore, Germany, France, Hongkong, Qatar. Language: English, Malay
Boo Junfeng’s prison drama dealing with Capital punishment and its stringent laws in Singapore is country’s Foreign Language film entry to Oscars – a story that not only explores the psychology of executioners but also the suffering of the criminal’s family.
Aiman, a correctional officer is transferred to a maximum-security prison. He strikes up a friendship with Rahim, who is revealed to be the chief executioner of the prison, the longest serving and the most prolific one. When Rahim’s assistant suddenly quits, he asks Aiman to become his apprentice. Aiman has to overcome his conscience and a past that haunts him to become the executioner’s apprentice, the same man who executed his father.
Was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
Director: Davy Chou. Country: Cambodia. Language: Khmer
Davy Chou’s feature debut, Diamond Island is a coming-of-age story of an adolescent boy from Cambodian provinces, who moves into a big city to do a menial construction worker job at the titular luxury complex. Here he is reunited with his missing older brother. Hollywood reporter reviewed it as “Reminiscent of both Satyajit Ray’s Aparajito in its fish-out-of-water account of a kid trying to make it in the city and of Tsai Ming-liang’s Rebels of the Neon Gods in its portrayal of disaffected Asian youth”. A Critics’ Week selection at Cannes, it won the SACD prize for the Best Screenplay.
Director: Ralitza Petrova. Country: Bulgaria, Denmark, France. Language: Bulgarian
Gana, a morphine addict medical aid, steals ID from her vulnerable elderly patients suffering from dementia, and traffics them in the black market along with her boyfriend with whom she is in a sexless relationship that doesn’t have love as well. The post-communist Bulgarian world of depression, apathy and corruption has no effect on her conscience, not even an incidental death of a patient. But things change when she meets a new patient, Yoan.
Irena Ivanova won the best actress at Locarno Film festival for her catatonic, hardened portrayal of Gana, while Petrova got the Golden Leopard along with the Best Director prize.
HOUNDS OF LOVE
Director: Ben Young. Country: Australia. Language: English
Ben Young in his debut feature takes real life inspiration from serial killer, Eric Edgar Cooke, and more directly from David and Catherine Birnie, the couple who abducted and mutilated four young women in the 1980s, Perth, Australia.
The story follows a serial killer couple, Evelyn and John White, who hunts down young women from neighbourhood, abducts and kills them brutally. A rebellious teenager, Vicky reeling from separation of her becomes their latest victim and her only way out is to create rift between the predating couple.
Hounds of love scouts twisted understanding of human psychology and falls under torture-porn genre and had maximum walkouts during its premiere at Venice Film festival. But it’s been getting good reviews and Variety said, “with a harrowing ride that morphs from discrete horror to probing character study and back again in a vivid yet admirably restrained 108 minutes”. Like me, if you have a taste for gruesome serial killing horrors that questions human behaviour, don’t miss this one.
Director: Jordan Schiele. Country: China. Language: Chinese/ Mandarin
Jordan Schiele’s Chinese feature debut, Dog days got him nomination for best first feature at Berlinale. It is a social drama cum crime thriller about a single mother, lulu who works as a dancer at a sleazy nightclub. She comes home one night to find her boyfriend, Bai Long, missing along with their child. In her desperation to get her child back, she strikes a deal with Bai Long’s drag queen lover, Sunny to leave the couple alone once she gets her child back.
Dog days deals with single parenting in China amidst its one child policy, child trafficking and social incongruity between its affluent and lower class. Schiele was inspired to make this film after witnessing a fatal accident in Beijing, where a young mother looses her child while riding a bike in between cars.
SAND STORM (Sufat Chol)
Director: Elite Zexer. Country: Israel. Language: Arabic
Elite Zexer’s debut, Sand Storm is set in the southern part of Israel and is a story of two Bedouin women who struggle with sexist cultural traditions, where men and women both are largely regressive towards women. This compelling story about a women’s humiliation with the traditions of her husband’s second marriage to a younger women and its frustrated reflections on her daughter’s love affair with a boy outside her tribe, won it the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film festival.
WHEN TWO WORLDS COLLIDE
Director: Heidi Brandenburg, Mathew Orzel. Country: UK, Peru. Language: Spanish
I am biased to stories where common people rebel against the establishment. The ‘Anti-Estd’ genre deals with the inspirational strength of what a group of commoners can achieve when greedy politician, bureaucrats threaten to affect and destroy their life.
This compelling activist documentary and winner of Special Jury Prize at Sundance, set in the Peruvian Amazon puts itself directly in the line of fire between the powerful government and indigenous tribes who are fighting over the future of the country. When President Alan Garcia attempts to extract oil and minerals from untouched Amazonian land with the hopes of elevating his country’s economic prosperity, he is met with a fierce, violent opposition from local tribe led by indigenous leader, Alberto Pizango. This leads to a conflict that quickly escalates from a heated war of words to one of deadly violence.
Director: Paul Verhoeven. Country: France. Language: French
In reviewing Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, most reviewers have called it a ‘rape – revenge – comedy’. Now that’s three words you will never see put together in life or in movies. That’s what makes the plot of Elle so powerful, so fascinating.
Michèle is the CEO of a leading video game company, who is raped in her house by an unknown assailant. Instead of being the ‘victim’ she tracks the man down and they are both drawn into a curious and thrilling game. Elle is a thrilling character study as it subverts behavioral pattern, you know or expect of a rape victim. Thought provoking, gripping, brutal and laded with dark humour, this deeply disturbing psychological thriller is France’s Foreign Language Film entry to Oscars.
The film premiered in competition for the Palme d’Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival.
Director: Bertrand Bonello. Country: France. Language: French
Nominated thrice for Palme d’Or, Saint Laurent Director, Bertrand Bonello comes up with a controversial film on a bunch of angry and angsty Parisian adolescents, from different origins about to execute a series of terror attacks in the city. After planning the attacks, they meet at a Departmental store in the night, where one of them is missing.
Apparently the script was written five years ago, prior to Charlie Hebdo and horrifying attacks in November last year. Because the film doesn’t portray the characters as black or darker shades of grey, and kind of make terrorism look ‘cool’, it is being called out as irresponsible. The world is not getting better by bombing places that gives birth to terrorists so Bonello tries a different route by entering an anti social element’s psyche.
MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE (Ma View De Courgette)
Director: Claude Barras. Country: Switzerland, France. Language: French
Switzerland’s Foreign Language film entry for Oscars, Director Claude Barras’, My life as a Courgette is written by Celine Sciamma (Screenwriter of the critically acclaimed coming-of-age drama, Girlhood). The film uses gorgeous stop-motion animation to delicately tell the story of a shy 9 years old who ends up with other orphaned misfits after causing the accidental death of his alcoholic mother, only to find solace and acceptance in their troubled company. A Director’s fortnight selection at Cannes, the story dwells on the theme of life isn’t easy for anyone and seems to be a kid’s movie meant for adults.
THE RED TURTLE (La Tortue Rogue)
Director: Michael Dudok de Wit. Country: France. Language: French
Oscar winning director of wordless short ‘Father and Daughter’, Michael Dudok de Wit partners with Studio Ghibli, Japan’s top animation company founded by Master filmmaker Harao Miyazaki. The result is what is unanimously being called the ‘Wordless masterpiece’. The Red Turtle is story of a man shipwrecked on a tropical island inhabited by turtles, crabs and birds. This dialogue free journey recounts the milestones in the life of a human being, its explorations about the deeper truth of life and its contentment at every turn.
This powerful journey of images won it the Special Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section at the Cannes Film festival.
THINGS TO COME (L’Avenir)
Director: Mia Hansen love. Country: France. Language: French
Mark Kermode reviewed Slack Bay and wrote half a page praising Isabelle Huppert for her magnificent acting journey, her reputation for going the extra mile and “understated talent, conveying complex conflict through restrained physical gesture”.
In Mia Hansen love’s post divorce drama, Things to come, Huppert Plays 50 something Natalie, who teaches philosophy at a high school in Paris. Her life circles around her work and her former students, her family and a possessive mother. She needs to reinvent her life after getting dumped by her husband for another women. A woman liberating herself after divorce is an idea done to death but Mia Hansen takes a fresh approach to a women at the onset of old age about to question human existence and her own relationship with life. The film won her the Silver Berlin Bear for Best Director.
Director: Olivier Assayas. Country: France. Language: English
Olivier Assayas, director of the enigmatic Cloud of Sils Maria, and five time Palme d’Or nominee, teams up again with Kirsten Stewart who plays Maureen, an American women who works as a fashion assistant to a celebrity in Paris. Like her dead twin brother, Lewis, she has psychic abilities to communicate with spirits. She starts receiving ambiguous messages from an unknown source.
A film that cuts across many genres is hailed as ‘horror-meets-Devils-Wears-Prada’, has divided critics though mostly in favour of its bewitching unconventional horror story. This character study of a psychic’s response to being stuck at a morose job in the midst of losing someone very close won Assayas the Best Director Award at Cannes.
UNDER THE SHADOWS
Director: Babak Anvari. Country: UK, Qatar, Jordan. Language: Farsi
What could be most horrifying than living in a place that is constantly under threat of being attacked by a bomb or a missile? Ever wondered how people live and function in a war zone knowing their family, children can be dead any moment? Babak Anvari, Iran born British filmmaker and director of the extremely disturbing short ‘Two & Two’ needn’t even dwell on these questions. It must be within him.
Shideh and her family live in Tehran amidst the Iran-Iraq war at its peak in 1988. Accused of rallying against the government, she is blacklisted from the medical college and falls into a state of depression. With Tehran under constant threat of aerial bombardment, her husband is called at the front-line leaving her and their daughter, Dorsa, alone. Soon after, a neighbour dies right after a missile hits their apartment and fails to explode. Dorsa’s erratic behaviour of seeing a mysterious entity concerns Shideh and threatens her own grip on reality. One by one, everyone deserts the building leaving the mother and daughter to confront these forces by themselves.
Under the shadow is hailed as a political allegory for feminist horror film that deals with female oppression in Iran’s post revolution sexist society. Like Anvari says, “If you grow up in Iran or live in Iran, everything you do becomes political.”
UK’s Foreign Language film entry to Oscars, this is definitely the film you don’t want to miss.
THE WAILING (Goksung)
Director: Na hong Jin. Country: South Korea. Language: Korean
Korean maestro director (of indigenous noir films like The Chaser and The Yellow sea) Na hong Jin’s horror-thriller, The Wailing is a monster hit in South Korea and has gathered tremendous curiosity at the festivals and among Cinephiles. Korean filmmakers have mastered the genre of horror thrillers without using the cheap thrills of jump scares.
The arrival of a mysterious stranger called ‘the Jap’ in an otherwise quiet village coincides with a rash of vicious murders, causing panic and suspicion amongst the villagers. When the daughter of investigating officer Jong-Goo falls under the same savage spell, he calls for a shamanic priest to assist in finding the culprit. The hair-raising trailer adds to the hype and looks like this is the kind of horror that will house in your subconscious and stay there for long.
THE LURE (Corki Dancingu)
Director: Agnieszka Smoczynska. Country: Poland. Language: Polish
Polish filmmaker Agnieszka Smoczynska’s fantasy, horror-musical, The Lure is a modern fairytale for grownups with intriguing kitschy visual, set in a Warsaw nightclub. It premiered at Sundance and won the Jury Prize for “unique vision and design”.
Two vampire mermaid sisters – wild, beautiful, sexy and hungry for life, take human form to experience the terrestrial world. One of them falls in love with a handsome young bass player embroiling them in a love triangle that creates havoc in the sisters’ relationship.
And a few Special mentions:
Endless Poetry narrates Jodorowsky’s autobiographical journey as he liberates himself from his family and gets in the company of masters of Latin America’s modern literature.
Fatih Akin’s Goodbye Berlin is a coming-of-age story of two teenagers who take a road trip in a stolen car.
Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold: Reveries of the Connected World documents how the virtual world of Internet has drastically changed the real world – education, business, health care and our personal relationships.
Dilip Mehta’s Mostly Sunny is Sunny Leone’s biopic that traverses through her unknown journey from being a porn star to a Bollywood actress.
Andrei Konchalovsky’s Paradise is love drama about a Russian aristocratic emigrant whose life is intertwined with a French collaborator and a high ranking German Officer during the second World War.
Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon is a horror/thriller about a young model who has just moved in dark, dangerous world of LA fashion industry.
Nicolette Krebitz’s Wild is about an anarchist young woman’s strange encounter with a wolf that arouses the deepest and wildest forces within her to break free of the controlled world.
The Together Project is story of a man who would go any length to prove his love for a Swimming instructor. He seduces her and pretends he can’t swim only to be caught later and lose her.
If you have some movie recco that we missed in our posts, please do reply in the comment section and let us know.
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