Archive for the ‘Film Festival’ Category

LOVELESS

We as an urban global world have slowly found arrogant comfort and convenience in being lonely and loveless. I am certain that when the world will be dying, we will be busy waiting for a youtube video to buffer.

These were my first thoughts after coming out of the cold, edge of the seat, apocalyptic, eerie, and devastating piece called Loveless by Andrei Zvyagintsev (Leaviathan and The Return). This is a burning symphony on the spiritual disaster of a failed marriage as Andrei uses lifeless streetlights, streets, cold Tarkosky forests, and empty abandoned buildings to document the remains of a ruined marriage. Unlike most of the movies I have seen, the first time we see a couple arguing over who does not want to keep the child over the usual debate of who would love to take the custody. The couple going through the failed marriage along with modern Russia seem busy in loveless intimate acts, selfies, luxurious apartments, status, money, freedom and, sleep while their child goes missing from their house. As Nietzsche quotes, “They do not want to know the truth because the truth would break their illusions” The couple are forced to run around abandoned buildings, hospital beds, make phone-calls, reach out to neighbors, and deal with bureaucratic cops – and they do so with the zeal and enthusiasm of a dead octopus.

In one of the most heart-wrenching sequences of the film, the police, search party, and the father of the lost child are seen searching an eerily- in-ruin abandoned building in the middle of the forest which used to be the missing kid’s spot. The shots of this building by Andrei’s regular cinematographer Mikhail Krichman are metaphorical of the loveless state a disastrous marriage can take. Cannes Jury Prize winner Loveless is an essential film to watch. The film will has morose impacts on your mood – as Marcel Proust would put it “Happiness is beneficial for the body, but it is the grief that develops the powers of the mind.”

ASHWATTHAMA

We all have grown up listening to the stories about the warrior Ashwatthama still being alive, though, not as a result of being immortal but rather as curse given to him by Krishna. According to legend, Krishna was angry with Ashwatthama for killing Pandava’s sons. He decided to curse Ashwatthama to avenge the destruction of Pandava’s lineage – hence cursing him with an unending life of pain and suffering. Krishna cursed Ashwatthama with terrible leprosy that would haunt him for 3,000 years. Krishna further stated that Ashwatthama would not be helped by anyone or provided food or shelter.

Now imagine a young 9 year old Ishwaku, who is growing up on this story, and suddenly is burdened with equal pain as Aswatthama is in the legend. Francois Truffaut meets Satyajit Ray in Pushpendra Singh’s Ashwatthama – a surprise gem in the India Gold section of Mumbai Film Festival this year. Pushpendra Singh inter-cuts between the painful reality of the kid’s existence after the loss of his mother with folk songs, cultural narrative of Rajasthan and Madya Pradesh, Ishwaku’s dreams, imaginations, and search for Ashwatthama who is supposed to be living in abandoned ruins of the village. The myths, religion, and customs of the village shape devastating childhoods for the kids living here. The plight is shown with rich impact through an almost black and white lifeless atmosphere. Pushpendra Singh looks completely in control of this film as every shot of the film is rich and haunting aided by cinematographer Ravi Kiran Ayyagiri. A few rare moments of imagination of the kid explode with color on screen, bursting into the suppressed desires flowing with the mind of Ishwaku.

Although, the influence of the likes of Truffaut, Kiarostami, and Ray are evident; the film still is one of the most authentic, pure, rustic, and, genuine coming of age movies I have ever seen. The film is filled with melancholic nostalgia – especially if you have spent your childhood days loitering around in vast landscapes and nights spent imagining the stories from your family storytellers.

ZOO

“Death is not the greatest loss. Loss is what dies when you’re still alive”, said Tupac. Tupac and Notorious B.I.G.’s sour turned friendship is a severely heartbreaking tale for upcoming rappers. This tale has its fair share of influence on the underbelly of Mumbai slums.

Aspiring rappers from these slums, Prince Daniel and Yogesh Kurme are dreaming to become an epic rap duo like Tupac and Notorious B.I.G. However, Prince is also certain to not let their friendship turn sour like it happens in the former story. Little did they know that the landscape they are trying to survive in is filled with drugs. Messi played by Rahul Kumar (Millimeter from 3 Idiots) aspires to take over his elder brother’s drug empire inspite of having a potential career in football. Messi’s brother played by Shashank Arora is a drug seller who supplies ‘sugar’ to a city running deep on these white lines. This also includes Shweta Tripathi’s character who has not stepped out of house since months owing to a past incident. Her life is filled with PS4, online food deliveries, coffee, and delivery of sugar. The lives of all these characters somewhere or the other end up with drugs taking away the best of them.

However, in the process of showing this degradation due to drugs, Shlok Sharma gives us some really fresh scenes like Shashank’s character playing a dumb waiter at a coffee shop, Prince and Yogesh singing probably the most hilariously obscene rap lyrics ever witnessed in an Indian film, or Messi doing a Robert De Niro like mirror scene. The rotting drug filled contemporary Mumbai underbelly has been captured with complete accuracy by Shlok Sharma in this film completely shot on an Iphone. The narrative of Zoo fills much more complete than it did in Vasan Bala’s Peddlers. Having disliked Haramkhor, Shlok Sharma’s Zoo was a pleasant surprise for me.

MACHINES

Rahul Jain’s Machines aims to empathise us with the sub humane working conditions in textile factories of Gujarat, India. It raises the same old questions of wages, standard of living and, the work life balance which is absolutely missing in the lives of the workers documented. However, Machines is shot in a meditative fashion, allowing some of the shots of the Machines to make you really wonder who the slaves are – Machines or Men themselves?

The cinematography of the film is breathing with sweat, chemicals, dirt, and life in these factories. These breathing shots allow you to experience life in these windowless rooms. Men bathe, eat, work, and live around chemicals as if they are living out of a suitcase in Tokyo. In one of the most subtle yet painful shots, a man is seen entertaining himself by resting his feet on a machine which is in full throttle action, the vibrations of the machine are music to his tired musceles which are being massaged in the process.

Rahul Jain succeeds in creating an immersion point for the viewers through sight, sound, and smell through shots of the nightmarishly sludgy company rolled around in profits while their workers survive on peanuts. The 70 minute film is a visual treat which raises no new questions but still immerses is in the textile toil of carried by the workers. The final scene of this movie is a stunning blow where a group of workers surround the camera and start asking the intentions of the film being made. The sound design on the film is commendable as a musical treatment comes together through the various noises of the factory creating an invigorating track of sorts which leaves you thinking.

NOTHINGWOOD

“ No Hollywood, No Bollywood, We are Nothingwood; we have no money and no resources. Qayamat is here (end of the world) but my Ishq-e-cinema (love for cinema) is forever. “

Father of 14 kids in the worn torn Afghanistan; Salim Shaheen is the prince of Afghanistan’s film industry where cinema itself has been banned by the Taliban. Sonia Kronlund documents the extravagant and tour de force director Salim Shaheen while he is shooting his 111th movie which is an autobiographical affair on his own transition from being and Army General to being the Badshah of Afghan Cinema. Salim Shaheen and his crew’s energy is as infectious as a film crew finishing their student project. The passion of Salim Shaheen for films over bullets reeks out of all the statements, songs, visuals, which are beautiful woven together in this documentary.

In one of the most job dropping yet hilarious scenes, a chicken is sacrificed on the sets of the film to showcase spilled blood in his new film. This scene is a testimony to the love and passion for cinema which is harboured by Salim and his team. With almost no resources and funds, Salim has been making films since decades. A huge fan of Bollywood actors Dharmendra and Manoj Kumar, Salim started by making lip sync videos by singing to the famous Indian songs. Today, his movies are seen by people across the sides of Taliban and Police.

This film is an ode to film makers, a love letter for people who are so wildly passionate for cinema that they can do nothing else with their lives. A retired army general turned filmmaker Salim shows us that passion is all you need for making a movie, rest is and always will be upto the destiny. This film will leave you cheering in the end for Salim’s relentlessl and infectious energy.

– Harsh Desai
(Tweets: @iamharshdesai
Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions http://www.lowfundwala.com)

24 Frames

An image speaks a thousand words. Abbas Kiarostami however finds a million words to say in a still image. I entered the film with complete fatigue after watching almost 4 films on Day 2 at Mumbai Film Festival. Within 30 minutes of the film, almost 10-15% of the audience walked out and a few slept off. Somewhere I could imagine the smile on Abbas Kiarostami‘s face as he would always say, “Some films have made me doze off in the theater but the same films have made me stay up at night, wake up thinking about them in the morning, and keep on thinking about them for weeks.”

Abbas Kiarostami uses 24 inanimate pictures or paintings and creates spellbinding visual magic by sprinkling these images with music, sounds, and ,movement. An ice cold masterpiece from the auteur who takes a curtain call with the dedication of a student. These frames are intoxicating, melancholic, sleep inducing, and a fitting tribute to Kiarostami’s craft.

One of my favorite frames in the film is a frame where logs of freshly cut wood are stacked in the foreground, while two trees gracefully fall down over a few minutes over a mesmerizing track in the background. The added sound effect of wood cutting machines further make this frame a breathtaking visual. Tigers fornicating in the wild, cows loitering on beaches, a horse running in a snow clad forest, and a herd of deers migrating with the season make every frame look like a priceless greeting card. Kiarostami, you have left a void which can only be filled by re-watching your films. Thank you for the films.

Village Rockstar

Finally, a positive Indian indie film dealing with puberty, village customs, childhood, and the beautiful music scene in Assam villages. Rima Das passes the debut test with flying colors as she blurs the line between fiction and documentary while working with a bunch of complete non-actors. The usual village scenes like kids cycling on raw dusty roads, kids jumping into the water, and kids running around in beautiful grass landscapes are filled with new and fresh energy as the kids in the film are already woven into the milieu of this village.

Fascinated by music, these kids are often seen using old cans, thermocol sheets, and wooden planks to enact live music performances. These musical ambitions are a contrast to the landscape of the village where girls are still raised differently than boys. In an engaging tale narrated by a grandfather about Mahabharat’s Yudhisthir’s answers to tough questions; the 10 year old central female character is enchanted to know that her mother is larger than the sky. And rightly so, we end up discovering one of the most beautiful mother-daughter relationships ever witnessed whereby the mother defends her daughter who wishes to start a rock band, wants to buy a guitar, and even wants to climb those trees with the boys. The role of the mother and the daughter are essayed with rustic perfection creating beautiful images.

Rima Das has her named engraved across departments in the credits of the film accomplishing what very few can. Village Rockstars is a commendable attempt and yet another story from the Indian roots which is worth watching.

– Harsh Desai

(Tweets: @iamharshdesai, Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions – http://www.lowfundwala.com)


S. Durga

Sexy Durga or S. Durga as it is now known to be in censor obsessed India. This is a psychedelic thriller, a documentary, a dark trippy film, a social commentary on state of women and goddesses in India. It tries to be so much that it ends up being nothing but a claustrophobic watch. The start of the film itself throws us on to a terrorising ritual practised in Kerala to offer respect to Goddess Durga. This gruesome ceremony is unsettling, discomforting, and very difficult to sit through. However, I am sure there are viewers for this real life gore too. Because these scenes however horrifying they maybe are shot with class, dedication and, with a passion to tell a story which is already said but still needs to be told again and again.

However, there is some very clever use of camera and street lights which makes the film watchable in parts. The best scenes in the film are scenes where the goons are trying to misbehave with a couple trying to elope in a omni van turned into a death metal psychedelic lounge with make shift lights and indie grunge music. This trippy Maruti Omni would put to shame the mystery machine in scooby dooby doo. The film has a story worth exploring regarding Kerala’s patriarchal society. Although, Kerala also happens to be the most literate state in India.

Besides the trippy van, horrifying opening scene, fantastic score; the film is also a hallmark of the hopeless nihilistic world we are trying to live in. It is a testimony to the fact that we are all perpetrators of cruelty towards woman. We are all stuck in lope just like the couple in the film who keep going back to the van inspite of trying to run away from the same.

Relang Road

“Weed is a plant and not a drug, I am Garden and not a criminal”

I have no idea why I have started with this quote. However, this is one of the quotes which is scribbled on a bus stop in a scene from Ralang Road. The quote, although interesting sets up a dark undertone which is waiting to explode in this atmospheric cross between Lynch’s style and Edgar Allan Poe’s cold poetry.
The thicker the blanket, the colder the surprises underneath it. The dense, thick fog reverberating in the opening shots of Takapa’s Sikkim is like an ice cold blanket which seems tranquil to look at
but hides the darkest of the secrets. The opening shots are hazy -almost confused me between the streetlight and the moon. The blanket in this film is full of how poetry, beer, weed, and candy crush
have pervasively influenced the landscape of an otherwise small town -nature resists consumerism in all forms. Beneath the blanket lies, a new in town math teacher who seems look a total misfit in the film (which actually works well in the favour of the character), kids wanting to even scores with the math teacher, a man wanting to commit a murder for a bag, and a vengeful woman. This sets multiple layers to the movie which strips itself scene by scene creating a ticking time bomb which is waiting to explode as the paths of the central characters cross each other.
The director succeeds in creating an original atmosphere with clever selection of visuals and composition in the film. A scene where people are packed into a jeep like cattle could have been shot in many interesting ways, however Takapa focusses on the eerie silence in the nature through the front view mirror of the car when the car is attempting its best to trash the forest peace. The scene also has one of the best claustrophobic conversations of the film whereby a person keeps convincing the central math teacher’s character to arrange his daughter’s admission in the school in exchange of pure Sikkim cow’s milk. In another scene, the math teacher gets into a fight with the barber while a small kid is busy enjoying his facial in the background. These scenes although very general and mundane, explode with eccentrically tense results for the audience. Sikkim definitely is no longer a touristy space for me after watching Ralang Road.
The clever use in the film of masked kidnappers, folklore grandma, trippy streetlights, drunk men, lottery addicted men, and even a cat are never your first thoughts about a small town film.
However, Takapa decides to take our judgements, turn them upside down, and fry them over a pan. In return, Takapa presents us with an unknown force or feeling from nature in this small Sikkim town which seems to resisting or getting far too comfortable with the new changes in the demographics and culture of the milieu- I am a nature’s baby and I felt somewhere so responsible to see how and what we have done to nature and the ecosystem of Sikkim. I am not sure whether this is what the film intended to address but I was moved to chills by experiencing the change in the ecosystem represented so casually in this film which absolutely works in favour of the film.

Ralang Road is one of the better films to have come out of independent circuit in India handling a fine balance between humour and acute coldness of a atmospheric thriller intact.

– Harsh Desai

(Tweets @iamharshdesai, Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions www.lowfundwala.com)

The Day After

“I think you still love me, but we can’t escape the fact that I’m not enough for you. I knew this was going to happen. So I’m not blaming you for falling in love with another woman. I’m not angry, either. I should be, but I’m not. I just feel pain. A lot of pain. I thought I could imagine how much this would hurt, but I was wrong.”
― Haruki Murakami

Never had I ever thought that Infidelity as a film topic could be dealt with such poise, patience, and, character. However, when Auteur Hong Sang-soo handles a subject this delicate, the result is a poetic, meditative, melancholic, and a boozy drama.

In competition for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes this year, this is the 4th film by the Korean master in the past 8 months – and oh boy, he seems to be operating at the prime of his career.  Set around the life of a morose publisher and his affair with a woman, Bong-wan (Kwon) spends most of his screen time discussing love and life getting over shots of Soju. Little does the new employee Ah-reum (Kim) knows that she is replacing Bong-wan’s flame Chang-sook (Kim Sae-byuk). When Bong-wan’s wife (Cho yun-hee) finds a love poem written by Bong wan, she assumes that the mistress is Ah-reum. Ah-reum on the other end is almost a conscious reflection of bong-wan asking him strange and unsettling questions over, again some shots of soju. However, not all the characters in the film seem as layered as Bong-wan.

This film is moody, painful, and a nuanced understanding of infidelity. Barring the sudden zoom shots, this movie can surely get you drunk on mid-life crisis without the shots of Soju.

The Florida Project

Florida Project will remind you of Short Term 12. This is a gem from Sean Baker who proves that he is a seamless storyteller with fresh sensibilities to tackle complex issues with simple narratives. The colourfully lit frames of the film have dark underlying tensions which suck you into the milieu at the outskirts of Disneyland in Florida. As an audience, you enter the film with shots of kids creating havoc with their mischief and abuses but you are left weeping in the end.

There is something about kids, something about their innocence which has the power to fill the entire screen up. Moonee played by the young kid Brooklyn Prince will win laughs and break hearts across borders with her performance of a brash kid who is always upto adventures with her rebellious mom and ragtag buddies. Willem Dafoe gives a nuanced performance, speaking volumes about his maturity as an actor in top form. A scene where Willem Dafoe is seen requesting the birds to clear the drive way is an endearing sight which speaks for the wrinkles he has developed on his neck over the years.

The Florida project, CO-written, directed, and edited by Sean Baker is a very special film. The screenplay is incredibly fresh, believable, and breathing with Florida vocabulary. Tangerine filmmaker Baker again uses dynamic shots resulting into a charismatic storytelling technique. The Florida Project is an unmissable experience.

– Harsh Desai

(Senior Partner, Lowfundwala Productions (www.lowfundwala.com)

Siddharth Roy Kapur, Rohan Sippy, Ajay Bijli, Kaustubh Dhavse, Anurag Kashyap. Joined by MAMI Co-chairperson Kiran Rao, Festival Director Anupama Chopra and Creative Director Smriti Kiran

Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) has announced its lineup for this year’s edition of the fest. It’s a much awaited big cinema event for film lovers. The fest will run from 12 to 18th October and will screen 220 films from 49 countries in 51 languages. Anurag Kashyap’s Mukkabaaz will open the fest.

For segment wise details, do check out the embedded document

If you want to attend, click here, and do register. Don’t miss this one!

Devashish Makhija’s new film Ajji will have its world premiere at the Busan International Film Festival’s (BIFF) ‘New Currents’ section. And with the fest line up unveiled, the makers have just released the first look of the film. Check out its poster and the trailer.

Here’s the official BIFF program note  on the film –

When society fails to provide justice for the rape of nine-year-old Manda, her ailing and arthritic grandmother Ajji tracks down the perpetrator, the son of a local politician, and plots a brutal revenge to serve as a deterrent to all men.

Cast

Sushma Deshpande, Sharvani Suryavanshi, Saadiya Siddique, Abhishek Banerjee, Vikas Kumar, Smita Tambe and Sudhir Pandey

The 104 min film has been written by Makhija and Mirat Trivedi. Interestingly, Saregama ventures back into filmmaking with their new brand – Yoodlee Films.

With Anurag Kashyap’s latest film, Mukkabaaz, having its premiere at the ongoing Toronto International Film Festival, more details are out now.

Here’s fest director Cameron Bailey’s note on the film, which tells you more about the film

A lower-caste boxer struggles to make his mark on the boxing world, in the highly anticipated film from Anurag Kashyap.

Vital, insightful, and thoroughly cinematic, Anurag Kashyap’s The Brawler follows in the tradition of the great boxing films of the past. But the director of Gangs of Wasseypur gives his take on the sweet science a boldly Indian spin. The set-up offers the genre’s familiar underdog hero, but this film lands a satisfying punch against the injustices and hypocrisies that keep India’s sporting underdogs exactly where they are.

Shravan (Vineet Kumar Singh) is a lower-caste boxer with a tempered edge, struggling to leave his mark and making the case with his fists that he deserves a chance to compete. His career is threatened after he delivers a nasty right hook to the face of Bhagwan — his employer, the local kingpin, and the top boxing promoter in the region. Following this melee, Bhagwan does everything he can to stop Shravan from ascending up the ranks, including preventing him from pursuing the woman he has fallen in love with, Sunaina. Bhagwan will go to any length to punish and humiliate Shravan. But what he doesn’t count on is Shravan’s tough-mindedness. He’s been an underdog all his life and will stop at nothing to go all the way to the Indian National Boxing Championship.

Based on a true story, The Brawler is an enthralling, action-packed tale about corruption and crime in Indian sports. But at the heart of Kashyap’s narrative is a smart and complex love story anchored by Zoya Hussain’s Sunaina.

Cast + Credits
  • director – Anurag Kashyap

  • cast – Vineet Kumar Singh, Zoya Hussain, Ravi Kissan, Jimmy Shergill, Sadhana Singh

  • Cinematography – Rajeev Ravi Shanker Raman Jay Patel Jayesh Nair

  • Editing – Aarti Bajaj Ankit Bidyadhar

  • Executive Producers – Ajay Rai, Kanupriya

  • Producers – Aanand L. Rai Vikramaditya Motwane Madhu Mantena Anurag Kashyap

  • Production Companies – Colour Yellow Productions, Phantom Films

  • Production Designer – Shazia Iqbal

  • screenplay – Anurag Kashyap, Vineet Kumar Singh, Mukti Singh Srinet, K.D. Satyam, Ranjan Chandel, Prasoon Mishra

  • sound – Kunal Sharma

  • Original Score – Rachita Arora

  • music – Nucleya, Prashant Pillai