Archive for the ‘Film Festival’ Category

The 2017 edition of Berlin International Film Festival has come to an end and the awards were declared tonight. Some good news for two Indian films at the Berlinale – Amit Masurkar’s Newton and Amar Kaushik’s Aaba.

Newton was given the CICAE Art Cinema Award in the Forum section of the fest. The “Confédération Internationale des Cinémas d’Art et d’Essai” (C.I.C.A.E.), the International Confederation of Art House Cinemas, forms one jury for the Panorama and one for the Forum. Each jury awards one prize in its section. Pedro Barbadillo, Tanja Milicic and Rainer Wothe were in the jury panel for Forum section.

CICAE was founded in 1956 by the national art house cinema associations of Germany, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland as an international lobby or pressure-group in order to support the art cinema sector and to protect the cinematographic diversity against the supremacy of so-called commercial filmmaking. Since then it unites about 3000 independent as well as already nationally associated art house cinemas, 15 festivals and a certain number of film distributors from approximately 30 countries from all over the world in an international umbrella association.

The Art Cinema Award is awarded twelve times a year to art house films at certain cooperating festivals such as the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes, Panorama and Berlin International Film Festival in Berlin and the Venice Film Festival.

Amar’s Kaushik’s Aaba has been awarded the Special Prize of the Generation Kplus International Jury for the Best Short Film. This includes cash award of  € 2,500 by the Deutsches Kinderhilfswerk (The Children’s Charity of Germany). The jury noted that it tells a story of the circle of life in an elegiac and slow pace with a beautiful cinematography.

Amit Masurkar’s new film Newton had its world premiere at the ongoing Berlin International Film Festival. Here’s all the buzz about the film from the fest.

(click on any of the pic to start the slide show)

Finding humour in the tenuous nature of democracy might be a hard task on the global stage at present; however, in Newton’s darkly comic exploration of one official’s attempt to uphold the election process in India, it’s simpler than it sounds. The second film from writer/director Amit V Masurkar bows in Berlinale’s Forum section with a sense of chaos and absurdity, while remaining aware of the drama of reality. When the feature emphasises either extreme, it proves engaging viewing.

–  From Screen Daily’s review. Click here to read the full review.

– Rajeev Masand’s video-blog on the film –

 

Newton is a very important film, despite its satirical tones, laced with a lot of humour and irony. It is a film that should make viewers think about how important their right to cast a vote is.

– from Aseem Chhabra’s report on the film. Click here to read the full report

Newton is a brave attempt. Because it uses the feature film format to tell a story about on-going violence and exploitation and cynical political aggrandisement : anytime you hear the words Naxal, or Maoist in a film, it falls into the tried and tested formula. Newton breaks that mould, refreshes hardened tropes, and makes us smile and think. Really hard. Because what effects India Interior today will one day ripple over and claw its way into our complacent urban, mall-infested enclaves.

– from Indian Express. Click here to read the full report.

– Some tweets on the film:

(pics taken from Twitter)

Great news coming from the ongoing International Film Festival Rotterdam. Sanal Kumar Sasidharan’s film Sexy Durga has won the top award (Hivos Tiger Award) at the main competition section of the fest.

The Hivos Tiger Award is the festival’s flagship competition. This year, eight new films competed for the coveted Hivos Tiger Competition award, which is accompanied by a €40.000 cash prize. The jury admired the film Sexy Durga : “For its daring and resourceful approach in creating a mood of constant tension, providing an insight into multi-layered power dynamics of gender, class and authority.”

Trailer

Official Synopsis

Goddess or whore? Two extreme views of women intermingle in this largely improvised spine-chiller. During a nocturnal ride, a young woman and her lover encounter a cross-section of Indian male society. What starts out as an attempt to escape descends into a journey through hell – from which no escape is possible.

This ominous road movie about two lovers on the run is interspersed with footage of a Hindu festival in the southern Indian province of Kerala. Men dance ecstatically, walk across red-hot coals and push metal skewers through their faces. Some are hauled into the air on metal hooks stuck through the skin of their backs and thighs, dangling above the crowd like the mythical eagle Garuda. All in honour of Kali, embodiment of the rage of the mother goddess, Durga. Her likeness – four arms bearing her weapons and a severed head – is carried through the village in procession.

Durga is also the name of a young woman trying in the dead of night to take a train to a far-off destination with her lover, Kabeer. First they have to reach the station, for which they depend on the kindness of strangers. But the help offered to them quickly takes on dubious forms; the police are too involved in their own business and the isolation of the night completes the oppressive atmosphere.

Sanal Kumar Sasidharan made his previous feature film, An Off-Day Game, without a script; for Sexy Durga he even dispensed with a pre-set narrative. Here, he investigates how obsessiveness and worship can quickly degenerate in a patriarchal society into a mentality of oppression and abuse of power.

Director

After completing studies in Zoology and Law, Sanal Kumar Sasidharan (1977, India) started work as a lawyer. As a film fanatic, he used his network to found Kazhcha Film Forum, a crowdfunding platform for the production of independent films. This provided a financial basis to make his own films. Kumar Sasidharan’s short and feature films have received many awards in international film festivals.

Filmography

Wonder World (2001, short), Parole (2008, short), Frog (2012, short), Oraalppokkam/Six Feet Height (2014), Ozhivudivasathe Kali/An Off-Day Game (2015), Sexy Durga (2017)

 

newton-poster-a-rgb-2500px

More good news coming from Berlin International Film Festival. Two more Indian features have been selected for this year’s edition.

Amit V Masurkar’s sophomore feature Newton is all set to make its World Premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival. The Drishyam Films produced feature will be screened in the ‘Forum’ section of the Berlinale which features ‘avant-garde, experimental works, political reportage and yet-to-be-discovered cinematic landscapes’.

Newton was part of the Co-Production Market (CPM) at Film Bazaar, 2015 and also one of the Film Bazaar Recommends titles at Film Bazaar 2016. The film stars Rajkummar Rao in the title role and is a sharp political black comedy that takes place on an election day in Central India. Rajkummar Rao plays Newton, a rookie clerk on election duty in a conflict-ridden jungle of Chhattisgarh, who tries his best to conduct free and fair voting despite the apathy of security forces and the looming fear of an attack by Maoist rebels. The supporting cast includes Anjali Patil, Pankaj Tripathi and Raghubir Yadav. 

lady of the lake

The second film, Haobam Paban Kumar’s Manipuri film Loktak Lairembee (Lade Of The Lake) is also selected in the same ‘Forum’ section of the fest. The film has been doing the fest rounds for quite some time now and was also the winner of top prize in the India Gold section of Mumbai Film Festival.

Haobam has 5 National Film Awards and 5 Indian Panorama Selections to his credit. The film Loktak Lairembee (Lady of the lake) is his debut fiction feature film.

Here’s the official synopsis of the film –

Loktak Lake is a unique ecosystem where fishermen lived in huts built on floating biomasses. In 2011, the authorities, in the name of protecting serenity of the ecosystem, burnt down the huts leaving thousands of fishermen homeless. Tomba, one of the victims, lives with a harrowing nightmare of looming displacement since then. He is haunted by seamless fear of further intervention of authorities that would make him homeless forever. Confined in his makeshift hut, Tomba senses the spirit of evil around, while his wife Thambalsang works hard to make their living. One fine morning Tomba accidentally finds a gun hidden within the biomass. He marvels with the gun as his power of self-protection. He transforms himself to an assertive man who is looking for an appropriate offense. One day, an old lady who mysteriously wanders in the lake, knocks at his door in the middle of the night. Fearful Tomba, anticipating the lady as the spirit of all evils, chases her and commits an unintended crime.

Trailer

Filmmaker Amar Kaushik’s short film, Aaba has been selected for 67th Berlin International Film Festival which will run from 9-19th February, 2017. The film will premiere in the Generation Kplus category of the fest.

Interestingly, Amar’s mother, Shashi Kaushik has written the story. It revolves around an orphan girl who comes across the news of her grandfather reaching the terminal stages of lung cancer. As the grandfather (Aaba) starts counting his days, the family faces unexpected turns.

The film has been shot in the picturesque valley of Arunachal Pradesh. Aaba is produced by Raj Kumar Gupta and Mitul Dikshit, and co-produced by Onir and Alison Welly.

Earlier, Jayaraj Rajasekharan Nair’s Ottaal, Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dhanak, and Avinash Arun’s Killa have premiered in the same category of the fest.

Click here to read about the shooting experience of Aaba.

For most of us who are based in Bombay, the Mumbai Film Festival is an annual ritual. And since the fest always has a strong programming line-up, we keep telling our film fanatic friends who are based in other cities, that they must visit during the fest. Anand Kadam attended the fest for the first time this year. As he is back to conference calls and office emails, he looks back at the madness of those few days.

“Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines”

I wait for an hour in the queue, legs bent, shoulders slumped, sweat on my forehead, a water bottle and a jacket by my side – both to counter the air conditioner in the auditorium. This is not the sad part. The sad part is that I miss it. I miss the early rush. I miss the struggle of booking the slots. I miss the anxiety of missing other films. It was as if the universe decided to carve four days out of my life and paint them Neon. The screen lights up with snow and the name comes up – Pablo Larrain. Claps and whistles. Goosebumps. A biopic turned inside out where non-fiction and fiction intertwine and where the literal and the poetry marry to create beauty.

“Beauty is not everything, it’s the only thing”

Nicolas Winding not only believes it but lives through it as if this very line is his gospel; why else would he put everything aside in Neon Demon, from logic to rationality, to dazzle you with images that burn your retina and sound that pulsates your heart. Early morning dose of lesbian necrophilia and cannibalism. Yum. I am awestruck and angry at the same time. My stomach grumbles for breakfast. I eat a sandwich. The images keep disturbing me, and Jesse, who isn’t ashamed of her body, refuses to leave me.

“Shame isn’t a strong enough emotion to stop us doing anything at all.”

I count the number of people ahead of me. The counter on the screen reads thirty two. Touch and go. I feel restless as the queue starts moving. I reach the entrance but I am stopped. My heart breaks. I wait there. Hundred options run through my head as I scan the schedule. I am about to leave when I am allowed in. Beauty is not everything, it’s the only thing. Paul Verhoeven finds beauty in perversion. My brain in unable to process what it had witnessed. Elle is the exact opposite of everything I had ever seen. It challenged every notion I held of morality. It’s not immoral but it makes morality irrelevant.

“A stew needs time for the flavors to sink in and so do people”

What if there isn’t enough time or you have all the time in the world but something is amiss, like the flame is too slow or the wind is unaccounted for? How does he do it? Koreeda. How does he do it? I am exhausted. My eyes are heavier. My jacket feels heavier. The film starts. It ends. I don’t blink. A family drama that makes you laugh and is profound, where melancholy hides behind the surface. The constant struggle of not ending up like your father. It’s all there, rolled up into a bittersweet film.

“Why are there so many crying scenes? This isn’t a funeral”

I stand up for National Anthem for the umpteenth time as I prepare myself to watch a documentary where the citizens, in fear of being killed, must cry at the funeral of their leader. Weirdly though, I never thought I would be, in some sense, similar to Kim Jong-il. He loved movies and disliked his country’s cinema. What he does next is downright bizarre, hilarious, and tragic at the same time. He kidnaps South Korea’s Shin Sang-ok and his ex-wife Choi Eun-hee to fulfill his dream – to make better cinema. The irony of it all, Shin Sang-ok gets more freedom to create his cinema in North Korea than in South Korea. This entire story would have been unbelievable only if it weren’t a fact. North Korea, a country that needs to be saved.

Another country in Chaos. Egypt. I watch with my mouth wide open as the entire film is being shown from within a police van. Clash is an ultimate depiction of chaos and riots. No matter the ideology, people suffer. It’s an attempt to make us realize the only solution is for people to learn to coexist with people they hate.

Then there is India where child labor is abundant facilitating child traffickers.

Cecilia, a heartbreaking story of a tribal woman whose teenage daughter has died in mysterious circumstances. Apart from being a brilliant investigative journalism, the documentary also deals with moral dilemmas – would you rather accept monetary compensation or fight for your daughter’s justice? Pankaj Johar successfully shows the apathy of the entire system and makes you question your role in its contribution. By the end of it I feel absolutely numb. How can I break this vicious cycle when I myself am a spoke helping it rotate?

“I like to bring a bulldozer and ruin all of this city.”

“They ruined this city once, they built it again and now this is it.”

After traveling for more than an hour, I am stuffed up to my chest with Baghdadi’s daal gosht and fried aloo. The premier is late by an hour. I sit there in the stall of Regal wrapping myself with my jacket as if it were a blanket. The Director apologies for the delay and introduces the star-cast. Then it starts. The story moves in a leisure pace giving you ample time to absorb and soak in it. It slides through mundane parties and games. Then something strange happens. I see myself on the screen. I am twelve, asked to babysit my nephew who is all but four. I am busy watching something on the television as my nephew gulps down half a glass of old monk left on the table by my dad. I am to be blamed. Of course. I feel humiliated, families can do that, they can smother you. I am scarred and scared. Like Shutu, I am to carry everyone’s guilt. I want to scream at the screen and tell him to survive this. This will pass and will only be a distant memory. You will grow out of it. Great genius blooms late, remember?

“I want to witness your death and I’ll be the main character.”

My last show ends. It feels like an end of a pilgrimage. Where else do you find people, from eighteen to seventy, discussing films and only films, and a bit of gossip? Be it during lunch or dinner, in the queue, in the theater, in the loo. Discussing films with unknown people.

Heaven.

Films, Food, and beer.

What else do you want from life?

Just one slot a year dedicated to films. Isn’t much to ask.

(Based in Pune, Anand is a software engineer working in a bank. Priorities in life – Mutton, Wine and Cinema, in that order. He tweets @invokeanand)

And we have come to the second last day of the Mumbai Film Festival. Here’s quick wrap of all the films that we managed to catch.

If you are looking for our previous posts on reccos and reviews from Mumbai Film Festival, our Day 1 wrap is here, Day 2 is here, Day 3 is here, for Day 4 click here, and Day 5 is here.

For our notes on Movie Mela, click here. And click here to read about Cary Fukunaga session.

Nakom

The reason why I love attending film festivals is I get to see and learn about other cultures and countries. Kelly Daniela Norris and T. W. Pittman’s “Nakom” took me to a hidden rural town in Ghana and made me a part of their daily struggles. A simple story, on the lines of “Swades”, this is a very personal and sincere film. Story about going back to ones’ roots has been explored time and again but here, the filmmakers treat it in a very unassuming and simple manner. Truly an indie film with grainy night footage, non-actors performing to the best of their abilities, these flaws only add to the narrative to tell a very personal story about being torn between two worlds. Just wish the protagonist wasn’t so righteous and had some flaws in him. Nevertheless a gorgeous to look at with some great music. Here’s hoping this film gets a wide release so people can explore this side of Ghana. “Nakom” is probably a film that Ghana desperately needs.

Trapped

After the underwhelming “Lootera”, Vikramaditya Motwane has made one hell of a survival thriller in “Trapped”. What I loved the most was that it’s set in a metro like Mumbai where anything you can think of is available. Be it food, friends, enemies, dirty, crowd, empty nights and yet Shaurya (Rajkumar Rao) has nothing! Juxtaposing this mad city with the emptiness of a brand new flat was just a masterstroke. You can see the busy city, hear the noise but a call for help is useless! “Trapped” is also technically the strongest Hindi film this year. Motwane smartly uses aspect ratio to draw you into trapped environment and goes 2.35:1 during some really epic dream sequences. Everything here is just right, not more, not less and that’s the power of editing! Without a strong edit, a thriller is nothing. Too add to the awesomeness is the mind blowing score by Alokananda Dasgupta. Terrific stuff!

Mihir @mihirbdesai

My Life as a Courgette

Icares is sent to an orphanage after he accidentally kills his mother in an unfortunate yet hilarious accident. He meets a bunch of other orphans there and after some initial hospitality, he develops a bond with them, especially with Simon, the resident bully. Camille enters the scene after a few days and Courgette falls for her.
This gorgeously rendered stop motion Mary & Max-ish feel wali French language film is Swiss official entry for the 89th Academy awards. I’m so glad I ended my day with this after starting it with the eerie Hounds of Love. Had a huge grin on my face throughout the 65 minutes of this absolute cuteness overload.

– Avinash @filmworm85

Multiple Maniacs

On the surface, Multiple Maniacs is about Lady Divine and her motley crew, luring unsuspecting suburban folks to her show ‘The Cavalcade of Perversion’, the catch being the audience will have never seen something so ‘nasty’, so ‘filthy’. The show consists of acts such as ‘puke eater’, ‘faggots’ kissing and alike. At the end of the show, the unsuspecting audience is looted off their money and belongings on gunpoint.

Scratch a layer deeper, the film is about John Waters luring sweet suburban folks (yes, even us Mumbaikars) in to his own version of ‘Cavalcade of Perversion’. The film is like looking in to a mirror but only seeing a more grotesque version of your staring back. The film is truly twisted at its core. All institutions of our current day society such as education, family etc. are torn in to thither, but none as much as ‘Religion’. If you are even remotely religious, stay away from this, you have been warned. But if in case you have a thick skin, you are in for a bizarre treat which hasn’t aged a single day in the 46 years since it first released. Mr. John Waters, you have attention as well as our curiosity! P.S. Multiple Maniacs will be screened on Day 7 of at La Reve, Bandra. Do catch if possible.

– Aditya @TheRadiowala

Death In Sarajevo 

Danis Tanovic’s new film is an Altmanesque satire, a drama of ideas until it isn’t. Cash strapped and desperate, a hotel prepares to host a function commemorating the hundredth anniversary of the first World War while its meagre staff readies for a strike, while at the same time tensions flare between a Serb and a Bosnian woman interviewing him on the rooftop. The hotel becomes a fascinating backdrop for exploring worker rights and capitalism while Tanovic brilliantly uses the rooftop sequence to depict the dissonance between humanity and politics as the two warring parties display a subtle sexual chemistry. A prerequisite knowledge of European history, specifically of the Slavic countries, is recommended.

The Untamed

I didn’t watch Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante’s Heli at last year’s MAMI but I heard people berating it while riding the elevator up to the screens, an old bearded man ranted about how it had gone too far. I never got around to watching it but a viewing of Untamed has all but ensured that I’ll seek it out.

It’s a bizarre lo-fi sci-fi domestic drama about a mother of two and her husband who is in an abusive affair with her gay brother. The science fiction elements mostly take a backseat to the human drama but when it’s there, it’s deliciously done, calling to mind Andrzej Zuwalski’s Possession, with its creature design and erotica. There’s some allusions to the misogyny and homophobia in Mexican society but I’ve little context for it. On some level, I’m in love with the film, but I’m not entirely sure why. It’s definitely not a film for everyone.

– Anubhav @psemophile

 

Trapped

This MAMI has been a bit of a disappointment in terms of the new works by revered and trusted directors. A lot of great filmmakers produced average to even abysmal works. Somehow, despite that, I hadn’t lost even an iota of excitement for Trapped, because Motwane has my unshakable faith.

Trapped is a very simple survival drama, simple as survival dramas go. I’ll divulge as few details as I can, since even a trailer has not come out and I do not know what can be a potential spoiler to you. The film boils down to this – a man gets trapped in his own apartment, due to his own carelessness and actions performed in desperation. He has to survive, and find a way out. This isn’t any apartment, it’s an apartment in an unoccupied building. The whys aren’t something I’ll get into, suffice it to say that nothing seemed contrived. The writing felt utterly grounded, the protagonist utterly relatable.

The greatest thing that the movie does is that by virtue of it being set in Bombay, it taps into a contradictory claustrophobia that all of us who’ve lived here have felt at some point of time. You’re just one person in a sea of people, and despite the sheer population and closeness with which we live, it can be the most daunting task to be heard, to be seen, to be found. Along with that, the film deals with a lot other fears that you or I may have while living in this city. The shut out balconies. Animals. The blind trust that everything will work as planned. In the end, and this is the truth which we all need to know, when the shit hits the fan, we have only ourselves to rely on to clean it all up.

The film is not at all lengthy, the pacing is solid, the editing practically flawless. Few moments feel ripe with tension, not just in terms of “what the fuck is going to go wrong next?” but also in terms of “oh my God what is this guy going to do next?”. If you’ve seen enough movies, you’ll start trying to predict all sorts of scenarios, and Trapped sometimes lands where the predictions land, sometimes it does not, but regardless of either case, it does not feel stupid or watered down one bit. You truly feel the basic survival instinct kick in, and the battle between surviving and already set fears. Forgive me for speaking in such abstract terms, any more specifics could ruin the film for you. I enjoyed it as much as I did because I knew NOTHING about it. The thing about survival dramas is that it’s set in such a confined space and it’s got such little space, it’s easy to lose track or momentum. Tedious flashbacks, slacking of pace, repetitive tropes, all of those are pitfalls which Motwane and team effortlessly and continuously avoid. There are parts where the humour isn’t obvious, but you laugh inside. And even more effortlessly, the story eases us back into the scenario of tension. There were quite a few instances where my balls were in my mouth, pardon me for the lack of a better euphemism. Anything said about this film CANNOT be complete without mentioning the hero of the hour and a half, Rajkumar Rao. The man has proven himself time and again, but I firmly believe that he has outdone himself. Have you ever screamed yourself hoarse? You know what your voice sounds like after that. This man has actually acted that out. You see a rabid survival instinct in his eyes develop gradually as the film progresses. In the sequences preceding the entrapment, you see the awkwardness, introversion, infatuation and pure love. And then you see the most basic human nature take over. It takes an immensely skilled actor to bring all of that into one character, and this film would’ve fallen like an unstable jenga tower had it not been for Rajkumar Rao’s acting.

I believe this film would not have been the way it is had it been set in any other city. This is a story of a man surviving in Bombay. In a hunger and thirst induced stupor, he hallucinates about how joyful it would feel to travel in a sweaty, crowded local train compartment again, how joyful it would feel to argue with a BEST bus conductor again, to jump into the sea at Chowpatti beach. The barricaded balconies, the “jugaad” that we are used to seeing and doing, everything forms an integral part of the story, or character, or both. Motwane made a coming of age film that was a masterpiece. Then he adapted an O Henry story and made it into a period drama. Now, he’s made a survival story that’s stripped bare, and yet, its not devoid of magic. That’s Motwane for you, and that’s Trapped for you. Trapped is right up there with Red Turtle for me as the best that MAMI has to offer this year.

Light Music

An experimental “Experience” of sorts, involving two 16mm projectors, to showcase the way sound is used in celluloid. This one was a half an hour long experience for the curious, for the die hard cinema lover. Seeing a 16mm projector in the flesh is beautiful, to say the least, but the best part about the whole thing was that the two projectors were kept opposing each other, one in each end of the cinema hall, and with the fog effects, the rays of the projectors felt like they were having some sort of a magical duel. Or maybe I’m just indulging myself here. The images projected were that of the soundtrack part of the celluloid. We were supposed to hear, as well as see, what the sound aspect of a film is, or was. However, after maybe 10 minutes, I got bored so I stepped out.

When Two Worlds Collide

A documentary about the battle between an indigenous community and the government for the Amazon, the atrocities that can and are committed in the name of “progress”, and the price some people are willing to pay for the greater good. It is a harrowing tale, no doubt. And it is ever relevant, as whatever be the struggle, the core of it is the same everywhere – standing up for what’s right. However, this documentary had some strong pacing issues in the start. By the time it picked up the pace, I’d lost interest (in the film, not the subject), so it wouldn’t be fair if I said anything more.

Achyuth Sankar

 (Pics – Varun Grover/Jio MAMI)