Posts Tagged ‘Girlhood’

So we read this piece on Quartz India – “A Bollywood-backed Twitter campaign saved the Mumbai Film Festival—but crushed its spirit”. Friends told us it’s a well respected website. Yet to figure out why. (Not that we trust Columbia Journalism grads on desi film industry, most of the times they have no clue about bollywood or indie-bhindies) As we were joking about it, we thought let’s not respond to it till the closing ceremony. Aamir, Madhuri, Anushka, Parineeti, Esha…OMG! So many stars at MAMI! We have never seen them before at Mumbai Film Festival. They killed the indie spirit and how. Look at the winners. Bollywood must not have heard about these filmmakers and they crushed them by giving them awards – Avinash Arun (Killa), Bikash Mishra (Chauranga) and Chaitanya Tamhane (Court). And these 3 films bagged top 6 awards in International Competition and India Gold section. Interestingly, all three are based in Mumbai. City’s fest, city’s filmmakers, what an achievement! MAMI never had a better year than this. If only some people knew what they are writing about.

Moving on, here’s our day wrap of last 2 days


A Soldier is abandoned accidentally by his unit in the middle of a riot in Belfast. I must confess I was at loss quite a few times thanks to the heavy North Irish accent, but this edge of the seat thriller-drama has enough moments to keep you hooked on. The riot sequence and the chase alone itself is worth the watch. Editing, Cinematography, Production Design, Look and feel – all top notch in this gritty film. One can feel the pain of the wound being stitched, the weight of the stone being thrown and the deafening screech after an unexpected bomb blast. Watch it.


This film deserves every accolade it has got abroad. Minimal with pitch perfect detailing, long takes & wide shots, performances that seem natural and unrehearsed, a dab of social & political commentary every now and then, and a realistic depiction of a Kafkaesque trial – it at times ceases to be a film and seems like life unfolding in front of your eyes. Easily one of the top films at MFF this year. Do not miss this for anything.



This is as unpretentious and straightforward a film can be. And that’s where lies its joy. A young Jordanian boy is left alone to fend for himself in bandit territory with the bandit that killed his brother. The bandit becomes his protector and the boy needs him to reach safety. Its not the barren terrain alone, a terrain from whose womb few films emerge but an entire world that opens up to us simply by the choices the characters make in this film. If you like films as an observer and seeker of experience, then this is well worth it.

Clouds of Sils Maria

Literary world threatens to envelope the real and the real world reflects the literary one, shadowing each other as the film explores the nature of time and age. Oblique with a lot of subtext, Clouds of Sils Maria is a meta referential guide to an aging actor’s work and life experience as we explore her inner world and art through her explorations of the character she is playing. Absorbing and visually beautiful, the end is mystifying but Juliette Binoche’s glorious performance makes it more than worth the watch even as a the point in its entirety maybe subject to subjective audience interpretation or simply lost. Almost meta referential of tha film again!

Mission Rape – A Tool Of War (Documentary)

Disturbing even at its short length of an hour. The documentary talks about the mass rapes that were used to perpetrate horror in Bosnia-Herzegovinian conflict during the early nineties. Victims and their families fighting for justice speak their stories and how justice has been denied to them. A stark image of the hegemony of patriarchy and the politics of war stares in front of us as we despair at the continuing inhumanity of the world. There is no attempt to dramatise events or manipulate the audience, facts are laid out bare and footage used matter-of-factly. Its short and not as incisive or comprehensive as it could be, but its honest and dignified, and therein lies its worth.


 Is it me or was there a major number of women-centric films this year at MAMI?In any case, its a cause for celebration and I did with Girlhood. In fact, what better film than that! Its a journey of an African teenage girl, bred and brought up in a steeply patriarchal culture finding her independence. Not only the thrift of storytelling and the simplicity of narration but the wealth of detailing makes this not only an important coming-of-age film, but a feminist film. Blue as the primary colour in the scheme, girls finding their freedom in acting like boys, the need for male approval, the male gaze and so on and on, the script explores each one of these very important aspects of influence in the shaping of a girl into a woman. A must watch!

Coffee Bloom

An interesting film about coming to terms with the past…Set in lush Coorg that is filmed with a lot of love, it is a the story of Dev, a troubled young man who is trying hard to gather his life torn apart by loss of his childhood home and his love. Love, loss, betrayal with spirituality on the fringes are some of the themes that inform the plot-driven narrative with able support from the lead actors. The screenplay is tight and engaging, the unfolding or rather undoing of the characters and their coming together quite convincing. A minor grouse, however, were the dialogues or maybe it was the way some of them were delivered, that sounded quite banal. An assured debut.


An adaptation of Dostoevsky’s novel by the same name, it is an ambitious film that tries hard to embody all of Dostoevsky’s ideas questioning nihilism, utopianism, spirituality and the human condition. Unfortunately, it fails to portray the complexity of these ideas, leave alone present a picture of 19th century Russia in all its multifarious-ness. The narrative is non-linear, something that adds a complex physicality to the film but does not supply the necessary depth or breadth, leave alone create any darkness in mood. Demons is supposed to be an intense literary work, both exploring the interiority of its characters as possessed by an inexplicable evil that is part of human belief system as well as the social conditions of Russia and its politics of the time. The film, despite its three hour long running time does little justice to the dark world of Dostoevsky or the zeitgeist of Russia, confusing hyperventilating for intensity and substituting CG work for surrealism.

–  @Fatema

The Tree (Drevo)

In the 15th century, a deadly tradition began in the Balkans, which were then under Turkish rule. Krvna Osveta is still practiced in Albania today. But that is not the story of The Tree, though it does flutter in the backdrop. Instead, in three sections, we see captivity (or, as the director prefers to say, “entrapment”) of three kinds. The story is also about power; about struggling against power; about the various shades of power — personal, political, emotional and familial. Intimately shot and powerfully acted against a spare landscape in three main colours, this film will enter your mind and haunt you endlessly.

Slovenia makes only five to ten films a year — and the director, Sonja Prosenc, who graced the screening, informed us that two of the three remarkable leads were amateurs. In such a spare landscape, it is even more remarkable when a director makes such a stunning debut.

The Big Journey

Perhaps the best movies about journeys are those that are not about the journey at all. A devout, French Muslim coaxes his reluctant son to drive him all the way to Mecca — a taxing route spanning 3000 miles. But there are no sights on the way, even though the son would like to stop for some of them. Instead, we enter the minds of the protagonists and travel through their maze of differences — due to a significant distance in their ages; due to their belonging to different times; due to their having different beliefs about religion, and right and wrong.

Their clashes are the age-old clashes of the conservative and the modern; the devout and the casual believer; the old and the young. There are some regular road movie tropes thrown in — such as trouble at customs; thieves and strange companions on the journey. But there is also some great detailing — especially in the last part where we meet travelling Arabs going to Mecca, replete with their customs, their prayers, their caravans.

As the father and son travel farther away from home, The Big Journey becomes all about bridging the distance between two minds and hearts.


Are we a product of our environment? Or do we shape it? Theeb suggests the former. After all, who can shape the mighty desert? In Arabia in 1916, we see the cruel, unforgiving, death-giving desert produce children who see, and accept, cruelty as a routine ingredient of their lives. Of course, accepting cruelty with such equanimity requires fearlessness as well. And we see all of this in both Theebs — the protagonist, and the movie.

Mesmerisingly shot entirely on location against the ravishing landscape of Wadi Rum and Wadi Araba, and cast with non-professional actors from one of the last of Jordan’s nomadic Bedouin tribes to settle down, Theeb is often disturbing — for its hyper-realistic depiction of life in the desert, the desperation it induces, and the everyday violence accepted by the tribes. Often the movie crawls, just like the days in the desert, and it becomes difficult to watch on. But life is never easy; why should such a marvellous movie be?



Extremely real situations (too close to reality for people who keep tabs on what’s happening), real people and performances. In fact, a lot of people in the cast are not professional actors but they seem natural in front of the camera. Film unfolds mostly in a courtroom where a man (a Shahir) stands accused of abetting suicide of another man. Clearly it’s just an excuse by the state to put him behind bars. While the starting point of the film seem to be inspired from real events, it aims to take a broader view of the society and its functioning as well as its relationship with the state and its institutions by going into the lives of each of the main players.


A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

I have to say I wasn’t terribly impressed by this, given the hype. Powered by a cool ‘vampire-in-a-veil’ conceit and hip soundtrack, it’s fun but doesn’t do anything very interesting thematically or in terms of storytelling, especially given the vast potential of its premise. Instead, it feels disappointingly content in just being an exercise in posturing and Sin-City style B&W visuals instead of being genuinely groundbreaking or revelatory. (Perhaps Tomas Alfredson and John Ajvide Lindqvist set the bar way too high a couple of years back.)

Clouds Of Sils Maria

Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart play off each other brilliantly in Clouds Of Sils Maria, Oliver Assayas’ sharp, brutally funny and super-meta movie with a heart of melancholy. The compelling dynamic and amazing chemistry between the actresses alone makes this a must-watch, even as all the nudging and winking occasionally gets a tad overbearing. The film is too diffuse to be devastating (or a modern companion-classic to Sunset Boulevard) but Clouds of Sils Maria is always compelling, and when Binoche bares her soul with such blazing poise and elegance, it’s hard not to be floored.


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, and Day 2 report is here.



The kind of film you want to discover at a film festival. A new world, a new voice. Set in almost the same time as another iconic Mexican film Y Tu Mama Tambien, this one too has boys on a road trip plus Mumblecore plus trippy visuals plus coming of age plus paapad-dry and crisp humor. Complete winner on so many counts!

Charlie’s Country (Dir: Rolf de Heer)

Co-writer and lead actor David Gulpilil hits it out of the park with his (semi-autobiographical) portrayal of a very sexy, charming, funny, and bitter aboriginal man angry about the way white people have encroached on his country and now treat his people as nuisance. Full of so much pain and still an undying resistance by this spirited man, the film is a depressing watch that hits closer home with the way our government and corporate treats the aadivaasis.

With Others (Dir: Nasser Zamiri)

Iranian drama about surrogacy. Slipped into artistic macro-lens shots of water dripping or eggs falling every now and then and loaded with too many emotional characters, this was a bit of a tough watch. The plot, performances, and the open-ended resolution were the high-points but a lot of it was just ‘festival cliche’. It didn’t help that the original print didn’t play and the DVD version didn’t have great sound or visuals.



Moved to tears by the sheer simplicity, realism and humaneness of this unpretentious, seemingly small film. Very Shahid-like in its treatment and approach- the graininess, the handheld shots, the sound, the battle of a lone warrior against huge odds. Earthy and touching. A 15 yr old girl is abducted and raped and she kills her abductor, who apparently wants to marry her, to save her life. Her entire community is against her but one women’s organisation stands up for her and fights a battle that is a universal one for women of all ages all over the world. If I could, I’d love to watch it again, and again.


Disturbing and reassuring at once! A single mother strives to hold onto her ADHD son as she tries her best to look after him while making both ends meet. The mother-son’s journey is intertwined with another woman’s and the dynamic of friendship and mutual understanding helps them grow…its a lovely tale of human relationships and struggles told with a little quirk and lot of heart…the violence, especially the loudness and repetitiveness of it gets disconcerting at times but is overtaken by fabulous performances and lasting naturalness…

One on One

Kim-ki-duk’s violence isn’t style or bluster. Its soul-searing window to understand the film world and its people. A rare signature style that he uses in One on One once again. A subversive vigilante film, it puts a spin on the condition of urban living with its consummate questions of materialism, violence, injustice and power. Repetitive and quite random it lacks a spark and renders the otherwise potent theme lustreless.

The Mummy

The charm was to watch an internationally acclaimed Arab classic. Classics are so associated with European or Indian or at best Japanese cinema that I jumped at the opportunity to watch this one. Haunting and mysterious, the film is a world in itself. It’s based on a real-life event that took place in 1881 but realism melts into surrealism with the film’s tone, music, camera angles and performances. There was a eerie reverb in the sound that added a complementary romantic quality to the film about Pharaohs, tombs, mummies and the search for lost national treasure…give me this version over the kistch video game films on the same themes, anyday.


One on One

A vigilante squad made up of a bunch of poor and/or frustrated, defenseless people trying to deliver justice for a murder. It is strictly okay as a revenge saga, but the political dialoguebaazi is so naive that it makes ‘One on one’ a pretty ordinary affair. The repetitive torture scenes do not help.



Gett : The Trial Of Viviane Amsalem
The first complete knockout of the festival for me, this divorce drama simply set in a courtroom for its entire duration is thoroughly gripping, heartbreaking and savagely funny. Excellent writing and performances across the board, the story of a woman’s five year struggle to obtain a divorce from her husband is both a powerful indictment of religion and toothless justice as well as an unexpectedly hilarious black comedy. As the case painfully drags from tareek to tareek- you’re right there with the characters, often unsure whether to laugh or to cry as the proceedings move from absurd to frustrating to borderline surreal. Must watch.


Alonso Ruizpalacios’ Güeros has a wonderfully freewheeling and playful quality that is unique to many great debut features- Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche vaguely comes to mind, especially since both films are in B&W, 4:3 aspect ratio and have a rough-hewn quality that works in their favour. With a great sense of humour- including some hilarious meta-jokes- and thoroughly endearing young characters, it’s a trippy, nostalgic road movie as well as a great portrait of youthful disaffection set against the backdrop of a student revolution.

I didn’t warm up to Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood while I was watching it, but it is testimony to the director’s exceptional craft and the film’s strong grasp of character and milieu that I find myself still thinking about it- this one truly grew on me. We rarely see good female coming-of-age films, especially ones which go beyond the bracket of white, privileged young people- and this one sure packs a punch with its sharply observed and distinctly non-judgemental coming-of-age story of a young black girl’s struggles with identity and angst as she befriends a gang of tough girls in the hood. While Boyhood was universal- sometimes almost to a fault- Girlhood is remarkably specific and manages to beautifully capture nuances of race, class and gender without falling prey to stereotypes, tropes and preachiness.
PS: Also catch the director’s last film Tomboy- another excellent film about a young girl and gender identity.
Two Days, One Night
Probably the most underwhelming film of the day for me, despite the Dardenne Brothers’ dependably solid and distinctly humane storytelling, after a while the film just felt a little repetitive and lacked any surprises, big or small- or maybe I missed something here. But it’s still immensely watchable, anchored by the magnificent Marion Cotillard whose portrayal of a woman on the verge of a nervous breakdown keeps us hooked and on edge.


Ambassador to Bern

Dog day afternoon situation steeped in Hungarian politics with two revolutionaries/terrorists (depending on which side you look from) holding the Ambassador in the Hungarian embassy at hostage. This edge of the seat thriller is based on a real event. You get the idealism of the revolutionaries and the helplessness of the Ambassador. Watch it.


Brilliant coming of age film, Stoner comedy, student agitation, killer sound design, black and white frames, Quirky treatment, handheld static & frequent frenetic camerawork, Eccentric, Funny, pointless and yet making quite a few epiphany waley statements every now and then. This one is a MUST watch. And what a monologue by the elder brother in the end. With an equally anti-climatic resolution. Highly recommended.

One On One

I have been told by fans of Mobieus & Pieta that this one fades in comparison but in isolation, it still has quite a few ‘korean cinema’ trademarks – F****d up situation/characters, dark humor, a rape scene, brutality, torture, domestic abuse, grim setting, angst due to economic differences. Basically a bunch of vigilantes dispensing justice. But what if they are wrong ? And why are they doing this ? Will they continue till the very end or does violence consume them ? Wasn’t disappointed by this film.


A self destructive, chain smoking, alcohol guzzling widow trying to make ends meet all the while taking care of her son who has been released from a Detention Center. Her son who is angsty, in disciplined, insensitive, insensible, abuse yelling, disobedient ass, besides being a little sanki as well. Clocking at 140 minutes, the fact that this film doesn’t feel long is thanks to Xavier Dolan’s masterful direction. Killer performances, perfect selection of music, rapid editing, cinematography (with extreme closeups), heart tugging scenes handled with maturity betraying Xavier Dolan’s age. Ok stop reading this review and WATCH the film. Do not miss this for anything.