Posts Tagged ‘Killa’

Five boys in their pre-teens, hailing from a small-town in Maharashtra, each knowing the loss of a dear one, jump into a lake from a height in the total abandon of childhood’s innocence. The protagonist is the last to jump; he hesitates and then takes the plunge. For me, that was the defining moment of Avinash Arun’s debut film Killa.

 Killa 5

Cinema world-over, is moving towards telling big stories of small people. While we continue to have (and be mesmerised) by our Interstellars and Mad Max’, we are also rejoicing in looking deeper into the souls of the commoner through the canvas of everyday life. Iranian cinema, arguably, showed the world the way, and in India, it is Marathi cinema, among other language films, which has moved the cinematic zeitgeist inwards. Little people, little moments and large stories. Not larger-than-life; very common, very grounded, very real and because of this, large. Especially gratifying is the fact that the child as the protagonist is finally here. Our lenses have finally found his story worth telling. His world is being looked into, explored, understood and loved, a practice that has always been at the periphery in our cinema. Vihir, Shwaas, Tingya, Shala, Fandry…the list keeps increasing. And now Killa.

In Killa, Avinash delves into small-town life and his own personal memories of childhood, and paints a moving and heart-warming picture of learning to fight one’s battles with life. It is the journey of a boy still grappling with the death of his father that happened two years back, and the constant change of environment that has followed. It is the story of his mother, a single woman, gritty and upright, determined to ensure she is now the father and mother to her only son. It is the story of courage to break away from the past and it is a story of love, loyalty and trust. But most importantly, and which is why it is more beautiful, it is the story of taking the plunge. And thus, finding the light at the end of the tunnel. In Killa’s case, the cave.

Killa 4

“I think we have forgotten the life, the buildings, and the streets we used to have not so long ago.” Miyazaki said this about Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi. Killa, in more ways then one way, pays homage to a kind of childhood fast disappearing and one many of us have never even known. Yet, its emotional tone resonates universally, drawing in even those unfamiliar with the social landscape of the film. An intensely personal film, it is life experienced through the eyes of a sensitive, lonely, fatherless, pre-teen boy. Moving from town to town due to his mother’s transferable job, he pines for putting down roots, for friends he can grow up with and for his dead father. His mother is trying her best to be both the parents for him, stretching to breaking point to ensure him his due upbringing.  It is with a humane eye that Avinash sees the single woman’s struggle, also reflected in the elderly neighbour. Both women develop a bond of mutual respect, an intuitive sign of recognition when one kind, strong soul meets another. The women are lonely too and they are fighting it. Loneliness is the vast canvas Avinash paints his story on because little Chinmay has to break free of this very loneliness and find hope.

Killa, the central motif of the film then becomes the symbol of Chinu’s inner one, the fort of loneliness and mistrust he is caught in. His search for the exit from the fort becomes a beautiful metaphor of his efforts to get rid of the loneliness. And when he emerges into the sunshine he finds hope and trust, literally and figuratively. On the face of it, it is a simple film with a linear narrative, a well-used form. Couched within is a multi-layered narrative of an inner struggle, the experience of which is evoked rather than told. A complete freedom from the need of dramatic tension yet letting the story find its own resolution is evident in the way it unfolds and in certain ways, it is a liberating experience; to co-opt a 3 Act structure and do away with dramatic turning points yet end with confidence, is in my eyes, quite an achievement.

Killa 3

The visual imagery of the film and its soundscape resonates with the simplicity of verdant, small-town life and a child’s inner tenderness. The spaces Avinash uses make up Chinnu’s external and internal world which we experience through the different locales, his home, school, bridge, fort, cave…The visuals are beautiful without being imposing or picture postcard perfect and the staging is natural, keeping the film moving with a steady rhythm of life instead of depending on the artifice of drama. Avinash also handles the small class-room dramas, especially the weaves of inter-personal relationships between children as peers with a certain tenderness and an understanding of the fragility of their world. The performances extracted out of the children are warmly naturalistic endearing each one of us with their quirks and innocence. We see them as children are, vulnerable and stubborn, inexperienced and wise. Perhaps, the biggest victory of the film is bringing to us the ‘cleanness’ of children…something that permeates into the entire experience of it.

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Ingmar Bergman said ‘No art passes our conscience in the way film does, and goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our souls.’ Killa does that in its own unassuming way, going directly to our feelings and deep down into the dark room of our souls and lighting it up a bit.

Fatema H. Kagalwala

First published in the Lensight Feb 2015 issue.

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If you follow this blog regularly, you know how much we love Avinash Arun’s Killa. And the good news is the film is finally ready for theatrical release. A new trailer of the film has just hit the internet. Have a look. And thanks to the smart producers of the film, it has English subtitles too.

Beautiful. And so lush, feast for eyes. This is almost a short in itself.

The film releases on 26th June. It’s easily one of the best films of the year.

Don’t miss it.

To know more about the film and its director, click here.

Film’s FB page is here.

So after much hype (courtesy our friends Namrata JoshiAseem Chhabra and others), a few of us finally ended up joining them this time at the 3rd edition of the annual Dharamsala International Film Festival, up in the beautiful township of McLeodganj- and I’m happy to report that it did live up to the buzz, and I can’t wait to get up there again next year. It’s an excellently organized festival- with helpful signs all over town to guide you, autos hired to take you up to the main venue TIPA (Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts) and a wonderful, warm team of volunteers, some of who travel from various parts of India and the world to be part of this joyous little celebration of cinema up in the mountains, in a town without a single cinema theatre.

Clearly, the common thread among many of the films shown at DIFF was that they belonged to the genre I will call ‘cinema of social unrest’- and from what I hear, this was the case the year before as well. So there are many documentaries as well as fiction features about social and political movements, revolutions, human rights violation and conflicts of land, culture and identity. This feels especially apt considering Dharamshala itself is a place where you can distinctly feel the angst of displacement and the forced refugee status of Tibetans under the gentle, tranquil atmosphere of the town.

This year included a fairly interesting selection of films (you can check out the list here) as well as some interesting retrospectives, curated short film packages and masterclass/Q&A sessions with filmmakers such as Rajat Kapoor, Hansal Mehta, Gitanjali Rao, Q and Umesh Kulkarni. I’m afraid I did not manage to catch a whole lot of them- the main drawback of having a film festival in such a picturesque location is that you are conflicted whether to spend your time watching films or savor the sights around, not to mention visit all the charming cafés and eateries in the area. Still, here are a few notes on some of the films I did catch at the festival:

KILLA:

Killa

Avinash Arun’s debut feature is a gorgeously evocative and poignant film about friendship, loss and the resilient ability of children to deal with disappointment, displacement and even death. Killa is clearly a very personal film, and is shot and crafted with great love and sensitivity. It also features some unforgettable, textured characters brought to life with amazingly natural performances from Amruta Subhash, Archit Deodhar, Parth Bhalerao and a wonderful ensemble of young actors. This is yet another strong contemporary Marathi film about children, and definitely the one with most finesse out of the ones I’ve seen. I must mention here though that I haven’t seen Umesh Kulkarni’s acclaimed Vihir yet- interestingly, Avinash Arun cites Kulkarni as his mentor and a strong influence.

BRINGING TIBET HOME:

Bringing Tibet Home documents the deeply emotional and often funny story of New York-based artist Tenzing Rigdol’s audacious art project to reunite exiled Tibetans with their land, quite literally. After his father dies with his last wish of setting foot in his homeland unfulfilled, Tenzing decides that if Tibetans can’t return to Tibet, he will bring Tibet to them by smuggling 20 tonnes of native Tibetan soil to Dharamshala for a one-of-its-kind art installation. It was especially moving watching the film in Dharamshala- though it did also really make me ponder about what makes land itself so important to human beings. Maybe because I’ve never quite had roots anywhere, soil to me just feels a little overrated… ‘it’s just tiny little rocks.’

THE SQUARE:

This shattered my heart and blew my mind to bits. Jehane Noujaim’s The Square is the most devastating film I have seen in a long time and easily the best one I saw at Dharamshala. The film puts you right at the heart of a revolution inside Tahrir Square, with young, common people spiritedly fighting a fascist and fundamentalist regime in Egypt, spilling their blood and guts out for the hope of a brighter, free future even as they come to the crushing realization that courage and idealism aren’t enough to win their war against oppression. This is absolutely essential viewing- the auditorium was filled with tears and goosebumps in the end and the applause didn’t stop till the credits had finished rolling.

(PS: Also spotted in the documentary- Aida Elkashef from Ship of Theseus and a Vikramaditya Motwane doppelganger. I kid you not- the resemblance is uncanny. See if you can spot him. 😉 )

OMAR:

Director Hany Abu-Assad cleverly sets a gripping tale of love, deceit and betrayal against the Palestine-Israel conflict. The film borrows sparingly from Romeo and Juliet and Othello to give us a heady mix of socio-political thriller and Shakespearean drama- and while a comparison might be a little unfair- I can’t help feel that Omar blends the two a lot more seamlessly and effortlessly than Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider, which of course is very good in its own right. Adam Bakri gives a superbly charismatic performance as the protagonist- though admittedly, it’s hard to take your eyes off him anyway considering how jaw-droppingly good he looks.

TRUE LOVE STORY:

Filmmaker Gitanjali Rao showcased a great set of Indian and international animated shorts curated by her at DIFF (including her marvelous Printed Rainbow), and ended the session with her newest film True Love Story, which screened at the Cannes Critics’ Week section earlier this year. The film, originally scripted to be part of a feature film (alas, no one wants to fund quality animation films in India) begins as a homage to masala movies which is both affectionate and hilariously tongue-in-cheek- but in the end reveals itself to be a sharp social satire, using a real-life tragedy that made headlines a few years back (the court case is still on) to brilliant, scathing effect. The film is a visual and aural delight with its colorful evocation of Bombay’s sights and sounds through Bollywood tinted glasses, and hopefully it will make its way to a wider audience soon. And I hope some producers funding ‘indie’ films (which more often than not, turn out to be sub-par) see the potential in this medium and back Ms Rao’s extraordinary talent and bring more of her singular, unique vision to the big screen.

Jahan Singh Bakshi

(Photos courtesy DIFF Facebook page, Mihir Pandya and author)

Mumbai Film Festival is over, but the hangover remains. And so here comes one more post. This is a guest post by Mohamed Thaver.

Killa

I recently saw ‘Killa’ (The Fort) at the MAMI film festival, a subtle, understated and beautifully woven coming-of-age narrative of an 11-year-old boy, who along with his mother, shifts to a Konkan town after his father’s death. ‘Coming of age’ movies – that seemed to be the flavor of the recently concluded MAMI film festival – by their very nature, demand a certain level of deft handling of the filmmaking craft, a nuanced, under the radar approach – one does not come of age with fanfare – bearing a ‘handle with care’ tag, as the object being worked with: childhood, is brittle indeed. Much to our delight, first time director Avinash Arun, understands that one exposure to an insensitive, over the top scene at that age, could result in a lifelong scar.

After watching the movie (more on it later) as I was walking back, I could almost visualize a certain recurring pattern develop in some good Marathi movies I had seen lately. A small joining the dots act, comprising of drawing mental lines from Shwaas to Shaala to Fandry and Killa – to name a few – revealed to me a certain aesthetic I had seen somewhere. I told my friend with some delight, ‘I think Marathi cinema is going the Iranian cinema way. Isn’t it?’

Although not exclusively, but Iranian cinema, from Children of Heaven to Colour Of Paradise, has more so always vied for the heart over the head, the innocent over the intelligent attitude to film making. It has been more interested in the simple everyday stories, mirroring on screen the day-to-day struggles faced by families, seen on several occasions from the point of view of young eyes and muddled heads. It is this innocence – that without proper treatment of the subject matter could risk seeming ineffective at best and banal at worst – that for me makes Iranian cinema endearing more than anything else.

Now having a look at some good movies to come out of Marathi cinema of late, from the poignant Shwaas to Shala, Fandry and now to Killa, the movies here do not rely on some larger than life characters or a cinematic twist in the tale or even a resolution. Rather moving to the other extreme, it tries to present a slice of life of the most common person that it could find, thereby making the theme universal. Here too, a’ la Iranain cinema, the simple head and inquisitive eyes of a child are turning out to be a preferred medium of communication. Like in Fandry, when Jabya because of being born in a particular caste, has to chase the pig in front of his school mates, the humiliation is complete and would not be lost on anyone who has ever been a child. This is not to say that the aesthetic similarity between Marathi and Iranian is of a deliberate nature, but a beautiful tool employed effectively by two very diverse cultures.

I think it is good news for Marathi cinema, because it does require a certain amount of confidence in your art for a director – and a first time director like Avinash Arun at that- to pick up a story like Killa, where you cannot hide behind on screen histrionics. In a recent interview, Vishal Bharadwaj talking about the vulnerability of a director said, “You can tell a lot about a filmmaker from the movie. The filmmaker is emotionally naked on the movie screen” It is a healthy sign that many Marathi filmmakers are willing take off the garb of everything that is not good cinema and stand naked before the viewers with regularity.

Now coming back to Killa, my friend who has grown up in Kolhapur sprinted down memory lane within the first few minutes of the movie. When Bandya is shown humming ‘chandrakanta ki kahani’ she could not believe it. It was almost like someone has gone into her mind and splashed forth her childhood on the big screen. A special mention of the inspired scene when Bandya, a full of life youngster along with friends do a dhina-dhin-dha Anil ‘Ram Lakhan’ Kapoor style to welcome a classmate who enters wearing glares. It is such a blend of keenly observed childhoods, humour and imagination that it creates magic on screen.

Several movies at MAMI received a standing ovation. For Killa, however, it did not stop at that. People just stood as the credits rolled over and then did not know what to do with themselves after the credits have rolled over. They wanted more. They wanted to relive their childhoods just a wee bit longer.

(A crime reporter on a sabbatical,  Mohamed Thaver loves well created worlds – on screen, on pages or musical notes. His blog is here)

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

’71

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.

Court

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.

@nagrathnam

Theeb

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.

Girlhood

 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.

Demons

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.

Theeb

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?

@Shubhodeep

Court

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.

@neeraja

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.

jahanbakshi

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.

Amma and appa

What’s the time in your world?

(Dir: Safi Yazdanian, Iran): A rare Irani film that paid more attention to aesthetics, form, and style over plot. And what a delight this anomaly turned out to be! Dealing with memories of Goli (played by enchanting Leila Hatami of ‘A Separation’ fame) who has returned to Iran after many years in France, the film opens up more into a poetry piece. Abstract imagery, dialogue that feel like snatches from a dream (non-sequitar, funny, puzzling), stunning frames & playback music, and the bitter-sweet play of fractured memories – all combined to make it a demanding but genuinely rewarding watch. Goli meets a man (played by Ali Mosaffa, the lucky real-life husband of Leila Hatami) on her return who seems to remember a lot about her while she doesn’t recognise him at all and most of the film is about the relationship these two people share – which to me looked like our relationship with nostalgia. The way we avoid the past and the way it still pops out from every corner of a city that was ours once but not anymore is portrayed through multiple metaphors.

The film reminded me a bit of another Leila Hatami starrer, Ali Mosaffa directed ‘The Last Step’ which I watched at Osian’s Fest a few years ago. Another abstract (though that had a well-defined plot), stylised, brilliant Irani film which never made it to the (as Mihir Fadnavis puts it) ‘communist shores of torrents’.

@varungrover

Vessel

Diana Whitten’s debut documentary Vessel is a empowering story of a bunch of women helping women to have safe abortion on ship lead by the rebellious Dutch Physician Rebecca Gomperts under the pro abortion rights organization ‘Women on waves’.  These women challenge and fight law (that makes abortion illegal in most of European countries), society, religion and God that doesn’t allow a woman basic human right of what is happening with their bodies. As they sail with the ‘Murder Vessel’ through shores of Ireland, Poland, Portugal they face extremes reactions by the church, the ‘pro life human’, older and younger men and women, and negative publicity by the press citing their practice as illegal. The Portuguese government even forbids them from entering their national water because they are ‘threat to the country’. The meltdown moments are when you are exposed to real words of women who are begging to get rid of life within them that only means suffering in their respective circumstance. As one says ‘I feel terrible.. Am I a monster? I cant have the baby’. Some are raped, some deserted by man, some don’t want it. Their choice.

No! Abortion is not murder and these women are not fascists and terrorists, the sobriquet awarded to them. At what point in this patriarchal society did man convince women that she can be as emancipated as possible, but eventually a child makes her life complete, even in the liberated first world. The high point in the film is when the fiery Gomperts states, ‘to change the world, you have to be offensive’ and struts her SAFE ABORTION banner right under the nose of The Virgin statue at El panecillo. Yes! Mary, the virgin mother.

My body! My right! So f*** you if your religion and law has a problem with that.

Elephant Song

Charles Biname adapts Nicholas Billon’s play ‘Elephant song’ in an engaging suspense drama that tells an intriguing tale of a lunatic patient, Michael playing a psychological game with an Asylum psychiatrist when a colleague goes missing. The story unfolds to explain why “hope is the worst thing you can give a child if you can’t keep up your words”. A traumatic childhood incident explains Michael’s fascination with Elephants. A song that reminds him of his mother that ignored him for better things in life.

He lets her die and sings the Elephant song to her in her last moments. The translation to Elephant song would be my favorite words by Poet Philip larkin’s ‘This be the verse’

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

@shazarch

Amma & Appa

Stop motion, Illayaraja’s music, German bride & Tamil groom, Love marriage, candid Meet the Parents situations, 8mm footage, a real story. A hybrid documentary with beshumaar entertaining, endearing moments & more masala than some of our films. Take a bow Dear Franziska & Jai. Jaykrishnan. Jay’s mother should be cast NOW in more films. Highly recco’d.

Elephant Song 

Though everyone criticized Xavier Dolan’s acting, I didn’t particularly find his performance as ‘hammy’. A psychiatrist has to work with a patient to unearth info about a missing colleague, while the film also intercuts to flashbacks, multiple pov and an interrogation. This one was pretty riveting thriller with twists unfolding at each turn. Though I felt Bruce greenwood could have been a ‘stronger’ character. And it’s always a pleasure to see Carie Ann Moss & Catherine Keener.

Field of Dogs

The mindfuck trailer notwithstanding – this film delivered little as compared to the promises it made. Politics, Literature, Dystopian lifestyle, Dreams, impressive visuals (especially like the hal chalana scene in a supermarket alley – capitalism ki maa ki aankh probably) – the film has so much going for it but it crosses the line and becomes over indulgent and soporific. I will be grateful to someone who explains me the point of this film.

United Passions

The making of FIFA federation – from it’s inception nearly a century ago to 2010 where South Africa was nominated as the venue of the next World cup – this one is an episodic film with three protagonists -a passionate Gerard Depardieu, Sam Neill (yes yes Jurassic Park wala banda) and a greasy Tim Roth. With montages punctuating the screenplay, it is hard at times to follow the ‘story’ and one cannot help but marvel at the production design and scale of this big budgeted biopic of sorts. As someone who is not a football fan, I quite enjoyed this film – however disjointed it might have been.

@nagrathnam

Field of Dogs

Lech Majewski’s follow up to the masterful “The Mill and the Cross” is an absolute disappointment. The indulgence is not even the problem here. The problem in my opinion is the verbose nature of philosophising randomness to form a story. Visually as well as thematically it had a lot going for it but sadly it’s a mess.
Optional end: What a waste of time (and for many others, joints)

@mihirbdesai

The Good Lie

The story of Africa is not one that can be told simply. Neither is it a simple story.The Good Lie unfortunately tries hard to simplify it and even achieves that. Communities and families are destroyed in the Second Civilian War of Sudan while a bunch of kids manage to escape and find shelter in a refugee camp where they spend 13 years waiting for an opportunity to get away to better pastures. They are finally sent to the US where they are helped with home and jobs. And after a point family reunions as well. Melodramatic, simplistic and populist, the film takes no stand moral or political to the closer conflict or the larger context of colonisation. What begins as a hopefully refreshing and Chinua Achebe-like empathic peek into the lives of native Africans quickly becomes a tear-jerking saga of poor Africans needing to be saved by the white men. The only difference is in the past it was the British, now it is the Americans. The film seems to have bought the white man’s burden so seriously it even shifts points of views completely at one point and turns the African into a Suppandi-like simpletons, poor archaic villagers totally clueless of the awesomely progressive and modern Western world – the Holy Grail. I could have forgiven the populism and melodrama and even simplistic nature of writing if not for this, because the performances and relationship dynamics were indeed moving. But, then there are somethings that cannot be excused and one of them is a warped world-view.

Beloved Sisters

A long drawn-out but meticulously crafted rhapsody of love, longing and betrayal. It is based on the speculated relationship between German writer-poet Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805) and the Lengfeld sisters. An out and out period piece that does not allow the limitations of its genre to constrict its form and hence making it a delightfully rich film. It is set in the post-Enlightenment period of Europe and the society is in transition. Education is increasing and literature is flourishing as technology is advancing. This constantly changing backdrop makes for a fabulously apt context for the love-lifes of the sisters and Schiller, all three in love with the idea of love and its consequent pain that travel its arduous ups and downs bravely. The long-winded film (and the length does get taxing after a point) traces the relationships of each, the almost incestuous passion of the sisters for each other, and their relationship with Schiller over time gently and with care, never taking sides and never easing a blow, be it in portraying the intensity of passion or pain. It is gorgeously mounted, almost like an Impressionist painting without overdoing the glamour or allowing it to overpower the content which is beautifully supported by its lead actors. However, and this is a grouse, a film about letters and of men of letters takes words too seriously and speaks to us a lot, first through third-person voice-overs then first person and even resorting at one point at having the characters speak to the camera (which is actually interesting especially for a period film.) After a point, there is too much information and too much of talking for us to really feel the grandness of the love between the three or the pain of the lost promises never to be fulfilled..

Killa

Shall I call it heart-warming? Moving? Funny? Intuitively innocent yet understanding? There isn’t one word because Killa is so much more than these words. It is the journey of a boy grappling with the death of his father two years back and the consequent constant change of environment. It is the story of his mother, a single woman, gritty and upright, determined to ensure she is now the father and mother to her only son. It is also the story of struggle and survival fo very common people-children and aged alike, of human triumph, of courage, friendship, loyalty and finding light at the end of the tunnel…Beautifully shot and heartfelt in every detail, Killa is a fabulous directorial debut of Avinash Arun, a cinematography graduate from FTII who is known back home for his humility and gentleness among other things. And among peers in the industry for his cinematic acumen and talent. I will not shy away from saying I was proud to be watching a sparkling debut of one my alumnus but rest assured, the cheering was strictly because it was so well-deserved.

 – @Fattiemama

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.

Killa

DAY 1

Two Days, One Night

Dardenne Brothers. Superb premise, stunning Marion Cotillard, Dardenne brothers venturing into a near-thriller zone, and managing to keep us hooked for most of its duration. The last act was a bit of a downer, but overall, another terrific, depressing, human drama on European working class. Just that as Indians (and cinema audience in general), seeing Marion Cotillard as a down with depression, stuck in poverty mother of two kids takes some amount of suspension of disbelief.

@varungrover

KILLA

A stunningly assured directorial debut from cinematographer Avinash Arun. Nostalgia, childhood, parenthood, loss, friendship, school all captured in gorgeous detail. Never before has an Indian film about a bunch of kids been so immersive. Terrific performances from Archit Deodhar as a child trying to cope with constant change and Amruta Subhash as his single mother. Cherry on top is the minimalistic music by Naren Chandavarkar.

SCHIMBARE

What would you do if your loved one were terminally ill? How far would you go to save her? Would you take the life of someone else to save her’s? How noble would that be? These questions are explored to brutal levels in the Spanish film Schimbare. Through the eyes of a truly desperate couple (played by Candela Pena and Luis Zahera) we’re taken on an existential dilemma wrought with manic depression, blood, murder, illegal organ transplants and kidnapping. Not for the faint hearted, but certainly a feast for hard boiled film buffs.

@mihirfadnavis

In Between Worlds
The film tries to give a balanced portrayal of war-torn Afghanistan and succeeds to some extent. It is the story of a German commander torn between his conscience and the military protocol. The interwoven story of the Afghani brother and sister is touching. There are moments where one feel that there is also an unmistakable element of “white man’s burden”. An incident regarding the shooting of a cow by the German soldiers is particularly illustrative of the fact that they are trying to dictate terms on some else’s land. More than the story, it is the ragged visuals of the landscape that affect you. Those multiple shots of huge army tanks ravaging the terrain reminded me of Sahir’s lines:
खामोश ज़मीं के सीने में, खैमों की तनाबें गड़ने लगीं
मक्खन-सी मुलायम राहों पर बूटों की खराशें पड़ने लगीं
फौजों के भयानक बैंड तले चर्खों की सदायें डूब गईं
जीपों की सुलगती धूल तले फूलों की क़बायें डूब गईं

Schimbare

Set in a mansion for the most part – the film suffocates you. It’s a dark tale of a desperate couple going to extremes to save their child. The film sort of starts off by asking – Why are we okay to commit a morally ambiguous/wrong act as long as we don’t have to get our own hands dirty? What happens when we can no longer keep our hands clean? The grim setting, absence of background music and some rather depressing scenes (like the one involving a magic show by a criminal, or the little girl eating out of trash) make it a difficult watch. Unfortunately the scenes involving the couple and their struggle to come to terms with their decision are too long, slow and repetitive. They test your patience. The film, however, picks up towards the end and really delivers.

Killa

Stunning, moving and an absolute delight! It takes you back to your childhood, to those simpler times. It deals with multiple themes of loss, parenthood, friendship which are all part of growing up. I know it’s too early to say, but this is probably the best film you will see at MFF.

@NeerajaTurtle

She’s lost control

Lonely Ronah (Brooke Bloom) is doing her Masters in Behavioural Psychology and working with a psychiatrist to treat patients with intimacy issues. Sex is not our of bounds here, in fact the cultivation of an emotional and physical relationship is a part of the process of healing. Ronah’s life is strewn with such incidents and she is somehow managing her loneliness. Until one day. The slow progression of Ronah’s descent into breakdown is subtle yet feelingly traced. The minimalist and cold composition replete with burnt out or dark frames and myriad cutaways create the distance the characters feel between themselves. Ronah’s journey builds from a self assured woman to a battered one in smooth progression leaving us wondering what is in store for her now…

@Fattiemama

Over Your Dead Body

by Takashi miike – is probably something that both Miike fans and non Miike fans should watch. The film is about actors rehearsing a folklore story based play, who end up recreating the scenes into their real lives. Could’ have delivered more on the horror quotient, and laid less emphasis on the culture/subtext (which was lost on me I confess) but still – body horror fans and blood/gore lovers should be satisfied.

In Between Worlds
– I’m sure that the politics of the film will be questioned, but still the film works as a pure humane drama and a War thriller. A takedown of a car particularly & a couple of other scenes reminded me of Apocalypse Now’s puppy scene. Plus the detailing – an engineering clsss has 20 odd male students and 3 female students, etc. The lead is particularly effective sympathetic character and you feel sorry for the other guy (Tariq – the translator) too. Now that is something difficult to achieve in a War film. Nothing is black or white – that is the best part of this film

Schimbare

– a Robert De niro lookalike Hero & a brilliant self destructive heroine as the protagonists of this journey film, this is a slow intense film which tugs your patience but rewards you towards the last 20-30 min. The central premise is only spelled out in the last act, and if you forgive the film’s 60 minutes (setup and characters’ time) – it goes onto drag the rug beneath your feet; all the while establishing the ’cause’ as well. Not to forget – there are several single take scenes in this one. It’s a sad sad situation the world is in when ‘nice’ people have to resort to not so nice steps for a nice cause. Watch this film. Highly recco’d

Fever

– What a brilliant premise. Two teenagers murder an old woman. No motive, but aivain. And a young woman who happens to catch them running away. But then ? Disappointment at not being able to take the premise to fruit. Shot and performed well, this one makes you wonder – what was the point of the film ? Did the director cop out ? I’m sure the murder (not shown in the film) must have been a kickass scene in isolation. But even if the director had shown it, the film must have been a disappointment. No Sir. We want more than just the teenage killers mouthing references of famous historical figures killing off a person to achieve the victim list as a rounded off figure (from 69 to 70). We wanted more drama sir.

She’s Lost Control

– Another film with great premise. A student of masters in psychologist whose job is to resolve her clients’ ‘intimacy issues’ by eventually sleeping with them. That in itself is an arresting premise/character. But then the film tells you something that you already can guess. Despite the lead’s sparkling performance, you might feel disappointed after watching the film.

P.S – those injection shots were insulin or heroine ?
P.P.S – If you are an investigator/doctor – never get too involved with the subject/patient.

@nagrathnam

Charlie’s Country

This movie confirms the fact that Australian filmmakers can never disappoint. Easily the best of day (out of 2 Days, 1 Night and Boyhood) Charlie an Aboriginal man living in Australia starts feeling distant from his own land and is in constant struggle to adapt with the new way of things. The silence here works because of the well thought out cinematographic frames. At crucial points the way the character is presented (framed) says a lot about how the country treats aboriginals as outcasts and ‘foreigners.’ As grim as this may sound you will be surprised by the how the director injects humour in the darkest of situations. Finally, what really takes the film to a whole new level is David Gulpilil’s extraordinary performance. His Cannes best actor win is absolutely well deserved.

@mihirbdesai