It’s that time of year again when the Jio MAMI Film Festival rolls back into town, now in its 19th edition. As always, the festival boasts of another rousing roster of films in this year’s line-up with 223 titles from 49 countries in 51 languages, screened over 7 days in 7 locations across the city.
This year’s festivities, taking place between the 12th to the 18th of October, has some welcome changes to the week-long feast of films. Chief among them being that this year people can purchase single day and weekend passes in addition to full festival passes, allowing those who are unable to attend the entirety of festival to still partake in the rapturous movie-watching.
The other big change is that the "Movie Mela" - a day-long series of panel discussions and interviews with Hindi film stars and filmmakers - will take place on October 7th before the fest officially kicks off. This means that no longer will attendees have to choose between film screenings and watching live discussions with their favourite film folk. This year’s "Movie Mela" includes a conversation with Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and Karan Johar, a session withVidya Balan, a discussion with popular composing duo Vishal-Shekhar, a director's panel, as well as a session with the cast of Rohit Shetty’s upcoming Golmaal Again.
As always MAMI will also host an array of international stars this year including actress Monica Belluci who is due to be honoured with a special award. Director John Madden, who helmed the Oscar winning Shakespeare In Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel films will serve as head of the international jury. He will be joined by Indian actor, filmmaker and all-around national treasure Konkona Sen Sharma, celebrated Mexican cinematographer Alexis Zabe, Chinese-American actress Celina Jade and Argentinian writer-director Santiago Mitre.
While the final few big-ticket titles are still being announced, the majority of the line-up has been released across categories such as India Gold – a competition section for Indian feature films, International Competition – showcasing the work of debut filmmakers from the world over, and World Cinema – featuring the Indian premieres of the some of the most acclaimed films from all over the world.
Outlook India will be providing daily coverage and reviews from the festival this year. Listed below, in no particular order, are this writer’s top picks of the films to look forward to most this festive season. This piece will be updated as and when you new films and events are announced.
This year’s official opening film, Anurag Kashyap’s sports drama is one he has called his most political film till date. Mukkabaaz stars Vineeth Kumar (previously seen in Kashyap’s own Ugly and Bombay Talkies segment) and Jimmy Shergill. Produced by Anand L Rai, the film delves into the India’s broken and corrupt sporting system and explores the prominence of caste politics. Mukkabaaz received a warm reception at the Toronto International Film Festival and this will be its official Asia premiere.
2) The Square
This year’s Palme d'Or-winner at Cannes. Need I really say more? From Swedish writer-director Ruben Ostlund, the film centres on the mishaps that ensue when the curator of a renowned Swedish museum hires a public relations team to promote the museum. The film also stars the recent Emmy-winning Elizabeth Moss (The Handmaiden’s Tale). Beyond that, the wonderfully intriguing and comically absurd trailer entirely speaks for itself.
3) Last Flag Flying
The latest from Richard Linklater. Sold yet? The Boyhood and Before trilogy director teams up with the compelling cast of Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne in a comedy-drama based on a novel of the same name. The film tells of a man who reunites with his old friends 30 years after serving together in Vietnam, in order to bury his son, a marine killed in Iraq. Last Flag Flying had its world premiere a mere week ago at the New York Film Festival. Hat’s off to the MAMI team for what is undoubtedly a great grab.
4) Signature Move
A lesbian rom-com between a Muslim Pakistani-American and a Mexican. Oh, and did I mention both women are wrestlers? Suffice to say this film had me at hello with what may well be one of my favourite trailers from this year’s line-up. The film from director Jennifer Reeder boasts of a wonderfully exciting mix of elements, dealing with issues of sexuality, identity and a clash of cultures. Throw in Shabana Azmi as the central character’s conservative Pakistani mother and I am sold.
5) Call Me By Your Name
Every year we see a handful of films set the global festival circuit on fire, emerging as among the most discussed and appreciated films of the year and Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me By Your Name is just that. Set in 1983, the film tells of a young man who becomes increasingly taken by a graduate student (played by Armie Hammer) who comes to stay with his family in northern Italy. Together the two men share a budding romance and embark on a journey of self-discovery.
6) A Suitable Girl
Source – Indiegogo
A documentary from filmmakers Smriti Mundhra and Sarita Khurana which explores the institution of arranged marriages in India, A Suitable Girl premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. The film follows the lives of three Indian women and their families over a 4-year period and examines the pressures and harsh realities of what it means to be a woman in India. Put simply, a film that feels too relevant and important to be missed. You can watch the film’s trailer here.
7) The Party
Damn that cast. A British comedy from director Sally Potter, which stars Emily Mortimer, Patricia Clarkson, Cillian Murphy, Timothy Spall and Kristin Scott Thomas among others. The black and white movie follows a celebration among friends which quickly escalates into crisis. The trailer promises a thoroughly enjoyable romp of high-energy madness that just can’t be passed up.
8) City Of Ghosts
The horrific realities of the Syrian crisis have been the subject of many fantastic pieces of cinema, many of which do a far better job of capturing the country’s disturbing journey than most news reports. Matthew Heineman’s City Of Ghosts promises to do just that, following the lives of the brave citizen journalists who report on the horrors around them at grave risk to their own lives from ISIS. The film in many ways looks like a spiritual sequel to last year’s absolutely stellar The War Show (one of the best documentaries I’ve seen) which depicted the decimation of the Syrian nation from the perspective of its people.
9) Ask The Sexpert
An absolutely ingenious premise for a documentary, so much so that it’s a wonder no one’s thought of it before. Dr Mahindra Vatsa’s Ask The Sexpert advice column of the India’s Mirror newspaper has quickly become a cultural phenomenon and the subject of many a hilarious Buzzfeed listicle. Director Vaishali Sinha sets out to document the comically absurd column from the perspective of average people and Dr Vatsa himself. Suffice to say, a film I refuse to miss.
I’m personally quite the sucker for movies made about the film industry and Nothingwood explores what appears one of the most interesting. The film follows prolific Afghani filmmaker and movie star Salim Shaheen and takes a look at the state of the barely-there film industry of Afghanistan. What does it take to make movies in the absence of any sort of structured film industry or resources? Sonia Kronlund’s Nothingwood offers a perspective and a window into another nation.
11) In The Shadows (Gali Guliyan)
Source- Mumbai Film Festival
A clear Mano Bajpayee show all the way, In The Shadows is a psychological drama from debutant director Dipesh Jain about a man who is trapped within city walls and his own mind. The film also stars Ranvir Shorey and Shahana Goswami and had its premiere at the Busan Film Festival.
12) The Third Murder
From acclaimed director Hirokazu Koreeda, The Third Murder is a thriller which follows a murder investigation where nothing is what it seems, with a prime suspect who keeps changing his story making for a captivating puzzle. The film offers an intensely absorbing trailer and here’s hoping the film does the same.
Source - Pandolin
The next from Haraamkhor-director Shlok Sharma and India’s first film shot entirely on an iPhone 6S. Produced by Anurag Kashyap, the film stars Swetha Tripathi and Shashank Arora and follows the lives of a group of people trapped in their own hell. Zoo features a drug addict, a drug-peddling waiter and two Dharavi rappers looking to change the world in a film shot all over Mumbai. Consider my curiosity aroused.
14) Spoor (Pokot)
What looks to be a riveting crime drama from director Agnieszka Holland, Spoor is a murder mystery revolving around a number of killings in a small Polish village which appear to have been committed by wild animals. Adapted from a novel by Olga Tokarczuk, Spoor promises a gripping crime story with almost fairy-tale like elements. The film had its premiere at the Berlin International Film Festival and this would be its Asia premiere.
15) Village Rockstars
Director Rima Das is a one-woman band. She served as writer, director, producer, editor, cinematographer and art director of this sweet little film which opened to rave reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film is centred around Dhunu, a young girl in a small village in Northeast India who dreams of one day buying a guitar and having her own rock band. Dhunu dares to dream in a world where millions of girls like her are made to give up on theirs. Village Rockstars has all the signs of one of those small, unassuming gems which entirely steals your heart.
16) Patti Cake$
Another little film that’s making waves the world over, Patti Cake$ provides a rarely seen perspective of life in the US. Not unlike the previous title on this list, it follows a girl who comes from something of an impoverished background and dreams of making it big with her music, specifically rapping. Vulture.com called the film a "Sundance charmer" and described it as perhaps "the most endearing surprise," of the Sundance Film Festival (where it had its premiere).
17) The Florida Project
A further example of a film whose young female protagonist (in this case a 6-year-old girl) is stealing hearts and minds all over. The Florida Project comes from acclaimed filmmaker Sean Baker whose previous film Tangerine became something of a cult hit. The movie follows around 6-year-old Moonee who lives in a motel with her mother. Despite her harsh surroundings, Moonee’s is filled with mischief and adventure in the midst of her mother’s endless ordeal to make end’s meat. The film also stars Willem Dafoe in what many are calling a career-best performance. I dare your insides not to melt with that trailer.
18) The Hungry
Naseeruddin Shah, the vastly under-discussed Neeraj Kabi and Tisca Chopra, all in a Shakespearean adaptation? Just take my money already. Based on Shakespeare’s lesser-known Titus Andronicus,The Hungry is set within the midst of two wealthy families who get tangled in a web of deceit and murder. The film had its premiere at Toronto and is now making its way closer to home with this, its Indian Premiere.
In what looks to be one of the most unique cinematic experiences this year’s line-up has to offer, Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto features Cate Blanchett portraying 13 distinct characters that incorporate timeless manifestos from 20th-century art movements. You can’t say you’re not the least bit curious. Let’s just hope it proves to be more satisfying then self-indulgent.
The latest from director Todd Haynes (Carol) which met with rave reviews from Cannes. The film follows the quest of two different children from different eras who yearn for their lives to be different. Both set out on grand quests in search of what they’re missing. Based on the novel by Brian Selznick, the film also stars Julianne Moore.
21) 24 Frames
Source - Indiewire
The final film from the late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami who passed away last year, 24 Frames is an experimental project. The 2-hour long drama is a collection of 24 short films inspired by still images, paintings and photographs. The film premiered at Cannes and is the final work of one of the most celebrated filmmakers of all time which is reason enough for it to demand your attention.
Source – Deccan Chronicle
A story about an 8-year-old in love with an older woman and wants nothing more than to be taken seriously. The Anand L Rai-produced curious love story could well be one of those unassuming, wonderful little treasures which delves into the innocence and purity of children. Nimmo comes from debutant director Rahul Shanklya and is rumoured to have a cameo by Dhanush.
22) The Valley
The trailer paints the picture of a powerful, heartbreaking and deeply moving tale about suicide and trying to understand why. The Valley is equally a tale of discovery, as Silicon Valley CEO Neal Kumar goes on a journey to understand what led his daughter to take such drastic steps through which he learns as much about himself as he does about his deceased daughter. Debutant director’s Sailar Kariat film won Best Original Screenplay at the Madrid International Film Festival and Best Feature Film at Long Island International Film Expo.
23) What Will People Say
What Will People Say looks to me to be one of those harrowing and at times disturbing films which makes for difficult viewing but one which feels too important to pass up. The story follows aspirited 16-year-old Pakistani girl, Nisha, who is made to leave her home in Norway and is forcibly taken back to Pakistan when her traditional father catches her with her boyfriend. Nisha must learn how to live in exile and go from a liberal life to a far more submissive and controlled lifestyle in small town Pakistan. What Will People Say is a timely film about female oppression and enforced tradition and is too relevant to ignore.
Finally, in closing, two films which I hope to watch if I manage to muster the courage (I wouldn’t bet on it) :
You must be living under a rock if you haven’t heard of this one, a film which has many desperately looking for a rock to hide under after watching it. Darren Aronofsky’s Mother might well be the single most discussed movie in the world right now due the extremely polarising reactions it is evoking in people. The Jennifer Lawrence, Javier Bardem-led psychological horror/thriller is a must-watch, if anything just to see which side of the fence you stand on.
Devashish Makhija has long been the flag-bearer of the Indian short-film scene. Here the talented filmmaker is making his feature film debut with rape revenge drama Ajji, revolving around a 65-year-old grandmother who seeks revenge on the rapists of her 9-year-old granddaughter. It took me a while to get this haunting trailer out of my system.
Special mention also of Anup Singh’s The Song Of Scorpions, Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country, Dave McCarey’s Brigsby Bear, Jonathan Olshefski’s Quest and Rahul Jain’s Machines, all of which I also hope to catch schedule-permitting. Visit www.mumbaifilmfestival.com for the programme and www.bookmyshow.com to get your passes. See you at MAMI!