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Festival Madness Hits Mumbai

MAMI's 11th MFF
by Abhishek Bandekar

The Mumbai Academy of Moving Images (MAMI) kicked off the Mumbai Film Festival (MFF), this past Thursday night (29/10) in Mumbai. With Relianceís Big Entertainment sponsoring the event, this has meant an increase in the number of screening venues and more importantly a whopping number of films being showcased. Close to 200 films, this 11th MFF is an abundance of riches.

The opening film was the Steven Soderbergh directed, and the Matt Damon starrer, The Informant. Based on the true events surrounding Mark Whitacre, a high-ranking corporate executive who acted as an FBI informant, this dark comedy attempts to understand his bipolar personality.

Friday saw Sharmila Tagore and Prasoon Joshi attending the festival. One of the early films to draw favourable crowd attention was Sally Potterís fashion industry satire-cum-mystery Rage. The film is known to be the first ever film to premiere across cell phones.

The other crowd-pullers were Ajami and Fish Tank. Ajami is an Israeli film that touches upon the grim fatality of those living in Israel-Palestine. Directed jointly by an Israeli and a Palestinian, the film draws a rather meandering Inarritu-style multiple narrative and timeline structure, but is otherwise impressive for its raw performances and gritty violence. Fish Tank, by Andrea Arnold, is an impressive feature about a young English teenager caught between her hatred for her bottle-blonde wreck of a mother, her feelings for her momís young lover and her dreams of becoming a freestyle dancer. Like most British contemporary social dramas, the film is rich in texture.

Another UK film that vowed was the Armando Iannucci directed political satire In The Loop. An array of British and American talents gel effectively in this what-if horror-comedy of sorts when a rather harmless but seemingly tactless remark by a middle-ranking British Government Minister is blown out of proportions, resulting in the UK and the US meeting at the UN to decide whether they should attack a certain Middle East nation!

Psychological dramas for the day were Paul Schraderís Adam Resurrected and Federico Bondiís Mar Nero (Black Sea). Schraderís film stars Jeff Goldblum as an extraordinary inmate at an Israeli asylum, one who has magical gifts but a dreadful past. His days in the German concentration camp come to haunt him when he meets a kid at the asylum who behaves like a dog. Mar Nero is a languorous affecting tale about an old irritable Italian cynical woman and her young bright Romanian caregiver.

Saturday, things didnít hit off on quite the right note. The Andrzej Wajda film Tatarak (Sweet Rush), which had a large audience turnout, had problems because of a faulty projector. This led to some of its audience going over to Kaige Chenís Mei Lanfang, an epic Chinese drama about the titular Opera performer who was known to play female parts. A sumptuous treat, Mei Lanfang turned out to be the best film of the festival so far. Perhaps this set the tone for the day. The films that people ended up seeing unplanned turned out to be pleasant surprises than those that came with hype and acclaim.

Brillante Mendozaís Kinatay for one had the biggest turnout, with people sitting on the aisles and Anurag Kashyap wading his way through a sea of crowd, but it failed to impress. So brutally violent and nihilistic was the film that some people walked off after the lengthily gross sequence of a prostitute being raped and then mutilated began to keep going on and on.

Instead Welcome, an unknown little French film by Philippe Lioret, about an Iraqi boy who enlists the help of a swimming instructor to teach him to swim so that he can cross the English Channel and meet his girlfriend in London was heartbreakingly wonderful.

Pascal Alex Vincentís Donne-Moi La Main (Give Me Your Hand), a story of twin brothers on a road-trip to attend the funeral of their mother whom they never met was a decent road-flick, with little profundity. It boasts of a fabulous background score though, and at just over 75 minutes is an easy watch.

The retrospectives this year will include films of directors Theo Angelopoulos & Paul Schrader, and actor Shashi Kapoor.

Keep an eye out for the coverage on the remainder of the festival.

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originally posted: 11/04/09 04:09:20
last updated: 11/07/09 19:54:22
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