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Closing days at the Mumbai Film Festival and the Awards

The curtain falls on the 11th MFF
by Abhishek Bandekar

A glittering array of Bollywood and international celebrities assembled for the closing award ceremony of the Mumbai Academy of Moving Images’ (MAMI) 11th Mumbai Film Festival (MFF) on Thursday night at the posh JW Marriott.

Before that, on the penultimate day at the MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, almost every film was hitting it out of the park, with Adrián Biniez’s Argentinian flick Gigante making a strong claim for the top honours in the International Competition category. Gigante follows a plus-sized security guard’s daily dull routine at a supermarket and his harmless obsession with an appealing female co-worker. With almost little to no dialogue, Gigante succeeds as a sweet tale that works effectively in no less measure because of Horacio Camandule’s terrific lead performance- a silent lived-in act that does much without really doing anything at all.

Robert Kenner’s Food Inc., a documentary exposing the ‘truth’ behind what we eat is not a film the festival should’ve scheduled just before lunch. A hard-hitting exposé, the infotainer throws up startling revelations about the American (and global) meat & food industry and what really constitutes our fast-food. Perhaps the most interesting information the feature doles out is the amount of corn that is produced and used in almost every food, drink and domestic article that we use…from sauces to colas to diapers even!

An equally entertaining non-fiction feature was Atanas Giorgiev’s Cash & Marry. A mockumentary, Cash & Marry follows the director and his friend making a documentary about the Green-Card marriages that take place in Austria. As Macedonians, the filmmaker and his friend try to ‘buy’ a bride, their hilarious incidents laying bare the immigration policies of Austria and the inherent flaw in the structure of the European Union.

Nunta Muta (Silent Wedding), continued the humorous vein forward. But this Romanian feature, which has the most unusual tone in that it starts off being bizarrely eerie and then goes on to become a period piece with atypical humour, left the audiences laughing hard and crying even harder by the end of it. A truly inspired comedy, the film captures a small Romanian village trying to go ahead with a wedding in the wake of Stalin’s death despite them being forbidden from having any celebration. The villagers then devise a way out…to have a ‘silent’ wedding. The band is present, but they only act as if they’re playing music; wine-glasses clink, but without touching each other; hands clap, but don’t meet! Yash Chopra, sitting in the crowd, was blown away, like everyone else, by this virtuoso display of filmmaking that succeeds on so many levels- metaphorically, politically, socially and most importantly, cinematically. The film of the festival!

The final day of screening at the fest saw a massive turnout with people hoping to soak in the atmosphere before the curtains come down on the event. Sadly the films on the last day didn’t quite match the level of excitement. Edward Zwick’s Defiance, about a group of Jewish people who fought back the Nazis in Belarus, was a standard Hollywood flick- high on technical substance, but low on creative merit. West Of Pluto (Henry Bernadet & Myriam Verreault), about the lives of teens in a French-Candian suburb, tricks you into believing that it is a documentary…but once it establishes its plot, the façade drops. Vincere (Marco Bellochio) sounded extremely interesting on paper- a woman who cannot prove to the world that she is the mother of Mussolini’s bastard child. The film itself however left the audiences divided, most finding it only so-so.

Il Divo (Paulo Sorrentino) then, a well-made biopic from the previous night on former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti, was still the best bet as it pulled in a repeat screening. Of Time And The City (Terrence Davies), a Proustian ode to Liverpool, also had its share of admirers.

Also, the day seemed jinxed for some reason. Vincere’s screening was apparently cancelled, then not, then cancelled again and finally screened! The documentary Nobody’s Perfect (Niko Von Glasow) was substituted at the last minute with Between Hip-Hop And Kalashnikov (Stefanie Landgraf & Johannes Gulde). But the projector had some issues. When that was resolved, the sound system failed. If that weren’t bad enough, two screens had to be shut down as their projectors broke down. This meant that Theo Angelopoulos’ recent I Skoni Tou Hronou (The Dust Of Time) could only be screened at two screens, leading to serpentine queues and auditoriums packed like sardines in a can. The film is a fantastic exploration of time and its two effects- nostalgia and regret. The film boasts of a fabulous performance by Bruno Ganz, and a solid turn by Willem Dafoe. Dafoe curiously has featured in two other films in this fest, the controversial Von Trier film Antichrist, and Paul Schrader’s Adam Resurrected. The fella’s been doing good work!

The closing award ceremony followed. The biggest winner of the night was Dominic Murphy’s White Lightnin’. The UK-Croatia production, a crazy violent trippy film about the Appalachian step-dancer Jesco ‘The Dancing Outlaw’ White, was adjudged the Best Film and its leading male performance by debut British actor Edward Hogg earned the Best Actor award. The international jury headed by acclaimed writer-director Paul Schrader, who was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement Award and whose retrospective was showcased at the festival, selected White Lightnin’ for the Golden Gateway of India Award since it incredibly traverses the heart of darkness. Hogg earned kudos for lending humanity to an otherwise profaned and unlikeable character.

Gigante, a sweet tale of harmless obsession, garnered its director, the Argentinian Adrián Biniez, the Best Director Silver Gateway of India Award.

Paprika Steen won the Best Actress for her touching portrayal of an acclaimed actress coming out of rehab in the Danish film Applaus, directed by Martin Zandvliet.

The Grand Jury prize went to the Austria-Italy film La Pivellina (The Little One), a film about a circus woman who finds an abandoned two year old girl. The director duo, Rainer Frimmel and Tizza Covi, intended to tell a courageous tale of outcast in present day Italy.

The Young Film Critics’ choice for the Best Film was Kurdish director Shahram Alidi’s Sirta La Gal Ba (Whisper With The Wind), which many had expected to pick up the main honours as well.

The other films in the competitive categories included The Day Will Come (Susanne Schneider), Here (Tzu Nyen Ho), Huacho (Alejandro Almendras), Katalin Varga (Peter Strickland), La Tigra Chaco (Federico Godfrid & Juan Sasiain), Rail Truck (Hirofumi Kawaguchi), Wrong Rosary (Mahmut Fazil Coskun) and the Konkani language film The Man Beyond The Bridge (Laxmikant Shetgaonkar).

Amit Rai’s Road To Sangam (Road To Confluence), an affecting story of a Muslim car mechanic entrusted, at a time of communal unrest, with the job of repairing a car that once carried the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi, won the Audience Choice Award for the Best Film.

Greek filmmaker Theo Angelopoulos was fêted with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Veteran Bollywood actor Shashi Kapoor was also conferred the laurel. A special presentation was also made observing Amitabh Bachchan’s four decades and Navketan Films’ 60 years in the film industry.

My own personal choices for the festival are as follows-

Top Ten Films-
01) Nunta Muta (Silent Wedding) dir- Horatiu Malaele
A truly inspired comedy, the film captures a small Romanian village trying to go ahead with a wedding in the wake of Stalin’s death despite them being forbidden from having any celebration.

02) Mei Lanfang (Forever Enthralled) dir- Chen Kaige
An epic Chinese drama about an Opera performer who was known to play female parts.

03) Sirta La Gal Ba (Whisper With The Wind) dir- Shahram Alidi
An overwhelmingly evocative film about an old postman who delivers recorded voice-messages from village to village.

04) Yang Yang dir- Cheng Yu Chieh
About an Eurasian girl who can’ quite get the Taiwanese society around her let her forget that she’s half-French, questioning her inability to speak the language.

05) In The Loop dir- Armando Iannucci
A 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!

06) Gigante dir- Adrian Biniez
A plus-sized security guard’s daily dull routine at a supermarket and his harmless obsession with an appealing female co-worker.

07) I Skoni Tou Hronou (The Dust Of Time) dir- Theo Angelopoulos
An exploration of time and its two effects- nostalgia and regret.

08) Fish Tank dir- Andrea Arnold
About a young English teenager caught between her hatred for her bottle-blonde wreck of a mother, her feelings for her mom’s young lover and her dreams of becoming a freestyle dancer.

09) Drzazgi (Splinters) dir- Maciej Pieprzyca
A sieving of three individuals in spectrally different walks of life.

10) Food Inc. dir- Robert Kenner
A hard-hitting exposé about the American (and global) meat & food industry and what really constitutes our fast-food.

Top Three Directors
01) Chen Kaige (Forever Enthralled)
For recreating an era, and capturing an Opera artist’s life with immense grace.

02) Shahram Alidi (Whisper With The Wind)
For the unforgettable imagery, and the poetry in its pain.

03) Adrian Biniez (Gigante)
For making everyday routine ‘interesting’ and love…simple.

Top Five Performances (Male)
01) Horacio Camandule (Gigante) One of the most effortlessly likeable perfs. He’s your average Joe, literally.

02) Jeff Goldblum (Adam Resurrected)
Delivers a career-best performance, using all his mannerisms to great ironic effect.

03) Bruno Ganz (The Dust Of Time)
He is both…the ‘nostalgia’ and the ‘regret’!

04) Peter Capaldi (In The Loop)
Profanity was never this appealing! A firecracker!

05) Vincent Lindon (Welcome)
Probably the sincerest perf of the festival…absolutely no embellishment.

Top Five Performances (Female)
01) Sandrine Pinna (Yang Yang) Almost plays herself…and creates the most empathetic picture.

02) Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist)
Not only for being brave…but being able to help us relate to what she’s going through…no matter how extreme.

03) Katie Jarvis (Fish Tank)
She is the film!

04) Doroteea Petre (Mar Nero)
Very little words…but a face that expresses a million thoughts.

05) Mimi Kennedy (In The Loop)
Arresting presence and an undeniable authority even in the limited screen time!

Best Story - La Nana (The Maid)
A moving psychological insight into the mind of a loyal long-serving maid…and her insecurities.

Best Screenplay - Drzazgi (Splinters)
Several disjointed characters make up a lovely tapestry…which refreshingly doesn’t rely on Dickensian coincidences.

Best Dialogues - In The Loop
Nearly all characters suffer from verbal diarrhea, and yet they are all distinct. Also, all-round malice and viciousness is served in its most appetizing form.

Best Cinematography - Yang Yang
Extreme close-ups, jerky handhelds and magical axis jumps…the camerawork here is also a performer.

Best Editing - Fri Os Fra Det Onde (Deliver Us From Evil)
Not once is there a dull moment in this crisply edited feature.

Best Art Direction - Mei Lanfang (Forever Enthralled)
Recreates several time-periods with great detail.

Best Sound Design- Antichrist
Acorns never sounded this ominous!

Best Costume - Mei Lanfang (Forever Enthralled)
Again…grace, detail and finesse.

Best Make-Up- Adam Resurrected
Greatly enhances an even otherwise stellar performance from Goldblum.

Best Visual Effects - Antichrist
I doubt you’ll see a clitoral mutilation this real! Puke-inducing…but golly good work.

Best Background Score- Donne-Moi La Main (Give Me Your Hand)
One of the finest acoustic accoutrements to a languid narrative.

Until next year then!

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originally posted: 11/08/09 04:04:13
last updated: 11/08/09 22:16:59
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