Jio MAMI 18th Mumbai Film Festival wrap up: 10 best films we hope you didn't miss
It’s officially the most depressing time of the year for film buffs in Bombay. The Jio Mami 18th Mumbai Film Festival has come to a close and that means it’s the end of exposure to dozens of amazing world cinema titles, and the end of the thrill of meeting fellow film geeks fighting to get tickets of their most anticipated films.
This year, the biggest improvement the fest displayed was the management of the crowds and the seating. Despite a couple of expected shenanigans with angry people it’s pretty clear that Mami is improving in the logistics department in a big way. The only frustrating aspect is the wonky ratio of people visiting the Andheri screens in comparison to those at the vacant Kurla screens. Spreading the screens citywide is going to be the biggest challenge for Mami; if more people register this will happen. So it’s up to you to make Mami even better than it already is — register and support the festival.
The most fun I’ve had during the festival was when I stood four times a day during the national anthem (what could possibly be more entertaining than that), but the films that played were also quite interesting. Listed below are ten of the most memorable ones:
10 - THINGS TO COME
Yet another lovely film from Mia Hansen Love, Things to Come succeeds in showcasing the many knots that arrive in life and how seemingly perfect relationships with the people you love can actually be far more difficult and jagged than you think. Hansen Love doesn’t fully give answers to the problems the philosophy professor protagonist played by Isabelle Huppert has, but the optimistic outlook and non sentimental method of dealing with tragedy gives you a reason to not be completely bogged down by the problems.
9 - HOUNDS OF LOVE
An absolutely brutal Australian film from director Ben Young, we’re taken on a wild ride with a serial killer couple that kidnaps, rapes and tortures unsuspecting young folks. What makes it different from a regular torture porn movie is the dynamics between the woman in the couple who is subservient to the man to horrific levels, and we get to explore why she is like this. Also fascinating is the ultra slow-mo shots of the neighbourhood where the couple stays, whose bright colours and happiness are in contrast to the nightmare inside their house.
8 - SWISS ARMY MAN
By far the most unique and original film of the year, Swiss Army Man plays out a mushroom trip with a lot of emotional resonance. That the directors (both named Daniel) were able to convince a studio to fund a movie about a farting corpse that doubles as a jet ski is amazing in itself, but to turn such a ridiculous concept into a heartwarming, relevant story of urban isolation, loneliness and bromance is boggling.
7 - THE SALESMAN
Asghar Farhadi’s latest is actually his worst film to date. That means it’s not an ultimate masterpiece, but merely a really good film and still one of the best of the year. Farhadi continues his exploration of a broken marriage and relationships through the lens of a domestic mystery, which this time revolves around a woman suddenly attacked in the bathroom by an unknown assailant. As is Farhadi’s modus operandi, he winds through the many facets of contemporary Iran and the hardships the average civilian faces because the government is not really there to help them.
6 - ELLE
Paul Verhoeven, at the ripe age of 78 punches you in the gut with a stunning exploration of feminism seen through a nihilist lens. A rich video game company CEO (played by the terrific Isabelle Huppert) is raped by an unknown assailant and is left to deal with unseen consequences — but instead of a self loathing wallow, the film turns out to be a darkly funny journey of a woman who is too proud to be affected by something like rape. The commentary surrounding a woman dealing with the male gaze is taken to such extreme levels it’s depressing that we live in a country where the ultimate feminist dramatic high point in cinema is ‘no means no’.
5 - UNDER THE SHADOW
Directed by first timer Babak Anvari, this is is yet another installment in the horror space that makes this the golden age of horror filmmaking. Thanks to films like this one we’re no longer living in an era where horror movies are about cheap thrills, but they make a larger point of humanity or have some relevance in the contemporary world. Under the Shadow is a beautiful parable for the mindless war in the Middle East and it’s only predictable that it is UK’s entry to the Oscars this year.
4 - I DANIEL BLAKE
It’s good to see Ken Loach, at the age of 80, still being angry. The film, relevant to pretty much anyone from any part of the world explores an old British man trying to fight the country’s flimsy government health scheme and realises the system is rigged to never really help citizens. When the film is not upsetting it’s brutally funny, mainly thanks to the comic timing of comedian Dave Johns who plays the old man infuriated at the system.
3 - THE LURE
A trippy, severely entertaining punk rock musical about siren vampire mermaids who are hired as songstresses in a Polish nightclub, the film is consistently weird and flows like a mixtape of Nouvalle Vague songs ranging from heartache pop to feverish disco. As a bonus the narrative is wonderfully interspersed with ridiculously sexy women, gore and a fairy tale like romance. It’s in some ways the most ‘completely’ entertaining movie of the fest, and it would be quite easy to remake this in Hindi considering the Bollywood-esque nature of its central love story.
2 - CLASH
A breathless ride from start to end, Mohamed Diab’s Egyptian film takes us through the heart of the war between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Egyptian army during the Arab Spring. Most fascinating is the plot device of the film being set entirely inside a police van which, over the course of the movie is filled with people from opposite sides of the camp and also people unrelated to either parties. The tension escalates to dizzying levels as conflicting ideologies and irony collide, while angry protestors outside the van are a constant threat. There’s also some dark humor in the midst of all this chaos and the final fifteen minutes, swathed with green lazer beams turns the nightmare of furious protestors and certainty of death into a set piece that resembles an EDM concert.
1 - MY LIFE AS A ZUCCHINI
The most memorable experience at the fest this year, Claude Barras’s film is an absolutely gorgeous French-Swiss stop motion animation. We follow a child whose mother dies and is sent to an orphanage where he meets other kids who have faced similar setbacks. It’s hard to describe what is the best aspect of the film because it just excels at everything — from the eye popping visuals to the heartbreaking screenplay to the thought provoking music and the lovely voice work. Onions are brought to your eyes, and every ray of hope that arrives in the story feels like a much-needed warm moment amidst the heavy snow literally and metaphorically depicted in the film. And despite a relatively short runtime the film manages to offer commentary on a dozen aspects in life. It’s not surprising that the film is Switzerland’s entry to the Oscars and it would be even less surprising if it wins.
#MAMI2016 was actually Fantastic Fest in disguise because the most interesting films that played were from the After Dark section — The Wailing, The Similars and The Greasy Strangler were all entertainingly weird and highly memorable.
The Cinema Travelers got a lot of positive response from the audience and it went on to win two awards at the fest.
Also getting some serious buzz was Rohit Mittal’s mockumentary Autohead which bagged a special mention in the Indian Gold category.