Jio MAMI 2016 Day 5: Waiting lines for I Daniel Blake, Under the Shadow resembled a war zone
In Andheri, the fifth day of the 18th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival 2016 was a war zone, much like the Egyptian film Clash. Some of the most anticipated films like I Daniel Blake, Graduation and Under the Shadow played simultaneously at the same time, and the waiting lines outside the screening rooms looked like a set piece from World War Z.
When I arrived after an afternoon tryst with Chhole and Bhatoores at a nearby taste-bud-satisfying-but-health-destroying establishment, I noticed the entrance to the City Mall multiplex itself was jam packed with people shouting and arguing with the festival organizers. Both parties had reached the end of their patience levels and it became more about who could shout the loudest.
I meekly skimmed through the crowd and asked a festival intern what was happening. It turns out they weren’t letting in people who did not have a confirmed ticket for any of the films playing. The crowds argued that online tickets made for only a percentage of the total number of seats and that they could join the stand-by line to have a chance of seeing the films.
The festival organizers did not agree and brought in security to control the crowd. Things got really ugly. Luckily I had my movie ticket and managed to squeeze in through the chaos. The security guard still checked my ticket with extreme scrutiny as if he was scanning my visa at the immigration section of the airport in Pyongyang.
Once upstairs I assumed things would be calmer but I was greeted with a crowd resembling a political rally during a volcanic eruption. People bickered and moaned about having tickets but still having to stand in line for more than an hour. Some privileged others who had a gold pass were frustrated that they also had to stand in a line because the crowd was getting out of control.
The most depressing sight in this mess was a large group of young people sitting on the floor at the stand by line for I Daniel Blake. In the hopes of catching the 9pm show they’d been chilling on the floor since 5:30pm. A festival intern told them that the bookings are already full, but those in the line had hopes of someone canceling so they could get in. This much dedication to cinema makes them deserving of not just an entry to the film but permission to access the gold pass lounge chairs.
After what seemed like an eternity of waiting in total chaos the doors opened and we went in. I assumed there would finally be some peace, quiet and a shared love for cinema. Things went South soon enough when the man in the row in front of us reserved a seat next to him for a woman who had left a purse there. The festival interns asked the man if the lady is coming, and he replied in the affirmative. But when the woman didn’t turn up for ten more minutes the interns informed the man that the seat would have to be given away to someone else.
The man got pissed off and said that the lady has gone to the washroom and that she has left her purse in the seat, so how could they possibly give away her seat to someone else. The interns said those are festival rules, and the man didn’t want to hear any of it.
Meanwhile a woman with a gold pass noticed that some of the gold seats were empty and told the interns to let some people in the stand by line in so they could see the movie. The intern blankly refused saying those seats are only for gold pass members. The woman said that since there anyway aren’t any takers for the seats it makes sense to give them away to people who have been waiting for three hours in the hopes of seeing the film. The intern refused and walked away. The same woman then later said she has to go to the bathroom, and the interns refused to let her out, saying it would cause problems at the entry gate. She had to sit through the whole movie holding it in.
Clearly the festival interns need a refreshed course in applying common sense during such situations. Irritated crowds can be a pain, but not giving away empty seats to desperate film buffs, not waiting for people to come back after they’ve already left their purse in, and refusing women to step out to visit the loo are things that should not happen.
On the flipside there was a woman next to me who kept ranting about how only people with tickets ‘deserve to watch the film’ and no one from the stand by line should be allowed in. I told her that not everyone manages to get tickets online, because they’re sold out in less than five minutes, so they have no choice but to wait in the stand by line.
She then loudly said she came from Karnataka and deserved to watch the film more than others. I told her many people come from outstation to the Mumbai Film Festival, and that it is fair that people with tickets should come fifteen minutes before the film starts, after which the stand by line opens. She completely ignored the logic and kept ranting loudly about how bad a job the festival is doing and that the people standing in line should get tickets online. I had to pop a pill for migraine and let the woman have her conniption.
Quite aptly, the film that began shortly, I Daniel Blake directed by Ken Loach was about an angry old man pissed off with weak government institutions. The incidents preceding the film served as a trailer for this truly amazing movie that follows a retired civilian in Britain struggling to navigate through the country’s medical schemes.
Even at the age of 80, Loach is delivering films of such high energy and quality, and the issues he chronicles in the film are universal. You will relate to them, laugh with the film, even cry a little, but leave the theater with an urgent need to do a Ken Loach marathon the same night.