Jio MAMI 2016 Day one: Great start with Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman, Polish film The Lure
The most interesting week in the life of a movie buff in Bombay kicked off yesterday. I’m of course not talking about the week when a Salman Khan film releases and the IQ of human beings worldwide is brought down; I speak of the Mumbai Film Festival, Jio MAMI 2016, which is not only a week long balm to everything terrible about Bollywood, but also a week long celebration of how good cinema can be.
Like every year the 18th Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival kicked off to a disappointing start and faced some of the same problems it does every single year. The online booking system backfired in a big way, angering many hyperactive film buffs.
Those who wanted to watch The Salesman and Personal Shopper on Day 2 were in for a rude shock as the booking page behaved like the made in China parts of the space ship in Armageddon. The page failed to load for almost an hour and when it did show up the tickets were mysteriously gone in 60 seconds. Some who didn’t get a ticket to Asghar Farhadi’s The Salesman were angry, some wept uncontrollably, and some even hinted a conspiracy theory that MAMI is deliberately not giving away online tickets because they’re selling them for black in a bylane of Mira Road whispering ‘dus ka tees’.
Some compared the goof and this booking system to the Indian Railway’s Tatkal scheme, which was kind of unfair but given their enthusiasm had been quashed it was a predictable reaction from angsty people on the internet. Those who had the common sense to not waste time complaining on the internet rushed to the venues still wearing their pajamas, or in some cases, still dripping in soap foam and clad in bathroom towels, and promptly booked tickets of the films. Keeping a certain percentage of offline tickets is actually a good initiative by MAMI, so those without access to the internet can also get to watch the films they want.
I chose both the Andheri venues, because no self respecting film buff would go to any part of Bombay for a cinema based pilgrimage other than the Walmart of struggling filmmakers that is Versova. The biggest improvement at the fest this year is the speed at which your pass is issued to you.
Thanks to the perfectly trained folks behind the counter it look less than a minute to grab my pass and head straight to the movies. This was a nice change from last year when I’d stood in line for an hour and missed a film.
At the venue I got to know about the offline tickets that can be bought right at the counter. With the hope that I could still nab a ticket to The Salesman I went back downstairs to the ticket window, where they informed me that I could only get the tickets upstairs. I then rushed back upstairs and got caught in a line that reminded me of the scene in Black Hawk Down where destitute Somalian citizens fight over food packets being thrown at them by the US army.
Since I didn’t carry a machete to cut my way through I naturally didn’t score a ticket, and I had to drown my sorrows by buying a gigantic ‘breakup éclair’ at Dunkin donuts. As I chewed away wiping my tears I was left with the thought that there are people in Bombay who would kill someone else to watch The Salesman; and that even if a small percentage of this much enthusiasm was shown by Indian producers to make films like The Salesman, our film industry would be such a different place.
After picking up a ridiculously priced multiplex sandwich I was ready to watch the films. After the Storm, the new film from Hirokazu Koreeda was, much like his earlier films, quite lovely. The film dealt with themes already explored in Koreeda’s Like Father Like Son, like an estranged father trying to make amends with his son and ex wife, the alienation one experiences in Japanese work culture and the loss of what is most important in the contemporary world but is getting increasingly difficult to sustain – a family life.
Though not quite memorable as Koreeada’s earlier work this was still an enjoyable little film mainly thanks to a likable performance from Hiroshi Abe as a struggling novelist gambling addict private detective all in one.
The documentary The Lovers and the Despot chronicled a pretty crazy real life story of two South Korean film personalities kidnapped and brought to North Korea and forced to make films for Dear Leader Kim Jong Il. It’s the kind of story you expect from a Family Guy episode but the fact that this actually happened to someone makes your skin crawl.
The film does a good job of telling you how things went down but it never really lives up to its potential, mainly due to the utter lack of access to the point of view of the Dear Leader himself. Still, this was a mildly memorable peek into the nightmarish dictatorial subhuman conditions in the darkest pocket of the planet that is North Korea.
Depression hit like a ton of bricks with Ralitza Petrova’s Godless, a Bulgarian film set in a remote Bulgarian town that could easily be the most dismal and bleak place on Earth. The film follows a nurse whose terrible life revolves only around tending to elderly patients, being involved in an ID scam, suffering in a sexless marriage and taking drugs that still don’t make her happy. The film is a fascinating window into post-Zhivkov Bulgaria and is packed with a really hard-hitting point that nothing has changed since dictatorship ended.
But the amount of suffering and unpleasantness showcased in the film that is not for one moment redeemed is just too much to not make it seem like a manipulative piece of cinema. It’s well directed and hauntingly scored but the over the top nature of its sordidness does disservice to the actual problems it is trying to address.
The best of the day was saved for the last, as the Polish film The Lure turned out to be 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, wonderfully interspersed with ridiculously sexy women, gore and a fairy tale like love story. Also interesting are the metaphorical aspects of the club and the mermaids who represent immigrants exploited by Poland on their way to make it in America.